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Did Rudyard Kipling write The White Man’s Burden because he was racist? Do we know he was racist because he wrote the poem? Perhaps we say as a Victorian, a product of the nineteenth century and of the British empire, he would express his cultural ideals that way.

The question does not merit a lot of attention. Read the poem for what it says about Kipling’s culture. Let the racism question lie. That does not mean ‘racist’ is an insignificant term. Here’s the latest from John McWhorter, who always has interesting things to say about our language:

Racist Is a Tough Little Word

No family is untouched by death from drugs. By now, we all know of a family affected. Saoirse Kennedy, student at Boston College in Brookline, Massachusetts, died last month at twenty-two. We have seen all the standard phrases so many times: ‘found unresponsive’, ‘drug overdose’, ‘struggled with depression’, ‘apparent suicide’. We do not even know anymore if drug overdoses are suicide, or accidental.

In the end, the explanation does not matter. A friend, daughter, sister, who people loved, valued, and cherished, is gone. As Saoirse’s grandfather Bobby Kennedy frequently replied, when people asked if he did not want to the person behind the plot to kill his brother: “What difference does it make? It won’t bring him back.” Grief speaks of loss, not explanations.