Author Topic: White Fragility  (Read 12977 times)

Norman Teigen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1651
  • I intend to persuade no one.
    • View Profile
White Fragility
« on: June 11, 2020, 11:22:26 AM »
My pastor has sent a profound and moving Pastoral Letter to the congregation.  He was born and raised in south Minneapolis.  He is as Minnesota and Lutheran as one could be.    He deeply feels the pain and sorrow which we all are experiencing.   He has made several reading suggestions and I list  one near the top of his list:  Robin Diangelo. "White Fragility   Why It's So Hard for White People  to Talk About Racism".  I ordered this book from the iTunes Store.
Norman Teigen

Steven Tibbetts

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 10214
  • Big tents are for circuses.
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2020, 04:01:02 PM »
My pastor has sent a profound and moving Pastoral Letter to the congregation.  He was born and raised in south Minneapolis.  He is as Minnesota and Lutheran as one could be.    He deeply feels the pain and sorrow which we all are experiencing.   He has made several reading suggestions and I list  one near the top of his list:  Robin Diangelo. "White Fragility   Why It's So Hard for White People  to Talk About Racism".  I ordered this book from the iTunes Store.

A colleague recommended that very book in our Synod Clergy's weekly Zoom meeting with the Bishop, and I'm considering purchasing it to read.

I will confess in advance, though, that it is mainly to see 1) what's changed since I was required to read Judith Katz' White Awareness at PLTS 30 years ago and 2) what is capturing the imagination of those whose imaginations are so often easily captured.  I would be pleased to have any cynicism I have unrewarded.

Christe eleison, Steven+
The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS
Pastor Zip's Blog

Voelker

  • Guest
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2020, 06:59:11 PM »
Here's an excellent review essay of this livre du jour: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility.

Coach-Rev

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ****
  • Posts: 472
  • Rev. Jeff Cottingham, STS
    • View Profile
    • Trinity Lutheran Church
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2020, 07:22:48 PM »
I much prefer Thomas Sowell's book from the mid 90's "Race and Culture:  A World View." 

He at least makes some reasoned arguments based on an analysis of all cultures, races, and societies.
"The problem with quotes on the internet is that you can never know if they are genuine." - Abraham Lincoln

blog:  http://coach-rev.blogspot.com/
photography:  https://jeffcottingham.smugmug.com/

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 12134
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2020, 09:28:17 AM »
The Holy Grail of intellectual thought since there has been intellectual thought is the TOE, Theory Of Everything, the singular theory that will explain everything, unite everything, and allow us to manage everything. This can also feed into the age old Utopian impulse. If we could just get a handle on everything, we could get everything put together right, and get ourselves back to the Garden.

But life is messy and people and their interactions are complicated. In order to get a TOE that is comprehensible, people and their interactions must be simplified. Every adequately simplified accounting for everything ends up an over simplification that leaves out crucial factors and the resulting TOE becomes a Procrustean bed. Marx reduced everything to economics,  laissez-faire capitalism reduces everything to market forces, post-modernism to power, and now white fragility to race. The problem is that each of these schema does capture an accurate picture of part of the whole, the difficulty is that they only describe part and attempt to stretch or chop the rest of reality to fit their part.

And the cherubim still block the way back to the garden. Another Way, Truth, and Life is needed.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 09:40:52 AM by Dan Fienen »
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Robert Johnson

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 703
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2020, 12:59:08 PM »
Here's an excellent review essay of this livre du jour: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility.

Taibbi’s article is excellent.  Recommended.

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5162
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2020, 10:47:16 AM »
Here's an excellent review essay of this livre du jour: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility.

Taibbi’s article is excellent.  Recommended.
Taibbi's essay is openly a hit piece, intended to prevent people from reading, or at least from getting any benefit from, DiAngelo's book.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism attacks what the author calls the Good/Bad Binary, where "Racist = Bad, Not Racist = Good," and where "ďgnorant, bigoted, prejudiced, mean-spirited, old and Southern" is contrasted with "progressive, educated, open-minded, well-intentioned, young and Northern" (p. 72). A lot of white people are stuck in that Good/Bad Binary, she claims, and it keeps them from engaging the real issues.

It's a good book, but (unlike Taibbi) subtle.

Peace,
Michael

Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7031
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2020, 11:06:53 AM »
Here's an excellent review essay of this livre du jour: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility.

