I teach an “ethnic studies” course so I’m always in interaction with students about how to think about legacies of the past as the impact the present. I had a new thought this year in responding to the standard white student comment that goes “my ancestors weren’t here when genocide/slavery happened, so why should I feel responsible/guilty?” I asked the students: so who is more entitled to possess land or privilege in the US today, whites who are descended from the white people who participated in the genocide [slavery] or the whites who are benefiting from that past even though their ancestors did not participate? The students had no easy answer (of course), but it did seem to me to move the conversation in a new direction. Because maybe the people who went to the trouble to have blood on their hands in some way are more entitled* than those who just reaped the benefits of White supremacy without paying its material and moral costs.
I also called their attention to the way in which White Americans typically view themselves as the spiritual/national descendants of the Pilgrims and as inheritors of the national [White] dream, even when, in fact, their ancestors arrived after 1880. If you are going to claim the Pilgrims, you have to claim the whole package of Manifest Destiny and the White nation, seems to me.
* Since you don’t know me, I’d better make it clear that I’m trying to push a conversation here. I’m not actually arguing that White supremacists ought to be entitled if they committed murder, I’m trying to challenge the idea that there is no moral weight to inheriting and benefiting from a system created by past crimes. And I’m not comparing Whites to indigenous people or Afro-descent people here, either, but different groups of Whites to each other.