Beyond The Pale

By Charlotte Allen
Weekly Standard, May 2013

Edited by Andy Ross

Fourteenth Annual White Privilege Conference (WPC 14)
The Color of Money: Reclaiming our Humanity
Seattle, WA, April 10-13, 2013

The idea behind WPC 14 was that white people, especially white people connected to corporations, were hogging all the money. WPC website: "It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade or beat up on white folks."

WPC founder Dr Eddie Moore Jr is director of diversity at the Brooklyn Friends School, at least 6' 8" tall, and a former college basketball player. He dominated the conference in his meticulously tailored suits, silk shirts, silk ties, bright socks, and big gold wristwatch on a chunky gold bracelet.

Back in 1999 the main WPC focus was on race. But now the categories of victims of white supremacy have grown to include such overwhelmingly white groups as feminists and the LGBTQQIA community (lesbian, gay, transexual, queer, questioning, intersex, and allied). This year's conference also offered yoga classes "especially welcoming to people of size, queer people, and others who might not feel comfortable in conventional yoga classes" as well as "gender-neutral" restrooms for those who "opt out of a gender binary system" (in the words of the program).

The idea of white privilege was the brainchild of Peggy McIntosh, who in 1988 asserted that white people​ ​continued to practice a form of unconscious racism that allowed them to oppress minority groups even though they might not have any idea that they were doing so: "I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets … Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color." Her paper was an instant hit among her academic colleagues and assigned as required reading in college sociology classes.

At a packed workshop on where, when, and why white people were invented, blonde and blue-eyed Jacqueline Battalora, professor of sociology, anthropology, and criminal justice at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, argued that race was invented by the British colonizers of America, who enacted race laws to divide and conquer their slaves and servants. Battalora: "You white people wouldn’t have the standing you have in this country if it weren't for white supremacy​ — ​it's just the truth!" She led a cheerleader chant: "What is the color of money?" "White!" shouted a paleface in the front row. "Good!" yelled back Battalora.

Even worse than being white is being a Christian, according to Paul Kivel, facilitator of a workshop titled "The power and privilege of Christian hegemony" and author of the forthcoming book Living in the Shadow of the Cross. According to Kivel, Christians destroyed libraries, killed millions of people, and brought on the Dark Ages. Then came the Inquisition, witch-burnings, wars, racism, slavery, oppression, colonization, hierarchies, individualism, the Protestant ethic, free-market capitalism, global warming, corporate predation, punishment of the poor, incredible violence, and even the Gregorian calendar and the King James Bible.

In stark contrast was a sunny session on Islam. University of Michigan associate director of the office of multiethnic student affairs Amer Ahmed explained in a packed workshop titled "White America's Islamophobia profiteers" that Muslims practice a religion of peace, tolerance, and family values. His video showed Islam placidly spreading over the centuries throughout the Mideast and north Africa, but ​passed tactfully over the Arab conquests, the bloody empires, and the Muslim slave trade, ​until, according to Ahmed, white Europeans got into the picture by practicing "colonialism" and creating "fake countries" such as Israel.

The prize for most self-loathing paleface went to Paul Gorski, an antiracism professor at George Mason University. Gorski called himself a "hypocrite" and apologized for once eating factory-farmed chicken (he's now a vegetarian), for patronizing the George Mason cafeteria (operated by a company that "pays the lowest legal wages"), for using animal-tested products (he showed us a slide of a bleeding bunny rabbit), and for drinking Coca-Cola. Gorski: "I got married. I participated in an oppressive tenure system at my university. I used big banks. These are some of the things that make me a racist, a sexist, and a heterosexist."

An entertaining keynote speech by Jacob Swindell-Sakoor, 16, a student of Eddie Moore's at the Brooklyn Friends School, said people of color like him could get more money by thrift, prudent investing, and avoiding debt.

AR Thank you, Charlotte.