Over the past several years, the University of Alabama’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion vigorously denied that it teaches white racism is inevitable, endemic and cannot be changed. But is this what they teach?
A couple of summers ago DEI at UA hosted 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.
Knowing DEI people are sensitive to what others write about DEI, I picked a review in the Washington Post, a liberal national newspaper, one would think DEI-sympathetic.
Carlos Lozada, the nonfiction book critic of the Post won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2017, wrote the review.
“DiAngelo’s book,” he notes, “flattens people of any ancestry into two-dimensional beings fitting predetermined narratives.”
“White people,” DiAngelo notes, “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.
For those who claim DEI, and Critical Race Theory are benign theories or not even in higher education, keep reading.
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 their race affords them systemic advantages, or they can’t help being racist or benefiting from racism, or their behavior is racially “problematic,” white people respond with anger, denial, guilt or tears — with white fragility.
“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 the reviewer Lozada, “and one realizes how slippery it is. 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 of her, or they resist such categorizations or question the interpretation of a particular incident, in which case they are only proving her point from her.”
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 racists and supremacists and can’t escape it. This what Alabama’s DEI teaches faculty and students with DiAngelo’s and other books touting their concepts.
“Progressive whites 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 draws her circle tighter arguing if you’re a white person who finds her logic unreasonable and unprovable—well, we all know what that means. You are a racist for sure.
My point is aimed at those who affirm the existence of such racist claptrap as DiAngelo promotes. This is the stuff going into the minds of faculty and students at Alabama. Let me be as clear as possible. DiAngelo and her readers and DEI followers characterize all whites as inexorably, unbreakably and doomed to racism.
That’s simply not true. It portrays its “truth” as the inevitable consequences of the human condition and history. It cannot be denied, or questioned, or challenged. History must be read their way.
That is the exact opposite of what a classical liberal education is all about. You be the judges of whether “White Fragility” is worth spreading around to our students, your children and, for many, your grandchildren.
Write your board of trustees, the provost, and the president and tell them what you think and recommend. If you are alumni, hold your support until they stop sucking up to the DEI, CRT crowd across the country and get it straight.
And if you want to know how the Christian community is dealing with the same issues, wait a couple of weeks for next column on unity and progress in the Christian community on racism.
Larry Clayton is a retired University of Alabama history professor. Readers can email him at email@example.com.