The NYT website published the following letter in a web article entitled, “How Can I Cure My White Guilt?”:
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else.
I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?
Another part of it is that I’m currently immersed in the whitest environment I’ve ever been in. My family has lived in the same apartment in East Harlem for four generations. Every school I attended, elementary through high school, was minority white, but I’m now attending an elite private college that is 75 percent white. I know who I am, but I realize how people perceive me and this perception feels unfair.
I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. Instead of harnessing my privilege for greater good, I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?
My first instinct is to treat this as a Poe. First, this letter describes the ideal state social justice activists would love to put everyone in – crippled by shame, fear, and helplessness because of “white privilege.” Secondly, “Whitey?” Seriously? The name did provide the social justice priests, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed, an oh so conventient excuse to consistently respond to “Whitey” as they espouse their dogma.
But then again, given the mentally fragile state of so many social justice advocates, it is quite believable there is a “Whitey” out there curled up in the fetal position while obsessing about his/her “privilege.” If so, I think this nicely demonstrates how social justice ideology can induce a kind of mental illness. For Whitey to be so obsessed and distressed by this ideology demonstrates the harm it can do.
It gets even more interesting when you consider the responses from Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed.
Whitey’s main complaint what they he/she has been doing all the right rituals for social justice, but they are not helping to save the world. Instead, Whitely is becoming paralyzed by all his/her guilt. Almond and Strayed never really address this. Instead, they simply double down on the message and try to make the case that privilege itself is causing the guilt and shame.
But Almond does say one thing that gives away the con:
But the solution to this injustice isn’t to wallow in self-hatred. Instead, heed the words of the writer bell hooks. “Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege,” she writes. “We have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it.”
Key words – share your resources.
Come now. This is one of the oldest cons in the book. Throughout the ages, it has been used by religious charlatans, sleezy salesmen, and tin-pot dictators. First, you get the mark to wallow in negative emotions so badly that they feel a great need for outside help. You need to put them in a position where they need someone else to tell them what to do. Then, once you hit that sweet spot, you become that outside help. And how do you help? Whatever it is you are offering comes at a price. Send me money. Buy this product. Hand over this freedom. Or, in this case, share your resources.
Look, if there is a Whitey out there, my advice would be simple. And free. You are being played. You are ensnared in an ideology that will never ever let you escape your guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Share your resources and use your privilege to “dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries.” Shame on you – so now you think you’re the white savior? The solution is simple. Unplug from this ideology and your sources of daily indoctrination. Focus instead on the people and things around you – the places where you can make a difference for the better. Do that for at least a few months, and your mental well-being will dramatically improve.