Posted on June 27, 2006

White Guilt: Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

Bernard Chapin, The Intellectual Conservative, June 26, 2006

Just recently, after declining a funding request from one of Chicago’s numerous beggars, I heard a most peculiar thing. The man yelled at me as I walked away: “I’m sorry I’m not white.” At first I assumed he was talking to someone else; then I saw that he wasn’t. His tactic must have been an attempt to shame pedestrians into giving him more change. Presumably, as the man did not look like a novice to this ancient profession, it must be a strategy that, with the exception of this occasion, works, which tells us quite a bit about the psyche of Caucasian Americans.

Shelby Steele, in his new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, expounds upon the mindset of both groups while exploring our nation’s obsession with race. He outlines the interplay between white guilt and black power along with the pernicious effects this dynamic has upon both populations. The author grew up in a time when discrimination was not a shadowy thing. He witnessed it firsthand at baseball practice, and in his father’s having to deal with the customs of the southern towns they’d visit.


When aggression meets submission the result is slaughter, and that’s exactly what has happened to the pride of white America over the course of the last four decades. Rage has become the preferred weapon for obtaining concessions from white politicians, and shame prevents rational minds from protesting these tactics. Steele compares the state of many whites to that of Kafka’s main character in The Trial, who is guilty of a crime solely because he has been accused. Black activists insisted that acquiring skills and education alone are not acceptable solutions; our government must actively raise them up. This demand is a reason why so many ashen faced elites embrace “diversity” and affirmative action. It allows them to acquire power while amassing feelings of personal superiority. Even corporations have gotten into the game:

Yet to gain employment today in most American institutions whites must somehow pledge allegiance to “diversity” as if to demonstrate a white identity of contrition and deference. Even in the corporate and military worlds — not to mention academia — no white goes far without genuflecting to diversity. Nevertheless, beyond an identity that apologizes for white supremacy, absolutely no white identity is permissible.


To procure power, and as a way to impress upon others their own moral superiority, many whites pretend that history never happened and claim that without their noblesse oblige blacks would descend into the abyss. Steele accurately observes that their attitude is merely just a new form of white supremacy as it renders whites wholly responsible for the failures and successes of those they see as being below them. It suggests that blacks cannot possibly fend for themselves.

Due to our country’s remarkable ascent from the nadirs of slavery and segregation, the devotees of white guilt have had to fabricate concepts like institutional racism and white privilege. Without them, they could not continue to proclaim that the most fair and prosperous nation on the planet is actually a Death Star of hate and injustice. Apparently, racism is so entrenched in our culture . . . that one cannot even see it.


White guilt is a phenomenon that contaminates all who come into contact with it. As Steele notes, it has delegitimized the national virtues of industry, initiative, individual responsibility, the delay of gratification, and the need for meritocracy. When one embraces these quintessential values, one does not “act white” or “work for the man,” one betters oneself and the people around you.

Ultimately, the best practice for individuals is to treat others as your equals. Modifying your speech and pretending strangers are sensitive to your every syllable is just absurd. The solution to racial problems is not to kow-tow to certain groups and apologize for crimes you never personally committed; instead, we should simply treat other people with respect no matter where they lie on the diversity flowchart. Skin color has nothing to do with personality or worth. Just as one can be certain that segregation and slavery occurred, one can also be certain that the Lester Maddoxes, Orval Faubuses, and Theodore Bilbos are long dead and will never rise again. It is now an excellent time to bury white guilt along with them.