Matt Taibbi offers his thoughts on the book White Fragility. He doesn’t think too highly of it.
A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests.
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.
Ideas that go through the English-DiAngelo translator usually end up significantly altered, as in this key part of the book when she addresses Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” speech:One line of King’s speech in particular—that one day he might be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin—was seized upon by the white public because the words were seen to provide a simple and immediate solution to racial tensions: pretend that we don’t see race, and racism will end. Color blindness was now promoted as the remedy for racism, with white people insisting that they didn’t see race or, if they did, that it had no meaning to them.That this speech was held up as the framework for American race relations for more than half a century precisely because people of all races understood King to be referring to a difficult and beautiful long-term goal worth pursuing is discounted, of course. 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.
This notion that color-blindness is itself racist, one of the main themes of White Fragility, could have amazing consequences. In researching I Can’t Breathe, I met civil rights activists who recounted decades of struggle to remove race from the law. I heard stories of lawyers who were physically threatened for years in places like rural Arkansas just for trying to end explicit hiring and housing discrimination and other remnants of Jim Crow. Last week, an Oregon County casually exempted “people of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling” from a Covid-19 related mask order. Who thinks creating different laws for different racial categories is going to end well? When has it ever?