Monday, June 29, 2020

Who Is Robin DiAngelo and Why Does Anyone Care?

If you haven’t heard of Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, consider yourself blessed. It’s a huge best seller and DiAngelo is in great demand as an anti-racism consultant.

Consider this book and the success it has garnered a sign of American decline. When they write about the decline and fall of the American empire, this book might even deserve a chapter.

Anyway, one of our favorite liberal writers-- one of the few who has unimpeachable integrity-- Matt Taibbi has explained what the book is about. Thus, he saves us all the trouble of reading it-- a good thing, since it is apparently borderline illiterate. And Taibbi also takes down the toxic culture that the book and others like it are producing.

What does DiAngelo have to say? She says that it’s all about race, that we are all about race, that the content of our character counts less than our racial composition. Naturally, this would make us wonder about people who are biracial or triracial, but we are invited to ignore that.

Taibbi explains that defining people solely by their race is: Hitlerian. Considering how much time and effort the denizens of the American left have spent denouncing Donald Trump and other Republicans as Nazis, we are delighted to see the real Nazis stand up. Those who believe that your race defines you, over and against anything else, are the true heirs to the Third Reich.

Taibbi explains:

DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.

It is guilt by association, and the greater part of the guilt is placed on white people, because of their race:

If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”

Of course, I do not know what she has to say about Asians, but presumably they count as people of color. As for their being oppressed, no one with a brain would suggest such a thing. Exception given to the fact that when Asian children try to gain admission into elite universities, their race is held against them. It has something to do with diversity.

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

For my part, thanks to my barely controlled pedantic streak, I am delighted to see Taibbi take down DiAngelo’s writing-- which is painfully illiterate. Just think, people who have been educated in American schools and colleges do not know bad writing when they see it. They are lapping up a book that is impossibly poorly written.

Taibbi explains:

DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain. The lexicon favored by intersectional theorists of this type is built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs, like racist and antiracist, platform and deplatform, center and silence, that reduce all thinking to a series of binary choices. Ironically, Donald Trump does something similar, only with words like “AMAZING!” and “SAD!” that are simultaneously more childish and livelier.

Better yet:

Writers like DiAngelo like to make ugly verbs out of ugly nouns and ugly nouns out of ugly verbs (there are countless permutations on centering and privileging alone). In a world where only a few ideas are considered important, redundancy is encouraged, e.g. “To be less white is to break with white silence and white solidarity, to stop privileging the comfort of white people,” or “Ruth Frankenberg, a premier white scholar in the field of whiteness, describes whiteness as multidimensional…”

As for Martin Luther King’s asking us to judge each other by the content of our character, that is so yesterday. DiAngelo wants us to judge each other by our race:

White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. This is an important passage because rejection of King’s “dream” of racial harmony — not even as a description of the obviously flawed present, but as the aspirational goal of a better future — has become a central tenet of this brand of antiracist doctrine mainstream press outlets are rushing to embrace.

As for a definitive judgment, I like this one:

White Fragility,... may be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina.

Democrats have embraced the DiAngelo form of racism baiting, mostly because they believe it to be a political winner:

Democratic Party leaders, pioneers of the costless gesture, have already embraced this performative race politics as a useful tool for disciplining apostates like Bernie Sanders. Bernie took off in presidential politics as a hard-charging crusader against a Wall Street-fattened political establishment, and exited four years later a self-flagellating, defeated old white man who seemed to regret not apologizing more for his third house. Clad in kente cloth scarves, the Democrats who crushed him will burn up CSPAN with homilies on privilege even as they reassure donors they’ll stay away from Medicare for All or the carried interest tax break.

And now, thanks to the leftist anti-racism mania, we are all being encouraged to snitch on each other, as though we were living under the East German Communist Party or in Mao’s China:

People everywhere today are being encouraged to snitch out schoolmates, parents, and colleagues for thoughtcrime. The New York Times wrote a salutary piece about high schoolers scanning social media accounts of peers for evidence of “anti-black racism” to make public, because what can go wrong with encouraging teenagers to start submarining each other’s careers before they’ve even finished growing?

