“Of course, there came a time in every young man’s life when the classic intarsia sweater—with its vibrant colors and intricately-stitched reindeers—weren’t so cool. But we’re coming around to the retro sweater’s hand-knit Nordic charm again. After all, isn’t this the time of year when we become impervious to cynicism and embrace all things nostalgic, cheerful and cozy?”—The Holiday Sweater - Valet
This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.
Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it’s like to be a Na’vi because he always has the option to switch back into human mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very different lesson. He’s becoming alien and he can’t go back. He has no other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what? He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely because he’s hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a “cure” for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races, it’s only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and nobody will let you be a leader of anything.
“I have never tried it in my entire life. I’ve never seen it. I am also way too high-strung. I can’t even take a Sudafed. Can you imagine? My God, I think my heart would explode!”—Brittany Murphy, on cocaine