Fisking “White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo” – Part One – Fisked by Adedayo Dayo*
Don’t ask what compels me to embark on this journey of self-flagellation. I can’t put my finger on it just yet. I thought it was curiosity at one point, especially given the work of others who’ve been examining the work of people like Ms. DiAngelo for the last few years for the same reason I picked up her book: to understand what makes people who are invested fully in identity politics tick.
I don’t know about you, but the gauntlet of reaction upon hearing the phrase “identity politics” runs thusly: surprise, disbelief, defensiveness, annoyance, anger, mockery, and boredom, all overshadowed by that nagging sense of unease and horror. I’m now in the boredom stage, and at the same time the choice to dig deeper is a strong one. One of the authors of the Grievance Studies controversy from 2018 has posted numerous examples on DiAngelo’s published work, sp it was inevitable that I would want to look into it myself.
All that being said, brace yourself for a roller-coaster ride. This isn’t in an amusement park, though – this is in the middle of a bloody swamp and the ride is haunted with woke projection. At some point during this journey you may see a hierarchy pyramid and perhaps a buzzword bingo game, but a majority of it will be focusing on the text itself. Thankfully you will not hear the cussing, the thunk of the book hitting a wall numerous times, and the unintelligible mutterings of this post author delving into the work. Consider yourself fortunate in that regard.
These ceremonials in honor of white supremacy,
performed from babyhood, slip from the
conscious mind down deep into muscles . . .
and become difficult to tear out.
—LILLIAN SMITH, Killers of the Dream (1949)
Cute. You know what else is muscle memory? Getting up everyday to go to work.
Oh, lookie here! The Foreword is written by one Michael Eric Dyson. You know who he is, right? Professional black rights agitator? Purported orator of black truths? Speaker For The Aggrieved Non-White Activist? This should be a doozy.
One metaphor for race, and racism, won’t do. They are, after all, exceedingly complicated forces. No, we need many metaphors, working in concert, even if in different areas of the culture through a clever division of linguistic labor.
This, dear reader, should clue you in from the get-go on the game. As you’ll see, before we even reach the first chapter, the goal is to let you familiarize yourself with the new definitions of common words. Why new definitions, you ask? That’s an excellent question. Don’t ask me if an answer’s forthcoming from Dyson or DiAngelo, however.
Race is a condition. A disease. A card. A plague. Original sin.
This is also a clue. Am I the only one who’s noticed an uptick in the social justice activists’ inability to avoid presentism when publicly airing the grievances they’re trying to make right? I can’t say I know any Calvinists personally, but surely they’re just as annoyed about the theft of their schtick for something as lowly as, uh, race.
For much of American history, race has been black culture’s issue; racism, a black person’s burden. Or substitute any person of color for black and you’ve got the same problem.
Now I may be a glutton for punishment, but this raised my hackles. I literally identify as a non-white person. Race has never been an issue for my culture, and racism has never been my burden. Why is Dyson trying to saddle me with this crap?
Whiteness, however, has remained constant. In the equation of race, another metaphor for race beckons; whiteness is the unchanging variable.
There’s your problem, mate – your metaphor SUCKS. The variable is not the constants in the equation. If “whiteness” = x, what exactly are you trying to solve?
Further down, Dyson says,
To be sure, like the rest of race, whiteness is a fiction, what in the jargon of the academy is termed a social construct, an agreed-on myth that has empirical grit because of its effect, not its essence. But whiteness goes even one better: it is a category of identity that is most useful when its very existence is denied. That’s its twisted genius. Whiteness embodies Charles Baudelaire’s admonition that “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.”
I’m not sure I can even even right now, and we’re still on the foreword. I can’t tell if Dyson is trying to say that since race is a social construct, he’s simply blowing smoke up the audience’s collective derriere or wielding his currently favorite social construct like a bat is simply a means to a particular end. Bueller? Buh? Wait, is he saying Whitey’s the devil here? I mean, white devils still exist, and normally they wear hoods.
DiAngelo brilliantly names a whiteness that doesn’t want to be named, disrobes a whiteness that dresses in camouflage as humanity, unmasks a whiteness costumed as American, and fetches to center stage a whiteness that would rather hide in visible invisibility.
Oh, there’s the end: black agitator just made up a problem in need of a solution.
DiAngelo joins the front ranks of white antiracist thinkers…
Be aware, dear readers, that “antiracist” has a particular meaning in the vocabulary of identity politics. Hint: it’s actually a mantra, not a technical meaning one could find under “anti,” “racist” or “antiracist” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.
Robin DiAngelo is the new racial sheriff in town. She is bringing a different law and order to bear upon the racial proceedings.
Remember what I said about redefining new words? Consider this confirmation of what to expect – because following this racial chicken salad is an Author’s Note from DiAngelo herself, laying out more key phrases that are vital to her cause.
This book is unapologetically rooted in identity politics. I am white and am addressing a common white dynamic. I am mainly writing to a white audience; when I use the terms us and we, I am referring to the white collective. This usage may be jarring to white readers because we are so rarely asked to think about ourselves or fellow whites in racial terms. But rather than retreat in the face of that discomfort, we can practice building our stamina for the critical examination of white identity—a necessary antidote to white fragility. This raises another issue rooted in identity politics: in speaking as a white person to a primarily white audience, I am yet again centering white people and the white voice.
Please note that I am NOT white and yet the simple prose here is not only jarring; it evokes no small amount of horror and anger at the way she singles out one group for the sin that their skin color is purportedly dominant in our country. The hilariously ironic thing is, it’s not easy to distance myself from the emotions which respond to the underlying premise here. And I’m not her target audience. However, that – my not being white – is also a shield from behind which to examine DiAngelo’s claims with some modicum of objectivity.
I must, and I can. Look – you may find my internal agonizing to be self-inflicted, but this is a choice. In order to repudiate and overcome the premise of white privilege, the poison of which has infected every corner of our culture over the last several years, people who’ve seen, read and heard its effects need to know what we’re all facing.
Colorblindness (showing no partiality to race or skin color) is anathema to the advocates of social justice and critical theory.
Privilege and intersectionality must be addressed, they assume, by complaining about it incessantly instead of striving for actual equality.
If you shine a light in the darkness, especially this patch of darkness, knowing what our ideological opponents’ endgame is.
Make no mistake: this is an ideology, sometimes with deadly consequences. More often than not, this ideology has cost people their livelihoods and destroyed their professional reputations, our dear hostess Sarah among their number.
So pardon me for taking this fight directly to them in a manner that doesn’t require bloodshed. Knowledge, after all, is power, and an ideology that focuses on power imbalances shouldn’t mind another dynamic being thrown in the mix, right?
Stay tuned for more.
*I let my guests pick their names and was so tired I put it up. I know why my friend thought that was an appropriate name. She’s mad at herself for reading this tripe, but REALLY it detracted from the article, so I made her use a real name. I’m mean that way.