In the 60s while in Vietnam I read the book, "White Lotus" by John Hersey. It had a profound affect on my views that have remained for 50+ years. Long before the shibboleth of the woke, "white privilege" was a thing he shined a light on it with a twist. Long out of print I recently discovered that it is now available as a Kindle book. I highly recommend it. Powerful without the counterproductive anti-white venom of our times.
It is a fiction told in the first person by a white girl shipped off to China as a slave after China won the Yellow War. It is a story aimed squarely at the white reader who is given "what if it were me?" When you read the following excerpt, keep that background in mind.
From Hersey, John. White Lotus. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Chang is a yellow youth who is on our side. He is one of a growing number of young yellows who in their zeal to help us, activated rather than paralyzed by shame, have begun to attach themselves to us, taking risks with us and often embarrassing us with their complex motives and naive suggestions but also, in a few cases, and Chang is one of them, bringing to bear an underlying sweetness and generosity which, no matter how perverse its innermost origin may have been, lends us comfort and moral force when we face their so far untouched fellows. But at this moment Chang disgusts me.
A food vendor has just come to us, a white man, who carries on the ends of a shoulder pole a strange little kitchen in two parts—a cylindrical wooden canister at one end, which serves as a pantry for raw foodstuffs and utensils, and, at the other, another cylinder, this one of metal, containing a charcoal brazier and a boiler of deep vegetable oil. On a spike that leans out over the hot oil are crisp bean crullers, newly cooked.
The vendor is excited; he knows by hearsay what is about to take place, he will be a witness for the local whites—for no whites besides him have dared to come out to watch here in this province where brutal intimidation is still the rule.
Is it my imagination that makes Chang’s demeanor toward the vendor, as he buys a cruller, different from ours? We whites are easy and direct with the man; good-hearted Chang, it seems to my eyes, is at a great remove as he takes a cruller in its wrapping of crude paper and drops a copper in the hawker’s hand. His air is patrician, accustomed to servants, white servants. He snaps at the cruller with beautiful teeth, his lips are drawn back in a kind of snarl to keep them from being burned by the still-hot cruller. The vendor is already dismissed from his mind, not a man but a convenience.
Whereas, by contrast, the vendor lingers in my mind as I nibble without appetite at a cruller that Rock has put in my hand.
The vendor is one of those ragged creatures whose wild appearance should not be unsettling, for there is nothing mad or ascetic or haunted about it; it is a matter of calculation. His quilted coat is leaking dirty cotton, and his hair is long and matted. The man is cheerful. In his present excitation, he is inclined to talk too loud, laugh too hard. I am to be a sleeping bird for the yellows’ shame, but he shames me. I feel in his filth a crafty deference to those who buy his wares—and this means, for the most part, to yellows. I am at one with him because we are both white, and I am sorry for him because he is poor, but I am also angry at him because he wants to be filthy; he knows that in this province it is good business for a white to be a low, beastly man.