From riches held on layaway at birth to VIP seating at Denny’s, the benefits of whiteness in America are apparently endless and yet somehow only visible to a select group of academics and activists
Mark Cromer mulls over America’s secret menu for white people
[Author’s Note: First published more than three years ago, the cultish psychobabble leveled as an indictment of white Americans has continued apace, and thus this reflection seems as appropriate as ever.]
In Philadelphia last Sunday, the 17th annual White Privilege Conference wrapped up its conclave on a surreal-if-hilarious note: activists and academics bemoaned that the conference itself had become not only too white, but had buckled under the burden of discovering that ‘white supremacy’ had become pervasive in virtually every corner of the conference.
Exhibit A: When a white woman at the conference asked a black woman at the conference if she would shut the door behind her, alert cultural guards sprang into action across social media to decry “another example of #WPCsowhite @Got_Privilege.”
Exhibit B: When a white speaker went over his allotted time—albeit in a long apology for the evils of white people—he was informed his willingness to exceed the time he was given was a glaring example of his commitment to white supremacy. It didn’t matter whether he consciously spoke a little long, nor his intent, only that he did. His attempts to apologize were cited as only further examples of his racism.
Yes, there are people who actually think and speak and act like this—and they can be found counting white people attending ‘white privilege’ conferences and monitoring their every gesture and utterance. And in the event they were overcome by so many anti-whiteness white people, the White Privilege Conference had identity crisis counselors on standby: “[The WPC] can stir a range of emotions during one’s participation…if you are feeling confused, upset or distressed, the United to End Racism delegation may be able to help.”
And thus the ‘activists of color’ squared off with their white liberal ‘allies’ in what had to have been a priceless sadomasochistic dungeon game—with white ‘Racial Justice warriors’ figuratively cowering in front of the dog bowls prepared for them as they were force-fed their own self-loathing psychobabble and collectively moaning ‘Thank you, Dear Marginalized Person, may we have another?’
Meanwhile, the other 197 million white Americans were doing what most working Americans of every shade have always done in their day-to-day: went on living their lives.
And nothing enrages those academics and activists more than the thought that white Americans aren’t just going about their daily lives unimpeded by a smothering sense of collective shame, burden and guilt; but that they actually might be enjoying life. As they see it, even relatively happy white people is a big part of the problem. In this age when anger is all the rage, white people appear to be not only still too content, but too disconnected from the churning and burning that smolders across the streets of what they characterize as ‘oppressed and marginalized peoples of color.’
These professors, activists and organizers reflect behavior patterns that could be clinically diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic: living in a state of constant grievance, convinced the world around them is plotting against them, or worse, ignoring them. They are obsessed with delusional claims against their ‘enemies’ while bestowing upon themselves grandiose notions of ‘[Fill In The Blank] Justice Warriors.’
It’s a tragic comedy.
There was once an era in the American academy and other arenas of intellectual discourse when reasoned discussion and vigorous debate could be had on critical issues of cultural relevance, including race, but those days have long since passed and been supplanted by a New McCarthyism that demands whites not only surrender to its every posited position on their collective guilt, but demands their proactive submission to it.
It’s no longer enough for whites to politely listen to people call them ‘racists’ before disagreeing and defending themselves or, God forbid, offer a retort that calls out another racial group for their own race-related transgressions. No, and it is no longer enough for whites to sit silently and just take it either.
Now whites are expected to invite a dressing down, accept it, agree with it—and then ask for more.
Robin DiAngelo, a white Seattle-based consultant that for more than two decades has made her career as a professional ‘consultant and trainer’ that companies hire to lead sensitivity workshops that help white employees understand that they are bigots, offered a black-letter template of how peoples of color should approach her when calling her a racist:
“Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion. In recognition of this, I follow these guidelines: 1) Where and when you give me feedback is irrelevant—it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina. 2) Thank you. (The above guidelines rest on the understanding that there is no face to save and the jig is up; I know that I have blind spots and unconscious investments in white superiority.)”
Yes, there are people that actually speak like that—and like DiAngelo, most of them have spent decades surrounded by fellow travelers that are always ready to solemnly drop their heads, raise their clenched fists and then break into whatever group loyalty oath is required at the moment.
They see, hear and experience racism everywhere. The ‘Red Scare’ of the 1950s has become the ‘White Scare’ of the Millennial Generation.
Disagreeing is ignorance. Objecting is oppression. Dissenting is hate.
The industry surrounding the Wicker Man of White Privilege is now big money, with more than a few of its captains pulling in plush six-figure annual incomes by lecturing students and employees that are forced to listen to them hold forth on the evils of a racially-rigged system—of which wage inequality is a hallmark, a fact clearly lost on them. But to challenge their own profiteering of racial grievance would be, well, racist.
Indeed, Dr. DiAngelo, PhD, is also a tenured professor at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, where tax dollars fund her ‘research’ into “explicating how Whiteness is reproduced in everyday narratives.” She and her fellow travelers in academia continue to work on chemotherapy treatments to drive into remission if not eradication the cancer they’ve identified as white America; even as the vast population of white America continues on with their lives undeterred.
