Confessions of a Privileged White Guy

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A shameful story that begins at an exclusive country club

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was the epitome of white privilege as a kid, a privilege that carried over to adulthood.

When I was fifteen and sixteen, for example, summer days were spent at an exclusive country club in a leafy suburb of St. Louis, where blacks and Jews were denied membership—and where the kids of members would spend the day golfing, playing tennis, and sunning at the pool.

Italians and Catholics were also denied membership, which is why this Italian (aka papist, wop, dago, swart, greaser) hitchhiked to the club to work, not to play, or took a bus if I couldn’t hitch a ride.

Not permitted to work as a caddy or greenskeeper, I worked at the large clubhouse as a janitor and porter, on the lowest rung of an otherwise all-black staff. 

At the highest rung was African-American clubhouse manager Bill Williams. Wearing tailored suits and starched white shirts with cufflinks, he was the best-dressed and best-mannered man I’d ever seen. No man in my working-class hood wore a suit and probably didn’t own one, including my dad, who worked as a non-union tile setter. His dad, who worked as a coal miner upon emigrating from Italy, certainly didn’t wear one.

One step down from Bill Williams was head waiter Henry, who, like the waiters below him, was a former waiter on Pullman railroad cars. He and the rest of the wait-staff were also impeccably dressed and groomed, befitting the formality of the dining room.

Bill and Henry would drop off their big Pontiac Bonnevilles at my family’s tiny house during my off-hours so that I could wash and wax them for extra money. They and their cars were the talk of the neighborhood because black men and cars with power windows were rarely seen on our street. (My family’s car was an old Dodge with roll-down windows, a stick shift, and a large hole in the rusted-out floorboard.)

Next in the pecking order was the master chef, followed by the pastry chef and the cooks. Then came Jewel, who supervised me and the other janitors and porters, all of whom were on the same bottom rung as the dishwasher, an ex-prize fighter who had a long scar on his face, a drinking problem, and a disposition to match.

The employee break room, restroom, and locker room were in the dingy, dark basement of the clubhouse.

On my first day on the job, Jewel told me to clean the employee restroom, which looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Though young, I knew what this was about.  It was to show the white kid his place in the formal and informal hierarchy.

I happily dove into the task, figuratively speaking, and soon had the restroom sparkling. As I was finishing the job, the dishwasher walked in, and, clearly inebriated, peed on the floor. With a snarl, he said, “Clean it up, whitey.”

Seeing the incident unfold from the locker room, a strapping coworker leaped into the restroom quick as a panther, grabbed the dishwasher by his shirt, threw him against the wall, and said, “You clean it up, you black motherf****r!”

Not wanting the volatile dishwasher as an enemy, I said, “Thanks, but I’ll get it.”

The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me through the years:  that good and bad people come in all colors.

The lesson would prove invaluable in my adult career at the leading edge of equal opportunity, affirmative action, racial sensitivity training, and what came to be known in 1990 as diversity before it was corrupted by the grievance industry, race mongers, Marxist academics, the echo media, and virtue-signaling CEOs.

Another valuable lesson was learned, but it would become too politically incorrect to express publicly. It was a lesson about the importance of boys growing up with their father in the household.

I learned that lesson in getting to know the families of my coworkers at social events, such as picnics in St. Louis’ beautiful main park, Forest Park.

At the time, in the mid-1960s, in spite of all of the hardships faced by blacks in St. Louis and the nation, 70% of African-American children at least had the benefit of growing up in two-parent households.  With few exceptions, my black coworkers were good family men. They were not, in today’s parlance of the underclass, baby daddies, whose male obligations after insemination have been largely assumed by the government—a consequence of welfare that also affects poor whites.

In 1965, in his famous report on black families, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist with the U.S. Department of Labor who would later become a U.S. Senator, warned what would happen as a result of poorly designed welfare programs: that fathers would become superfluous in the raising of children.

He was prescient.  Today, 70% of black children (and 30% of white children) grow up in households where dad is missing. This is a major cause of crime, difficulties in school, and other social pathologies.

The pathologies don’t magically disappear when families without dads move to better houses and school districts in the suburbs.

The staggering increase in welfare and entitlements proposed by the Biden administration will make the problem of missing dads even more intractable.

The woke mob of miseducated whites with college degrees and little wisdom or historical perspective might try to cancel me for the foregoing.  They should cancel themselves.

Many of them are phonies who claim to value diversity, but what they mean is racial/ethnic diversity within their own socioeconomic class, in hip cities and gentrified neighborhoods, and in professional occupations in group-think workplaces, such as those in tech companies, newsrooms, financial firms, and academia.  They don’t mean the racial/ethnic diversity of the lower classes that clean their restrooms.

I say to them, Clean it up, whitey!

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