In the last post I present you all with some criticisms of “whiteness” and its manifestation in academia and society. Before reading this post I suggest you read that post for some context. So, in this post I am going to present to you my concerns about some other views on whiteness that when misapplied, will negate the efforts to solve any problems whiteness may cause.
Recently author Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book “White Fragility” has become a popular read. In it she describes what she has learned as an anti-racism educator who gives clinics and corporate seminars on racial issues, primarily the concept of “white fragility”, the defensive nature of white responses to being challenged on potential racial biases. It is worth reading to know exactly what it is she is saying, love it or hate it. Don’t take my word for it: read the book yourself, and come to your own conclusions. It is very educational, warts and all.
I am critical of the book in one major way. Though she can certainly speak with authority on the knowledge and experiences gathered from her work, the amount and type of research in the book did not convince me that “implicit bias” in white people was an established fact, though they may be defensive about being racially challenged. There is much philosophy quoted, but relatively few studies. To assume fact (when there is no wealth of confirmed and independently confirmed evidence from unbiased testing) is not social science, it is philosophy, opinion, and/or something like ideology. In social science this desire to believe something contrary to fact or without evidence is called confirmation bias: the idea that one’s feelings or “common sense” are the same as fact. White people may be employing it when they deny DiAngelo’s point, but DiAngelo too may be seeing white “fragility” or implicit bias where there is none, or at least much less than she imagines.
What confirmation does is automatically negate, cancel, or invalidate any view contrary to one’s own, no matter if it is true (“white people are fragile if they defend themselves against being called a racist”). Though usually ascribed to religious zealots, any group of humans can develop such intense confirmation biases that even the most altruistic and well-intended movement of any sort can evolve to become authoritarian or fascistic, sometimes fairly rapidly.
Confirmation bias leads one to imagine their theories or ideas are unfalsifiable, constructed in such a way that they cannot be proven false in any way at all, no matter what evidence is presented, no matter what is true or not. By deciding that implicit white bias is automatic, white people’s every response is proof of white fragility, bias, bigotry, or outright racism… case closed before it has even been opened (*see blue colored quotes below).The hallmarks of such turns are conformity and an ill-defined enemy. Anyone not in the group is an enemy, and any idea that does not emanate from the group is a wrong idea. I see this ideological turn potentially happening in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The ideas that, historically, black lives have not mattered as much as other lives, and that we need to remind people they do with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” are wonderful ideas to contemplate towards an understanding and elimination of racism. The slogan itself represents an ideal we can and should all get behind. What becomes the organization of people around the BLM movement though can be corrupted by “bad actors”, those who would co-opt the message for anarchistic ends; tearing down anything that “gets in the way” of the mob. Thus, if someone clearly associated with the BLM movement commits a criminal act, a critique of that very act becomes “racist”, as if it is a critique of the moral quest for black worth. We occasionally see a form of this in campus protests where students gather and make so much noise that lectures and guest speeches are drowned out, exercising their free speech to literally deny others’ free speech by not allowing it to be heard (weaponized free speech). Students will also sometimes exercise their right to stand in in a public square on campus in such a manner that no one can enter an event they are protesting. They are certainly free to stand in a public place, but their freedom is weaponized towards denying others their own freedom. This is fascistic, no matter how correct the social cause being fought for, no matter how conservative or liberal the movement, as “justice” can only occur when rights are hindered and/or stripped from others.
Thus, it can also get dangerous when questioning the ethicality or morality of activities of movements like Black Lives Matter. How so? If a white culture commentator simply critiques the ethics or even the morality, of an act committed by a Black Lives Matter member, they potentially are called a “racist”. This is dangerous not because the BLM is using their freedom of speech or has an opinion we may disagree with, but rather that morality and civility are tacitly seen as white things, thus bad. Thus if a black culture commentator calls out the same act or behaviour, they are somehow ideologically compromised by whiteness, even if they are speaking from their own religious beliefs. In that instance they may be considered the “servant” of a white value system, betrayers of their race, an “Uncle Tom”. Whiteness is thus not a desired attribute, and neither are “white” moral ideals, even if they are are kindness, goodness, following the criminal code, tolerance, and so on.
It is here that DiAngelo’s book takes a very serious turn towards untruth. She states in her book that “there is a curious satisfaction in the punishment of black people: the smiling faces of the white crowd picnicking at lynchings in the past, and satisfied approval of white people observing mass incarceration and execution in the present” (p. 94). This breathtaking assumption, backed by zero evidence (no studies or documentation of white satisfaction over black incarceration and execution provided), is even more shocking when considered in light of the opening sentence of the previous paragraph which reads, “Anti-blackness is rooted in misinformation, fables, perversions, projections, and lies“. What about the perversion of inventing a “fact” about white people en masse being satisfied by the modern execution of black people, what about that misinformation and projection?