From the vantage point of the WPC in Philadelphia in April 2016, the prognosis of America remains grim, as from the Ozarks to Oahu white people continue to enjoy each others company and engage in pastimes that don’t revolve around obsessing over what’s happening in South Chicago or Baltimore or anyplace else whites left decades ago.
They seethe at the prospect that whites are talking amongst themselves about things that don’t involve hashtags that end in ‘#…sowhite.’
The fact that the vast majority of black folks, Latinos and Asians in the rich mosaic of America are also living lives that don’t revolve around obsessive-compulsive indictments of other racial groups is also very troubling to the WPC’s ideological compliance squads, but that fact doesn’t provoke the same bitter animus that happy white people ignites in them.
So in light of this and in advance of the WPC’s 2017 Pow Wow (to culturally appropriate a Native American term), a few suggested topics for their schedule of panels and workshops:
Denny’s and In-n-Out: White America’s Festungs: One eatery built an empire by serving breakfast 24-hours-a-day, the other by serving amazing burgers, fries and shakes with cryptic Christian numerology hidden on their cups—urban white colonialism at its most insidious. Breakout workshops could include discussions on how to confront the threat and while Denny’s has to be destroyed outright, a workshop on the fate of In-n-Out should include potential strategies to get the white family owned chain to apologize and convert their operations to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. (Note: Olive Garden and Applebee’s will have to wait until 2018’s conference.)
The Beach Boys: A California Klan: A look back at a musical legacy of white supremacy not seen since Andy Williams crooned ‘Moon River,’ a panel session on the lingering threat posed by the five Pendleton-clad young white men from Torrance, California, who sang about girls, cars and good times with all the aplomb of a genocidal choir. A breakout workshop should deal with bands of color that have been influenced by them and other white bands of the period, with a special focus on Los Lobos, the quintessential East LA band whose jangling guitars, bass runs and harmonies are infused with the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, two other dangerously Anglo bands of note.
The Gap: With more than 2,500 stores nationally where white America continues to enjoy shopping, a panel discussion on what draws Anglos to this clothier and how best to destroy it, including a concerted effort to force the chain to hire greeters of color and cashiers of color to remind white folks on their way into and out of the store that they are oppressive racist pigs.
The National Hockey League: A century of white ice can’t be left unanswered, yet just how to defrost it remains unclear and affirmative action may have the tragic unintended consequence of allowing the white supremacist power structure to integrate the NBA. Panelists should address a media messaging campaign that draws increased scrutiny to a ‘sport’ where white men with sticks chase and strike something black.
James Bond: The penultimate of understated white cool (admittedly a contradiction of terms for the WPC), white supremacists Sean Connery, George Lanzby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig (albeit a Jewish white supremacist) have all carried Ian Fleming’s torch of white imperialism on the big screen for more than a half-century. Panelists will discuss the best way forward to turn white to black, with a special emphasis on how Marvel Comics was pressured into elevating the dosage of melanin in characters such as S.H.IE.L.D.’s Nick Fury and the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm. Director J.J. Abrams to lead the discussion.
The Tonight Show: Another regrettable historic roster of white males broadcast five days-a-week that result in white America (and too many marginalized peoples of color) not only feeling comfortable on their couches, but affording them a few chuckles to boot. From Steve Allen to Jimmy Fallon, NBC has aired more than 11,400 white power rallies since 1954, when that white golfer ‘Ike’ was in the ‘White House.’ Breakout sessions should include a reconsideration of whether the poisoning of Johnny Carson would have been morally justifiable.
Dead Presidents: Alexander Hamilton may not have dodged Aaron Burr’s bullet, but he apparently will survive the best efforts to blow him off the ten spot. Sellouts posing as racial justice activists will satisfy themselves that Andrew Jackson’s semi-replacement by Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar bill will somehow suffice as a reasoned and proper step of inclusiveness. In doing so, they only appease the white oppressor by suggesting inclusiveness is somehow the point. It’s not. Erasure of whiteness is the point. Accordingly, panelists will take up the issue that if dead white presidents must continue to be featured on currency is there not a more appropriate manner to present them? Ulysses S. Grant on the fifty dollar bill, by example, could be depicted face down in his own stomach stew, as he was a well known alcoholic. Breakout workshops can focus on Ben Franklin’s whoremonger days among the Parisian elite, with careful attention given to the prospect this may only make him more popular.
White People Calculators: Not made by Texas Instruments, but rather produced from the fermenting bowels of the American academy, WPC 2017 should further coordinate young racial justice activists to fan out across the nation and count white people at any and every event and locale. A heavy metal concert? Why so white? (Workshop on what happened to Living Colour and was Corey Glover only posing as black?) White people sans sunscreen on the beach? Are they trying to pass?! WTF! The social media universe beckons for virtually any place or thing that is #…sowhite.
And so are but a few suggestions for upcoming panels at the White Privilege Conference in 2017 as the arbiters of racial correctness gaze down upon the target-rich environment that is nearly 200 million white Americans doing what they’ve always done—getting on with their lives and doing the best they can.
And yes, enjoying it.