Taibbi’s article is excellent.  Recommended.
Taibbi's essay is openly a hit piece, intended to prevent people from reading, or at least from getting any benefit from, DiAngelo's book.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism attacks what the author calls the Good/Bad Binary, where "Racist = Bad, Not Racist = Good," and where "ďgnorant, bigoted, prejudiced, mean-spirited, old and Southern" is contrasted with "progressive, educated, open-minded, well-intentioned, young and Northern" (p. 72). A lot of white people are stuck in that Good/Bad Binary, she claims, and it keeps them from engaging the real issues.

It's a good book, but (unlike Taibbi) subtle.

Peace,
Michael

Perhaps. Granted I have not read it, but the reviews I've read praising it do not really give the impression you do.  They indicate that white people are "fragile" in that we avoid discussing race because it is too traumatic for us, and that this is (somewhat ironically) a form of bullying.  So maybe "fragility" is the wrong word here?

The issue I take with this line of thinking is simply this -- I grant there are systemic issues that negatively affect black people regardless of merit or ability, and that these ought to be discussed and addressed.  I grant that there are an unfortunate number of white people who simply get defensive and upset when they (or their institutions, or their preferences) are attacked as racist.  What I see lacking in the discussion, and perhaps you can confirm whether it is addressed by DiAngelo and if so, where, is this:  A discussion of the weaponization of words like "racist" and "white supremacy" over the years, primarily by partisan Democrats against partisan Republicans, and the effective that has on white people and how it may contribute to what the author calls "white fragility."  I mean, when Joe Biden says Mitt Romney wants to put black people back in chains, and some folks criticized him mildly but no one considered his comments to be racist, or race-baiting, or really problematic other than that they were dumb and ill-considered, and that is the sort of status quo Republicans are used to having to deal with, doesn't that affect how Republicans and Republican-leaning people are going to want to discuss racial issues?

If no matter what I do or say (short of joining their political team), people of a certain political persuasion will call me a racist and a white supremacist, wouldn't you expect that I would want to avoid such demeaning and slanderous "conversations?"  Even when they are started by well-meaning black people who may not even have a partisan motive in mind?  But best I can tell from reading reviews of this book, the author considers that my problem.  At best, none of the reviews I've read deal with that issue at all, which tells me it is likely not there at all.  Do you consider that to be a problem when we are talking about discussing racial issues?
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5162
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2020, 11:27:59 AM »
Perhaps. Granted I have not read it, but the reviews I've read praising it do not really give the impression you do.  They indicate that white people are "fragile" in that we avoid discussing race because it is too traumatic for us, and that this is (somewhat ironically) a form of bullying.  So maybe "fragility" is the wrong word here?

The issue I take with this line of thinking is simply this -- I grant there are systemic issues that negatively affect black people regardless of merit or ability, and that these ought to be discussed and addressed.  I grant that there are an unfortunate number of white people who simply get defensive and upset when they (or their institutions, or their preferences) are attacked as racist.  What I see lacking in the discussion, and perhaps you can confirm whether it is addressed by DiAngelo and if so, where, is this:  A discussion of the weaponization of words like "racist" and "white supremacy" over the years, primarily by partisan Democrats against partisan Republicans, and the effective that has on white people and how it may contribute to what the author calls "white fragility."  I mean, when Joe Biden says Mitt Romney wants to put black people back in chains, and some folks criticized him mildly but no one considered his comments to be racist, or race-baiting, or really problematic other than that they were dumb and ill-considered, and that is the sort of status quo Republicans are used to having to deal with, doesn't that affect how Republicans and Republican-leaning people are going to want to discuss racial issues?

If no matter what I do or say (short of joining their political team), people of a certain political persuasion will call me a racist and a white supremacist, wouldn't you expect that I would want to avoid such demeaning and slanderous "conversations?"  Even when they are started by well-meaning black people who may not even have a partisan motive in mind?  But best I can tell from reading reviews of this book, the author considers that my problem.  At best, none of the reviews I've read deal with that issue at all, which tells me it is likely not there at all.  Do you consider that to be a problem when we are talking about discussing racial issues?
I don't remember the words "Democrat" or "Republican" appearing in the book. If I had a machine-searchable text, I could check. I don't think that that binary interests her or (more importantly) bears on a solution of our issues with racism.

She does use the term white supremacy, but she clearly distinguishes its sociological meaning from the popular consciousness that solely associates it with radical groups (p. 28). As she says, "Most white people do not identify with these images of white supremacists and so take great umbrage to the term being used more broadly."

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Rev Geminn

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 780
    • View Profile
    • www.afoolishway.com
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2020, 11:36:02 AM »
Here's an excellent review essay of this livre du jour: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility.