Confirmation bias hates facts, and even the most undeniable rudimentary facts are enemies of weaponized emotion. If I raise a valid moral issue with the ideology or behaviour of BLM activists and I am automatically “wrong” because I am white… god help the BLM movement because they will have metastasized into a movement seeking to institutionalize as much racism and fascism as possible while they decry racism and fascism.
I am using a Black social movement as an example, but I absoluteIy don’t attribute any of this to blackness like DiAngelo does to my whiteness. I attribute this to human error and the relative youth of both white and black activists within BLM or any other social justice movement. Even the adults get things mixed up in this regard, but BLM and the like are filled with active, eager teenagers and young adults who really want justice and change. The “Right” gets this aspect wrong about the “Left”. To want better HealthCare is not to be a young “communist”; to want wage equality is not to be a lazy Millennial or Gen Z-er who wants “free stuff” and “to live off of the government and others’ taxes”. A woman should absolutely have the right to decide exactly what will or won’t be done with her own body…not a bunch of old white men sitting around in a dusty office. Imagine if the government elected a council of ladies to decide what all men can or can’t do with their testicles… and that is THE LAW. The bullets would start flying in about three seconds! Men would go literally insane with rage… and fear!
(Note: It is important not to forget that BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors openly describes herself as a “trained Marxist” and the BLM website states as of this post that they are for “radical social intervention” and are dedicated to “disrupting” the Western-prescribed the nuclear family requirement”. She was also mentored in community organizing by Eric Mann, a member of a domestic terror organization The Weathermen, who bombed government buildings in the late 20th century. Mann was sentenced to prison for his role in the activities of The Weathermen, who believed that all white babies were “tainted with the original sin of skin privilege”, and that “all white babies are pigs”. At this point it is important to ask yourself, “what does disrupting the nuclear family and radical social intervention have to do with the worth of black life, and is it possible to question Cullors’ Marxism without being called a racist?”, even though her mentor called white babies pigs? A key component of Marxism is Collectivism, the individual is subsumed for the benefit of the group. As the group grows larger, the problem is that those in the out-group are not allowed to remain individuals or in the out-group, their subsumption is by force or by complete elimination. Thus, you can’t oppose the group, you must be erased, eradicated, or destroyed by it in the worst case scenarios. Questioning the collective is a sure way to discover if the in-group allows questioning itself. If it doesn’t, you have authoritarianism, fascism, and such. Marxism has been the seed ideology of the world’s greatest evil collectives: Mao’s China, and Stalin’s Soviet Union. I am absolutely NOT saying Cullors shares the socio-political urges of Stalin, but she was shaped in her views by a convicted racial terrorist.)
Once again to be really clear… this is not a defense of whiteness or a critique of blackness, but an observation of humanity metastasizing into inhumanity; how moral causes become the same authoritarian thing they began opposing. One can become an evil fascist while fighting another fascist, like Godzilla fighting King Kong: both ending up destroying Tokyo even if one is fighting for the “good” side. Where all this ends up is social movements THREATENING anyone who questions them. That is the hallmark of evil, threatening people for merely asking why, how, where, when, who, and what.
We must be REALLY DAMN SURE what we are fighting for is the actual TRUTH, not the “truth” we like to hear. Then: If truth is a threat to white men… something is wrong. If truth is a threat to Patrisse Cullors and BLM, something is wrong. If truth is a threat to the police, something is wrong. If truth is a threat to anyone or anything, something is wrong. The truth is Robin DiAngelo’s book is not based on a large irrefutable stack of verifiable social science research. The truth is FOX, CNN, MSNBC, and other news outlets often do not provide the full context of various stories: thus, in an offhand way, they are often very slightly, kinda, sorta, a little bit “fake”. When a senior curator at a major art museum (Gary Garrels at SFMoMA) is forced to resign when he assures staff that white artists will continue to be collected so as not to engage in reverse discrimination (true story), something is going wrong.
The truth is Black Lives Matter is currently in danger of being steered off a course of deserved, much needed racial justice to socio-political authoritarianism intended to destroy rather than build, threatening anyone who dare question any aspect of any part of their work. We as a society are in SERIOUS trouble when our skin colour automatically makes us an enemy; when individuality and objectivity are considered irredeemably evil.
That is a fact.
And being my being white has NOTHING to do with it…