Posted originally to You Tube as a comment on the rather confused discussion arising from this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXPFfgdxp9o&list=RDzXPFfgdxp9o
I hate the white man – now that’s a title that in the age of the Internet was always going to attract some hostile attention. And on searching for this song, which I have known from the early 1970s, it was no great surprise to find that amongst those treasuring it for its anti establishment bite, there were also those unable to see past a literal view of the title.
Anyone who pays attention will understand that Roy Harper does not hate white people or intend to apologise for being white skinned. His bile, I’d say, is directed principally at colonialism and consumer capitalism. In the 19th and first half of the 20th Century, from the point of view of those colonised, it was “the white man,” who was their oppressor. It was in that same period of colonial expansion, that factories in the great cities of England and Scotland were employing thousands of men, women and young children, who worked for long hours, in dangerous conditions for starvation wages. The exploitation of the British Working classes went hand in hand with the exploitation of the colonies. Unregulated capitalism and the development of the British Empire were a joint enterprise and, in the view expressed in the song, the destroyers of traditional culture and values across the globe.
Whilst I Hate the White Man is global in its attack, Roy Harper’s music is more typically a celebration of Englishness. Who knows whether Harper is pro brexit, anti brexit or just doesn’t care, but his music is concerned with English identity in ways which to my ear, transcend ethnicity.