Shelby Steele’s “The Exhaustion of American Liberalism” makes the argument that “white guilt is not actual guilt.” Nor is it “angst over injustices suffered by others.”
Instead, Steele says white guilt is “the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries – racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.”
To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.
The good news is that you can be inoculated against it just by being a liberal. All you have to do – for instance – is be on your local diversity committee, or vote for Barack Obama.
“I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”
For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization.
Pretty painless stuff, really, but sufficient for the short term. The bad news? You’ll need a booster shot if you want your white guilt to be less an abnormal condition, and more a disease.
Enter the annual White Privilege Conference: a moral vaccine clinic where you can also get academic credit. This is Upper Division White Guilt.
Participants at the WPC may obtain either Continuing Education Credits/Clock Hours, or Academic Credit (High school students, undergraduate and graduate students may earn 1-3 hours of academic credit at either the undergraduate or graduate level).
To get this credit, you will need to “engage in active participation in the conference” and “submit a formal session log that lists the title of the presenter, the tittle of the sessions(s), and the time length of each session.”
But that’s not all. “Attendees must submit a reflection paper” and “examine your own personal development and lessons learned.”
Has you own understanding of the issues facing youth changed. (sic) Has your understanding of you own life experiences changed in any ways? (sic) What has been most personally meaningful and transformative in you training? (sic) What did you learn about yourself?
And that’s just for starters, because Upper Division White Guilt is more than just the fear of being stigmatized. As Steele writes, “It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism.”
This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.
But you’re going to the WPC, so you’re covered. Because the WPC is not only a clinic, it’s also a seminary that “strives to empower and equip individuals to work for equity and justice through self and social transformation.”
In other words, the WPC is not just inoculating you, but selling you moral authority. Which is borne out by the the testimonials of students and chaperones, who sound like converted heathens prepared to open their own mission.
“I went into my first conference as a very unaware college student and came out of it a completely different person” … “The depth and intensity of this experience was exceptional” … “the unique environment of immersion and the intentional support and reflection built into the conference … has truly been a life changing experience for our students” … “The students talked about how the conference opened an awareness within them that they had not felt before” … “WPC is thoughtful, emotional, spiritual, reflective, beautiful, community oriented, engaging” … “I’ve watched as [students] have brought their lessons back to their institutions, becoming models of leadership for diversity”
And yet, it cannot be a seminary, for there is no religious instruction, per se. And attendees are not students, either, because everyone is “asked” to abide by the Community Agreement. This makes them “community members” who “create a learning community” and “share responsibility for holding ourselves accountable.”
The event takes place over five days (WPC 17 was Wednesday through Sunday). WPC 18 will be in Kansas City at the downtown Marriott – complete with the spiritual, community-oriented, life-changing immersion of past events; exhibits and vendors; volunteers and chaperones.
Which sounds like a camp. A “reeducation camp.”
The Black Book of Communism describes such camps in 20th century China, where – only 51 short years ago – the “student” was “required to study the correct thoughts of the Party and to reform his own faulty thinking.”
But even Mao never imagined a voluntary five-day school where students who feel no actual guilt would pay to be injected with angst and graduate with the moral authority to terrorize the rest of us with mock guilt until we, too, are pariahs so utterly stripped that we are willing to pay for a seat at the White Privilege Conference.
Only a white, privileged, Western communist could have come up with that.