What is being read at the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Posted on August 9, 2020


I recently read where the Division of DEI at UA will host a “common read” of the New York Times best-selling book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo beginning at the end of July..

I thought, well I should probably take a look at a book review in my usual manner as a curious reader, kind of like looking at recommendations for some electronic doodad you are going to buy on amazon.com.

Knowing that DEI people are sensitive to what others may write about DEI, I picked a review in the Washington Post, a national newspaper with a liberal slant, one would think DEI-sympathetic. That’s the least I could do since I have been somewhat critical of DEI.

Carlos Lozada, the nonfiction book critic of the Post won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2017, wrote the review.

Lozada writes right off the bat that this book, a No. 1 bestseller on the New York Times nonfiction list, “doesn’t deserve that distinction,”

If I were the author, I might have stopped reading right there and gone to either get a coffee or something stronger. “The book flattens people of any ancestry into two-dimensional beings fitting predetermined narratives.”

“White people,” notes DiAngelo, “should be regarded not as individuals but as an undifferentiated racist collective, socialized to “fundamentally hate blackness” and to institutionalize that prejudice in politics and culture. People of color, by contrast, are almost entirely powerless, and the few with influence do not wield it in the service of racial justice.”

So, as a white person I “fundamentally hate blackness” and my many friends of color “are almost entirely powerless.” Interesting.

Furthermore, “white people don’t like to engage, as DiAngelo has often gleaned in her capacity as a diversity consultant for companies and other organizations. Whenever they are told that their race affords them systemic advantages, or that they can’t help being racist or benefiting from racism, or that their behavior is racially “problematic,” white people respond with anger, denial, guilt or tears — with white fragility [ital added].

“Their responses are so predictable I sometimes feel as though we are all reciting lines from a shared script,” she writes contemptuously. White people don’t like to be accused of being racist, labeled “white fragility” by the author.

“But stare at it a little longer,” notes Lozada, “and one realizes how slippery it is, too. As defined by DiAngelo, white fragility is irrefutable; any alternative perspective or counterargument is defeated by the concept itself. Either white people admit their inherent and unending racism and vow to work on their white fragility, in which case DiAngelo was correct in her assessment, or they resist such categorizations or question the interpretation of a particular incident, in which case they are only proving her point.”

This book exists for white readers. “I am white and am addressing a common white dynamic,” DiAngelo explains. “I am mainly writing to a white audience; when I use the terms us and we, I am referring to the white collective.”

It is always a “collective,” because DiAngelo regards individualism as an insidious ideology. “White people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy,” DiAngelo writes, a system “we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves.”

So much for individual responsibility. We are all white supremacists and can’t escape it. This what our DEI division is teaching UA faculty and students with this book.

 “Progressive whites, those who consider themselves attuned to racial justice, are not exempt from DiAngelo’s analysis. If anything, they are more susceptible to it,” notes Lozada.

“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color,” she writes.

The more that white progressives oppose racism, the more fragile they are. “White people’s moral objection to racism increases their resistance to acknowledging their complicity with it,” DiAngelo argues, drawing her circle ever tighter. And if you’re a white person who finds that logic unreasonable — well, we all know what that means. You are a racist for sure.

There is only one place in our human culture that I find the “we all are” logic or affirmation or accusation to be true, best expressed in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans (23:3): “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” How we get past that sin and failure is of course another subject.

My point is if we can overcome our sin and find the entry (faith, forgiveness, redemption) into the family of God, surely we can overcome racism and not make it so complicated with psychobabble (white fragility, etc. ) that characterizes all whites as inexorably, unbreakably and doomed to racism. That’s simply not true. You can be the judges of whether White Fragility is worth reading or not. Unless it is balanced with a powerful, truthful counterargument, I vote it off the island.

Published as Popular book defines white fragility in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday July 26, 2020.