“People who go to college end up becoming racist lawyers and doctors. I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs,” one 16 year-old said. “Someone ... started a Google doc of racists and their info for us to ruin their lives… I love twitter,” wrote a different person, adding cheery emojis.

A bizarre echo of North Korea’s “three generations of punishment” doctrine could be seen in the boycotts of Holy Land grocery, a well-known hummus maker in Minneapolis. In recent weeks it’s been abandoned by clients and seen its lease pulled because of racist tweets made by the CEO’s 14 year-old daughter eight years ago.

Parents calling out their kids is also in vogue. In Slate, “Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” wrote to advice columnist Michelle Herman in a letter headlined, “I think I’ve screwed up the way my kids think about race.” The problem, the aggrieved parent noted, was that his/her sons had gone to a diverse school, and their “closest friends are still a mix of black, Hispanic, and white kids,” which to them was natural. The parent worried when one son was asked to fill out an application for a potential college roommate and expressed annoyance at having to specify race, because “I don’t care about race.”

Clearly, a situation needing fixing! The parent asked if someone who didn’t care about race was “just as racist as someone who only has white friends” and asked if it was “too late” to do anything. No fear, Herman wrote: it’s never too late for kids like yours to educate themselves. To help, she linked to a program of materials designed for just that purpose, a “Lesson Plan for Being An Ally,” that included a month of readings of… White Fragility. Hopefully that kid with the Black and Hispanic friends can be cured!

In truth, there is nothing new about this. We saw it in the attacks on Brett Kavanaugh, though there it remained under something like control. And people who associated with Donald Trump have been attacked and vilified. That it should have extended into the family and the schools and the media should not be a large surprise.

So, the country is going stark raving mad. It will take more than therapy to cure this malady: 

At a time of catastrophe and national despair, when conservative nationalism is on the rise and violent confrontation on the streets is becoming commonplace, it’s extremely suspicious that the books politicians, the press, university administrators, and corporate consultants alike are asking us to read are urging us to put race even more at the center of our identities, and fetishize the unbridgeable nature of our differences. Meanwhile books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, which are both beautiful and actually anti-racist, have been banned, for containing the “N-word.” (White Fragility contains it too, by the way). It’s almost like someone thinks there’s a benefit to keeping people divided.


whitney said...

"If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”"

It's weird isn't it I see this is exactly the opposite. That black peoples only identity as a negative identity in comparison to white people. If all the black people disappeared from the country tomorrow it would be nothing but positive for white people. We would lose nothing and could potentially start creating and discovering again and a minimally we could have orderly safe communities. Without white people black people would be living in mud huts in a couple Generations

Sam L. said...

I do not know this DiAgelo person, nor do I want to, nor do I care.

urbane legend said...

Clearly, a situation needing fixing! The parent asked if someone who didn’t care about race was “just as racist as someone who only has white friends” and asked if it was “too late” to do anything.

This is simply unfathomable. There is no way whatsoever to make sense of this, except the parent is clearly insane, and so are his/her/zir's enablers.

Let us hope the son is studying STEM, and upon graduation moves far away from his insane parent.

Giordano Bruno said...

Our university elites loved this book. They also loved Ta-Nehisi Coates. White leftists love their imaginary guilt and their imaginary suffering, and they get a sexual charge from black psychopaths, and they teach this to all their students. The parents cheer the sports ball team. The corporations and the media also love her book. The book is pure poison; it's Jim Jones reborn, but as corporate race re-education.

This book is a litmus test for both intelligence and wisdom; anyone who praises it is contemptible. That saves me a lot of effort to talk to people. Taibbi does nice work here.

Whitney, they would be living in ruins; they tried mud hut construction, and the huts collapsed on them.

The problem with race in America is that so many blacks are irredeemably racist. They are attempting to foist the charge off on whites to deflect their own hatred for other races and cultures. They are still at the bottom of the ladder while the Hispanics just took Booker T Washington's advice and dominated all the trades and launched themselves solidly into the American middle-class. Asians and Hindus left them in the dust in one generation. Blacks are losers and the pain of losing is just too much for them to bear. So they need to sell the big lie to get themselves out of the hole they are in--both economically and psychologically. This book is an attempt to sell the bie lie.