According to Robin DiAngelo, saying you are NOT racist is virtually proof that you are.
In her book, White Fragility, one of her main points to establishing your racist card is being defensive about the accusation. Further, if you DON’T consider yourself white-privileged, you are in denial of said privilege and, once again, prove that you are racist.
I don’t buy it.
Admittedly, a lot of what she has to say is simple, common sense and true. So, I buy a lot of it. We have systemically racist systems and we we live them unconsciously. Fair enough. I get that. But she is also saying that white people living in a white society are over protected and privileged by their whiteness. Perhaps. But I see a lot of white people damaged into addiction and homelessness by that same so-called privileged society she points to. There is much more comfort for the white guy than, perhaps, the black guy but, when you are down and out, colour isn’t gonna save you. And the deplorables who support Trump sure as hell don’t think they are privileged.
And, not coincidentally, it seems that a black guy living in a black society doesn’t fare much better but, according to DiAngelo, that is probably because the black society exists in the larger white-influenced world.
Still, a system originally designed by whites FOR whites (mostly) is a leg-up for a white person compared to a person-of-colour IF the only determinant is skin colour. I do not think the primary prejudice is skin colour. It is economics. Economic status (wealth) is actually a more relevant determinant by far.
She also condemns the white guy for being angry when confronted with his ‘racism’. I am not so sure that some anger and defensiveness is not called for. Again, she is NOT wrong in raising the issues she raises but she does so in a provocative manner. I felt some anger. RACISM is a bad word. To call anyone, regardless of colour, a racist is to be insulting and accusatory even if they mean it in an educational way. A doctor who sees a patient and shouts, “You fat!” is not a good doctor regardless of the accuracy of her observation.
I guess we all should be sensitized more than we are. And she has taken on herself to do that for the good of everyone. So, good on her. But, that there will be some push-back is to be expected. An insult is often intended as an insult rather than a lesson. I recall distinctly being yelled at once by a First Nations guy (when I was sitting in my office at the Downtown Clinic in the middle of skid row), “Get off my land, white man!”
I went over to him and said, “I am on your land only because you say it is yours. Native culture used to claim that no one owned the land. And I agree with them, not you or the bastards who invented the land ownership system. And, just so you know, I own no land. I live on a cheap boat that I owe money on. I can’t afford land. You have a reserve at least. You can go home. I can’t. Your life ain’t easy, but neither is mine. My father was ruined by the war. We were and are still poor-as-dirt. And I can’t afford to go to the school the government will pay you to go to. My student loans are just too high to continue. If I could, I would trade my circumstance for yours right now. Not your brains. Not your attitude and certainly not your now-miserable health but, if you got it together, your path today is way, way easier than mine.”
Of course, at the time, I was surfing the blindness of being part of the so-called HUGE WAVE of ‘white privilege’ and not seeing quite how that was playing out for me and against him in the long run. But, to be sure, I was not consciously discriminating against him as First Nations. I was providing him health care service. Free and to the best of my ability. I was, however, starting to feel a bit of bull-moose-to-bull moose tension in the air and he sensed it and left. I have never forgotten.
I was also the only white kid in an all black school in an all-black almost-ghetto in San Francisco (very poor but not ‘burnt-out’ hulks of buildings full of drug addicts like some). I have been a minority many times in my life if you don’t simply measure by skin colour. Poverty is a very prejudicial definer of where you sit in society’s hierarchy. So is being the ‘new kid’ in class thirteen times before graduation (we moved a lot). But, I admit that all of those things were temporary and skin colour is not. So, I do NOT disagree with DiAngelo…only the way she is making her point.
I also want to make a point that seems never to be made…weird...but here it is: I am NOT a racist in any way consciously and will endeavour to correct myself when I become aware of any unconscious racism. I also do NOT expect other races to endeavour to be as conscious as I am trying to be. We all walk our own path, carry our own cross.
But I am less of a racist (conscious or unconscious) than I am a culturalist. I do NOT judge people by the colour of their skin but, I admit, I do tend to judge societies and cultures and behaviours by their values and morals. I am a smidge intolerant of religious zealots for instance. I have no problem with their religion so long as it is tolerant of others but zealotry tends to be intolerant of others and so I make a judgment to ‘not like that’. I do NOT throw stones or denigrate Jehova’s Winesses, devout Hasidim, shouting rattlesnake-handlers and the like but I confess to not being keen on what they have to preach. My bad.
Put more bluntly: my white values are somewhat steeped in the Judaeo-Christian ethic and tempered a bit with First Nations and Confucius thoughts with an open mind on everything but, I have a few values and morals that, when added up, tend to point in the J-C ethic kind of philosophy. I can and do make value judgments. But they are culture/society based judgments, not pigment-based. I am a culturalist.