Hal Crowther is one of the wisest people I know. I wholeheartedly agree with almost every word of his column, “White denial” (cover story, July 30), but I disagree with his central premise.
Crowther quotes George Garret with approval: “I, too, must bear my burden of contemporary guilt like a student’s obligatory backpack. But I flatly refuse to add to it one ounce, one feather’s weight of historical guilt for anything. I am not guilty of or for the actions of anyone but myself.”
In discussing the case of Japan, Crowther says, “It’s only by denying the truthparticipating in the cover-upthat you acquire your own share of the national guilt.”
I disagree. The wealth we white Americans share today was generated largely by taking from black slaves the fruits of their labor and transferring them to our ancestors. This wealth has been conveyed to us through generations and kept out of the hands of the descendants of those slaves through property ownership and the advantages of education and upbringing in atmospheres of safety, security, leisure and cultural riches.
Whites benefit as a result of transfers from the black community that took place during the Jim Crow era. The goods and services we bought when I was a child were subsidized by the lower wages paid to black people who made and performed them. If you don’t feel guilty for the advantages you enjoy that have been taken from the black community, you should.