Robin DiAngelo is a sociologist who is trying to sell us White guilt in a new package labeled “White Fragility.”
Our associate Joe Graziose found her on Facebook preaching her new message. She is White and raised Catholic. We don’t know if she’s actually Italic. She claims a dirt poor childhood with a divorced mom, therefore she understands the plight of “people of color.”
DiAngelo’s contention is that White people find even the slightest encounter with people of color (POC is her abbreviation) to be intolerable. We are so fragile that the mere mention of POC sends us into either a defensive or attack mode. She has made a living explaining this to students, corporations, and the general public.
She is not wrong in her understanding of race relations – the old saying, “to each his own,” pretty much sums up the story of intolerance. The problem is DiAngelo and all the folks who think there is an ultimate cure for racism are pursuing utopia.
How she came to choose the word “fragility” instead a phrase like “White Fear” may be an attempt to convert an incurable phobia into a treatable character flaw. Fragile is the last word I would identify with Euro-Caucasians. It is more fitting for people of color who claim all manner of oppression – existential and mental. Isn’t this why Political Correctness was instituted?
Having witnessed the lack of fragility in Italian Americans gives me firsthand knowledge of the subject. Any ethnic group that has witnessed a century of media defamation but still has high self-esteem is not fragile. In fact, they have willingly sustained an image of thieves and murderers on stage, screen, and in literature, even making it a source of income.
Black Fragility, Hispanic Fragility, and Asian Fragility seem to better describe what is driving race relations today. This stems not only from a reaction to the Euro-American power structure but from Euro-Caucasian existence. Our history – from technical innovation to world dominance in so many fields – is intimidating, to say the least. But, expecting us to expunge our myriad accomplishments from schools and celebrations for the sake of minority self-esteem has become a huge point of friction. I once wrote of finding a book titled 1491 in the library under “non-fiction.” It shamelessly claimed that a Chinese fleet landed in America that year and also reached Italy to “ignite the Renaissance.”
Minority fragility can also encompass physical differences. Hair is an obsession among African Americans. Comedian Chris Rock even made a documentary on the subject revealing the Black quest to have straight hair. Among East Asians, a major insult is that they “all look alike.” I was once accused of racism at a major corporation for asking a Chinese-American fellow employee if it was true that there are few surnames in China. It was at a Christmas party but she reported me for suggesting that Chinese people “all look alike.” (I had to apologize for my question.) Then, there are the south Asians who object to Apu, The Simpsons’ cartoon character. Fragility comes in all forms.
To deny that many minority groups are frustrated with Euro-American culture – from silky-hair shampoo commercials to Columbus Day – is to discount an extremely important reason for racial tensions. Just reflect on some of our own standards of beauty – the perfect nose, Swedish blonds, tall men, etc. – and you can understand how minorities feel when they don’t fit media images.
DiAngelo and all the other “experts” on achieving racial harmony cannot come to terms with all the real differences among us. Putting the onus on Euro-Americans, without acknowledging that there will always be tensions, is tantamount to the pursuit of pure communism or perfect democracy – they can never happen.
To those of us who lived through the 1950s and 1960s these national conversations on race seem to never end. Granted, we have made substantial progress, but it never seems to reach a satisfying conclusion.
Perhaps, those who blame Euro-Americans for all that is wrong should look inwardly from time to time. -JLM