imagine that you are an American or other citizen of an imperializing nation. How might you react to this poem?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The White Man's Burden," is often considered racist and condescending.  Kipling, an Englishman born in the crown jewel of the British Empire, India, in 1865, would spend much of his life in South and Southeast Asia, and knew these regions well.  He was very well versed on the role of the British colonial governments and on the toll in blood and treasure exacted on the British Army when the populations of some territories violently and skillfully resisted occupation.

"The White Man's Burden" can be interpreted as an ironic comment on the costs of empire.  Kipling's reference to "the savage wars of peace" can be considered a scathing indictment on the human costs of seeking to control another nation without the latter's consent.  

Some readers of Kipling's poem focus on its title at the expense of its underlying meaning.  Certainly, read out of context, the title denotes a racist approach to foreign policy and empire.  One could suggest, however, that Kipling intended both the title and the poem itself to be an indictment of British conduct in the undeveloped world.