“The White Man’s Burden” is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, who wrote it at the end of the nineteenth century. Historically, it is very much influenced by the war between the Philippines and America, which is why its full title is actually “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands”. The poem is frequently regarded as a prime example of imperialist poetry, as it clearly states the superiority of white colonialists over their non-white subjects.
In this poem, particularly in stanza 5, we can see Kipling’s view of the white man’s burden very clearly: the white man is burdened with the task of having to rule over non-white people. Kipling clearly is of the opinion that the white man is better than people of a different race. We can see this in the line “the blame of those ye better,” as the use of the word “better” clearly infers that other races are being improved through the influence of white people.
However, Kipling is frustrated that white men do not always receive the gratitude he feels they deserve from their colonial subjects and that they instead receive “the blame,” “the hate,” and “the cry.” Kipling clearly feels that the white man is helping the native people in the colonies by attempting to improve their life. However, according to Kipling, the indigenous people neither understand nor appreciate this effort, which makes this attempt to “better” and help others more difficult and strenuous for the white colonialists. The superior white race, according to Kipling and his poem, is therefore burdened with the continuous uphill struggle of helping other cultures to improve. Leading them “towards the light” is challenging and only happening very “slowly.”