Taibbi’s article is excellent.  Recommended.
Taibbi's essay is openly a hit piece, intended to prevent people from reading, or at least from getting any benefit from, DiAngelo's book.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism attacks what the author calls the Good/Bad Binary, where "Racist = Bad, Not Racist = Good," and where "ďgnorant, bigoted, prejudiced, mean-spirited, old and Southern" is contrasted with "progressive, educated, open-minded, well-intentioned, young and Northern" (p. 72). A lot of white people are stuck in that Good/Bad Binary, she claims, and it keeps them from engaging the real issues.

It's a good book, but (unlike Taibbi) subtle.

Peace,
Michael

Respectfully, I disagree, the book is pretty bad.  And Taibbi's criticism is, imo, on point.  It isn't to say that there aren't some good things that can be gleaned from it, but DiAngelo makes some really gross assertions because of her foundational methodology. Her take on Jackie Robinson is historically inaccurate (pg. 26). Her claim that racism today is more sinister than the Jim Crow era is problematic and she doesn't support it with data or a footnote (pg. 50).  Having read it I couldn't help but equate white fragility with the notion of original sin; they run parallel to one another in the way she frames the issue.  It is a new form of religiosity in an age of disenchantment.

Peace,
Scott+


David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7031
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2020, 11:46:30 AM »
As she says, "Most white people do not identify with these images of white supremacists and so take great umbrage to the term being used more broadly."

Peace,
Michael

I certainly agree with that sentiment.  It's a bait and switch from where I stand.

I'd wager most people who hear "TEh pRezIDenT is A wHitE SupRemICAST" on social media don't have in mind the "sociological meaning" (that is, the meaning sociologists attached to an already existent description of hate groups).
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Rev Geminn

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 780
    • View Profile
    • www.afoolishway.com
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2020, 11:55:24 AM »
As she says, "Most white people do not identify with these images of white supremacists and so take great umbrage to the term being used more broadly."

Peace,
Michael

I certainly agree with that sentiment.  It's a bait and switch from where I stand.

I'd wager most people who hear "TEh pRezIDenT is A wHitE SupRemICAST" on social media don't have in mind the "sociological meaning" (that is, the meaning sociologists attached to an already existent description of hate groups).

Yes, I would agree, it uses specific terminology ie signifiers, but does so very broadly.  So broadly that out of the gate persons are immediately cornered and labeled.  Thus, the defensiveness, which Diangelo calls "white fragility".  She is setting people up to fail.  Thus, anyone who agrees with her can read what I wrote and claim that I suffer from white fragility.  In a matter of seconds I can be generalized and dismissed.  It is incredibly dehumanizing.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 11:58:12 AM by Rev Geminn »

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5162
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2020, 12:04:59 PM »
Respectfully, I disagree, the book is pretty bad.  And Taibbi's criticism is, imo, on point.  It isn't to say that there aren't some good things that can be gleaned from it, but DiAngelo makes some really gross assertions because of her foundational methodology. Her take on Jackie Robinson is historically inaccurate (pg. 26). Her claim that racism today is more sinister than the Jim Crow era is problematic and she doesn't support it with data or a footnote (pg. 50).  Having read it I couldn't help but equate white fragility with the notion of original sin; they run parallel to one another in the way she frames the issue.  It is a new form of religiosity in an age of disenchantment.
The text on p. 50 reads:
"I am often asked if I think the younger generation is less racist. No, I don't. In some ways, racism's adaptations over time are more sinister than concrete rules such as Jim Crow. The adaptations produce the same outcome (people of color are blocked from moving forward) but have been put in place by a dominant white society that won't or can't admit to its beliefs. This intransigence results in another pillar of white fragility: the refusal to know."

That ends a chapter. What data or footnote do you think she should have put there?

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5162
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2020, 12:07:45 PM »
As she says, "Most white people do not identify with these images of white supremacists and so take great umbrage to the term being used more broadly."

I certainly agree with that sentiment.  It's a bait and switch from where I stand.

I'd wager most people who hear "TEh pRezIDenT is A wHitE SupRemICAST" on social media don't have in mind the "sociological meaning" (that is, the meaning sociologists attached to an already existent description of hate groups).
You're right, they don't. But of course you are no longer talking about the book under consideration--you've switched.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Michael Slusser

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5162
    • View Profile
Re: White Fragility
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2020, 12:11:06 PM »
Yes, I would agree, it uses specific terminology ie signifiers, but does so very broadly.  So broadly that out of the gate persons are immediately cornered and labeled.  Thus, the defensiveness, which DiAngelo calls "white fragility".  She is setting people up to fail.  Thus, anyone who agrees with her can read what I wrote and claim that I suffer from white fragility.  In a matter of seconds I can be generalized and dismissed.  It is incredibly dehumanizing.
QED

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian