Guilt is what makes a good life built on evil no longer good. I have a memory of the writer Sherman Alexie cautioning me against this way of thinking. I remember him saying, ‘‘White people do crazy [expletive] when they feel guilty.’’ That I can’t dispute. Guilty white people try to save other people who don’t want or need to be saved, they make grandiose, empty gestures, they sling blame, they police the speech of other white people and they dedicate themselves to the fruitless project of their own exoneration. But I’m not sure any of that is worse than what white people do in denial. Especially when that denial depends on a constant erasure of both the past and the present.
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