White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo is making headlines this week for shocking information she divulged during a video interview posted to YouTube.
Until she was 34, the social justice consultant explained, she was colorblind.
As you’re well aware, not noticing hue has been hailed as a virtue for decades.
But lately, morality’s managed a handstand.
Gone are the days of heralding Martin Luther King’s dream of Americans not being judged by the shade of their skin.
In our new era, we’re told color must be seen.
Yet Robin admits she spent over three decades paying it no mind.
The most interesting part of her confession, perhaps, is that she walked the Earth nearly three dozen years being colorblind…toward herself.
The interviewer opened a Caucasian can of worms:
“Talk to me about when you first realized you were white.”
“It was a very abstract sense. I honestly believe I was about 34 years old.”
Label her a late bloomer:
“I was college-educated. I was a parent. And someone handed me Peggy McIntosh’s article. And I read through that list, and I had an out-of-body experience. I could tell you where I was sitting. I’m not ever gonna forget that moment where all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I’m white.’ And I felt so loudly white that I remember being hesitant to go outside. I didn’t wanna go outside. Because everybody could see that I was white.”
Whether she grew up without mirrors or just never glanced in the right direction, it surely must’ve come as a shock.
As for Peggy McIntosh’s article, Robin was presumably referring to 1988’s “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies,” or its shorter 1989 iteration, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
At least in the latter, Peggy offers 26 checkpoints.
Here are half:
- I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
- If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege. Stories and information about people who look like me will be valued and supported.
- I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
- Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
- I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them or possibly hurt them because of how they look, how they sound when they talk or where they are assumed to come from.
- I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, or be late to a meeting without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
- I can speak in public to a powerful group of white people without putting my race on trial, being told I’m playing the race card or chastised for being too emotional or angry.
- I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
- If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
- I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
- I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
- I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
- If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
Peggy’s still around — she delivered a TedTalk in 2012.
Courtesy of Ted.com:
Many of us believe that we’re living in a meritocracy, deserving of what we have and compassionate toward those with less. But that’s not true: white people have been given a headstart and ongoing advantages due to the color of their skin, while people of color suffer from equally arbitrary disadvantages, says scholar and activist Peggy McIntosh.
And evidently, she opened the door to a world of saturation for 34-year-old Robin.
Though the future New York Times best-selling writer seems to have suffered shame that day, it was a valuable lesson.
From The Washington Free Beacon last year:
DiAngelo’s clients, [per] her website, range from Amazon and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Unilever and the YMCA. DiAngelo reportedly charges up to $15,000 [each] session — a March 2019 appearance, for example, cost the University of Kentucky $12,000, as well as a $5-a-minute phone-call fee. Recent virtual events run up to $175 a ticket. The eight to ten private events DiAngelo says she speaks at each month likely net her at least $1.5 million annually. …
DiAngelo’s publisher said [White Fragility] has sold 1.6 million copies, one million this year alone. Given a conservative 8 percent in royalties, that would mean the book has made DiAngelo over $2 million.
Regarding righteousness, she has few peers: According to her account of racial revelation, she was a model citizen on both sides of our cultural 180. When it was virtuous to be colorblind, she was so radically oblivious to color that she didn’t notice her own. And now that the opposite is honorable, she’s so attuned to race that she literally wrote the book on hers.
Moreover, her account paints a Saul-to-Paul-like conversion.
Despite the heroism of such, Robin isn’t the first person to not learn of their own race ’til late in life.
You may recall that honor goes to someone else:
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