Of all the people who have made cash in the past month, few can have raked it in like Robin diAngelo. Since the death of George Floyd, the white American academic and author of White Fragility has been absolutely milking it. A term I probably shouldn’t use, since Peta last week declared milk a symbol of white supremacy. I might say she is absolutely creaming it, though by the time you read this ‘cream’ might be racist too. In which case it will join the British countryside, which was designated as racist by the BBC’s Countryfile last week. A fact that I learned after opening Google’s homepage, where I was educated about the late black American drag queen Marsha P. Johnson.
Anyhow, I mention diAngelo because even before her recent rush of fame, anyone wishing to employ her to correct their opinions had to shell out $6,000 an hour. Or $12,000 for two hours. That is what diAngelo charged the University of Kentucky last year for a two-hour session on racial injustice. I imagine that she charges more for all those CEOs now lining up to hire the Miss Whiplash of anti-racism to come up to their offices and spend an afternoon telling them how bad and worthless they are.
Then there are the book sales. Ever since a Minnesota cop killed Mr Floyd, endless companies and individuals have sent out ‘reading lists’ instructing us all of what to read. Each time diAngelo’s 2018 work tops the list.
Consider a document I’ve just been leaked from the office of the chief executive of the Birmingham and Solihull National Health Service Mental Health Trust. Dated June 5 and titled ‘Inequalities and Racial Discrimination’ it starts by claiming that recent events in America ‘have highlighted once again the discrimination and inequality experienced by people of BAME heritage every day’. The three-page letter goes on: ‘It is not up to our BAME colleagues to make this right. They are quite honestly and understandably fed up of repeatedly telling their stories and not being understood.’
The author of this letter is one Roisin Fallon-Williams, who in these anti-racist times I ought to point out is white. She knows what to do. ‘I write this to us all from what I now know and understand to be an ignorant and incompetent stance,’ she says. ‘Whilst I remain ignorant and incompetent I do now better understand that I am culpable, I have been complicit.’ She goes on to urge her equally incompetent and ignorant colleagues to take time to go up to BAME colleagues and say ‘How are you?’ and ‘Are you OK?’ and to ‘really listen’ to what they say. All of which raises the question — as such ‘anti-racists’ always do — of what precisely they got up to until the day before yesterday.
On the third page of self-flagellation, Ms Fallon-Williams suggests four works that her ignorant and incompetent colleagues should read. It is the usual list, though Fallon-Williams may be unaware that half of her suggested texts are by white authors. One is a work by Peggy McIntosh, of Wellesley College. ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ has been so often cited over the three decades since it was written that, until reading it a while back, I had assumed that there was something there.
I was wrong. The entire ‘work’ simply consists of a few pages of assertions intended to demonstrate the daily effects of ‘white privilege’. The first is: ‘I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.’ Assertion number 33 is: ‘I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.’ An assertion that only tempts me to make a whole set of reflections on the shape, bearing and body odor of white female academics from Wellesley.
But top of Fallon-Williams’s reading list is that work which, while longer than McIntosh’s, is in many ways still flimsier. The central assertion of White Fragility is that all white people are racist. White people who are aggrieved at being told that they are racist are said by diAngelo to be demonstrating ‘white fragility’. Which is further demonstration of racism. All of which leaves white people in their entirety in that conundrum faced by witches facing a dunking in the village pond. It is a game of diAngelo’s creation, which once engaged in cannot be won. Except by her, obvs.
Of course some good people are getting carried along by all of this — people of every skin color who believe our society is intrinsically racist and that as a result everything must be understood through the lens of skin color. Others of us, also of every skin color, beg to differ. Not because we are racists, or think our societies can’t be better, but because we think that what is being demanded of us by the ‘anti-racism’ professors and others is a racialist hell of a fresh kind.
Like the Black Lives Matter movement itself, the ‘social justice’ typified by the works of McIntosh and diAngelo is set up to be all but unopposable. Like those ‘Peace Studies’ departments that mysteriously cropped up during the Cold War, the apparently impossible-to-oppose front has deep, destructive and, yes, Marxist aims all the way behind it.
Today this is presented as though it is eminently simple to download. We must simply absorb the right books, correct our language, follow the instructions and otherwise run the program.
Well you can do. Or you can refuse. And I would strongly recommend the latter approach. For what the race hucksters are offering is not an upgrade of our societal software. Rather, theirs is a program intended to distort and destroy the whole system: a system that may have its faults but does not deserve the introduction of such societal malware. From the boardroom to the National Health Service and everywhere else in society, I suggest people make sure they understand the consequences of what they are agreeing to. Be very, very careful before clicking ‘Accept All’.