White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo Read Online (FREE)
Read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo online free here.
These ceremonials in honor of white supremacy,
performed from babyhood, slip from the
conscious mind down deep into muscles . . .
and become difficult to tear out.
—LILLIAN SMITH, Killers of the Dream (1949)
Keyser Söze, Beyoncé,
and the Witness Protection Program
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
One metaphor for race, and racism, won’t do. They are, after all, exceedingly complicated forces. No, we need many metaphors, working in concert, even if in different areas of the culture through a clever division of linguistic labor. Race is a condition. A disease. A card. A plague. Original sin. For much of American history, race has been black culture’s issue; racism, a black person’s burden. Or substitute any person of color for black and you’ve got the same problem. Whiteness, however, has remained constant. In the equation of race, another metaphor for race beckons; whiteness is the unchanging variable. Or, to shift metaphors, whiteness has been, to pinch Amiri Baraka’s resonant phrase, the “changing same,” a highly adaptable and fluid force that stays on top no matter where it lands. In a sense, whiteness is at once the means of dominance, the end to which dominance points, and the point of dominance, too, which, in its purest form, in its greatest fantasy, never ends.
To be sure, like the rest of race, whiteness is a fiction, what in the jargon of the academy is termed a social construct, an agreed-on myth that has empirical grit because of its effect, not its essence. But whiteness goes even one better: it is a category of identity that is most useful when its very existence is denied. That’s its twisted genius. Whiteness embodies Charles Baudelaire’s admonition that “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Or, as an alter ego of the character Keyser Söze says in the film The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world that he didn’t exist.” The Devil. Racism. Another metaphor. Same difference.
Robin DiAngelo is here to announce, in the words of evangelicals—and rappers Rick Ross and Jay-Z—“The Devil Is a Lie.” Whiteness, like race, may not be true—it’s not a biologically heritable characteristic that has roots in physiological structures or in genes or chromosomes. But it is real, in the sense that societies and rights and goods and resources and privileges have been built on its foundation. DiAngelo brilliantly names a whiteness that doesn’t want to be named, disrobes a whiteness that dresses in camouflage as humanity, unmasks a whiteness costumed as American, and fetches to center stage a whiteness that would rather hide in visible invisibility.
It is not enough to be a rhetorician and a semiotician to deconstruct and demythologize whiteness. One must be a magician of the political and the social, an alchemist of the spiritual and psychological too. One must wave off racist stereotypes and conjure a rich history of combatting white supremacy and white privilege and white lies—a history that has often been buried deep in the dark, rich, black American soil. DiAngelo knows that what she is saying to white folk in this book is what so many black folks have thought and believed and said over the years but couldn’t be heard because white ears were too sensitive, white souls too fragile.