The White Boy Shuffle successfully undermines the white guilt campaign and admonishes the idea that white Americans can relate to the experiences of African Americans.
Gunner’s poetic abilities are esteemed time and time again, not for their unadulterated truth or their unique message, but for the singular fact that they come from a black man from the ghetto and not a white person. This conflict of admiration allows the white reader to grasp a piece of their privilege in never having to be praised because they “somehow got lucky,” and instead being allowed to own their accomplishments and contribute them to hard work. On a similar note, Gunner’s college recruiters attempt to seduce him by appealing to his traits that make him “more” than the average African American, but succeed in only insulting him further. The idea of white people praising black people as they show their “worth” is just as deplorable as the way in which the crowd advocated dying for the uplifting of South Africa. A few white American deaths thousands of miles away from the actual conflict does nothing to help South African. More than that, these are the same people who are too embarrassed to admit their favorite poet is black because they fear not being taken seriously.
Gunner’s ability to transcend racial divides and speak to the crowd about their misunderstanding of the real issues allows the reader to not only better understand the book, but also gain a deeper understanding of the white privilege dynamic. I think Gunner wanted the crowd to be realistic with what they were willing to do to uplift others, and accept that being racially inclusive is not a fad trend one can just adopt. It’s not about being racially colorblind. It’s about accepting that due to the systemic nature of race, whites and blacks experience different hardships throughout their lives that neither group can ever fully understand about the other.