Robin’s Zugzwang

July 19, 2020 Category: Domestic Politics

Part I:

It is fashionable in some circles for racists to masquerade as anti-racists.  This peculiar phenomenon is nothing new. *  Be that as it may, such a contorted approach to equity has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years; especially amongst those espousing what has come to be known as “identity politics”.  Robin DiAngelo is a case in point.

Behold someone who has managed to find a way to exploit the notion of exploitation.  And behold a racist who shrewdly elides her obsession with racial identity via a regime of projection.  Robin’s willingness to do so can best be explained by the (neurotic) defense mechanism known as “Reaction Formation”.

The schtick proceeds as follows: “Hey, look.  As a white person, if I’m criticizing all white people, I can’t possibly be THAT racist.”  This is, of course, not true.  It brings to mind an arsonist who makes highly-conspicuous donations to the local volunteer fire department.  Expending such copious time and effort trying to convince everyone that she “gets it” is, of course, an indication that Robin is overcompensating for a maladjustment within herself.  (Think of Queen Gertrude’s wry quip: “Thou dost protest too much.”)  Tellingly, an emphasis of our shared humanity makes no appearance in Robin’s daft prognosis.

Robin handles the topic of inter-racial relations as though, by some ethnological alchemy, one could engender comity by stoking (tacit) acrimony.  The thinking is as follows: Don’t like alterity?  Maybe we can make it vanish by amplifying it.  Hence some illusory version of equity is achieved by sowing suspicion and resentment between those with different demographic profiles…BECAUSE they have different demographic profiles.

Such duplicity would be comic if it weren’t so invidious.

This feint is plain to see for anyone who cares to pay attention.  Alas, many aren’t paying attention.  Despite the disturbingly large number of fawning acolytes she has managed to accumulate in recent years, Robin is not nearly as coy as she thinks she is.  That she veils her unscrupulousness in the theatrics of self-flagellation makes her crusade all the more galling.  It also makes it rather difficult to ascertain whether she’s supposed to be on a high-horse or on a crucifix.  (Sometimes, such things are one in the same.)  Robin is a reminder that one can be as ornery as one wishes so long as one disguises it as humility.

When a Pecksniffian expositor proposes programatic groveling as a balm for racial injustice, it’s time for all of us to take pause; especially when we are notified that all white people are obliged to treat p.o.c. with condescension (so that said balm can be thoroughly slathered over the entire body politic).  Spoiler alert: The salve turns out to be an irritant.

As one might expect, Robin’s gambit to temper HER OWN racialist framing started backfiring as soon as she began making a spectacle of herself for financial gain.  Her true motives are as plain as day.  In between bouts of finger-wagging, she manages to charge exorbitant fees for her sessions of “sensitivity training” (which have been conclusively shown to be–at best–a complete waste of everyone’s time).  The candy-coated catholicon Robin prescribes ends up exacerbating the very dysfunctions it’s supposed to ameliorate.  How so?  Other than engendering a contrived neurosis in all participants, her moralizing emboldens that which she purports to stifle (racial alterity). Robin hawks her magical elixir, and then congratulates herself for the feat.  Presumably,  she accepts all major credit cards.

Robin’s position is as follows: Rather than transcend racial divides, we should MAGNIFY them.  How, then, shall we proceed?  In order to hamper the systemic derogation of p.o.c., we should derogate NON-p.o.c.  It’s as if racism in one direction will somehow nullify racism in the other direction.  This is, of course, the opposite of how tribalism works.  Bigotries pointed in opposite directions don’t cancel each other out; they exacerbate one another…in a vicious cycle of recrimination of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here’s how Robin’s theory works.  Being oppressive / ignorant / arrogant / apathetic is the sole preserve of a nebulous thing called “whiteness”.  The hallmarks of this inborn psychical / social malady include false pride, false certainty, self-importance, and self-absorption. **  So it is their “whiteness” that leads white people to oppress p.o.c.  And it is their “whiteness” that causes them to be ignorant, arrogant, and apathetic.  Whiteness is incompatible with good will…BY DEFINITION.  Thus: To be white is to be racist.

This circular reasoning with a radius of zero.

For the most vociferous proponents of this worldview, White Supremacy is equated with white-NESS.  Thus the very concept of race has been transformed.  After all, racism IN GENERAL was, we are told, INVENTED by WASPs.  Which ones?  Well, ALL of them, apparently; as they deigned to establish “white-ness” as the quintessence of humanity.  There is an element of truth to this: Many WASPs HAVE insisted on making “whiteness” the archetype of all mankind (in a gambit to maintain their position of privilege over p.o.c.)  Be that as it may, it is perfidious to equate White Supremacy with white-ness PER SE.  And it is even more perfidious to suggest that racism and socio-economic power are NOT independent variables.  (The Orwellian definition of “racism” is “racism + power”, thus countermanding that most fundamental rule of definitions.  According to this thinking, one cannot be a financially impoverished bigot.)

So our NEW point of departure is: “White-NESS” = “White Supremacy”.  Alas, this equation comes to seem more plausible with regard to concerns about the (perceived) need for “code switching”, whereby p.o.c. are inclined to shift between two “gears”: One where they engage in social cues that affirm their ethnic identity (as needed) and the other where they participate in social norms that are countenanced by the wider culture (as needed).  This shift is typically linguistic or sartorial in nature; but it could involve any cultural element.  The former “gear” is adopted, in part, to maintain street cred within the community.  The latter “gear” is adopted, in part, to operate seamlessly—and to be accepted—within social contexts that exist outside of that community.  Such a shift in comportment can be eminently practical.  After all, we tend to perceive others in terms of cultural signifiers; so p.o.c. conduct themselves in one or the other gear as the occasion warrants.

Problems arise, however, when the wider culture is ITSELF associated with “whiteness”.  In reality, social norms found in society-at-large invariably reflect certain values that TRANSCEND ALL culture—things like the scientific method and proper grammar / pronunciation.  When “code switching” is problematized, though, such estimable things–be it erudition or elocution–are associated explicitly with “whiteness”: a spurious assessment with which White Supremacists would wholeheartedly concur, ironically enough.

There are infelicitous social consequences to such misattribution.  For to engage in such (otherized) social norms is seen as betraying one’s ethnic group—as if one were eschewing one’s ethnic identity instead of embracing it by switching to the latter “gear”.  In some cases, doing so is even seen as complicity in the subsistence of white privilege.  Hence something as anodyne as punctuality or perspicacity or speaking eloquently is characterized as an inherently “white” behavior.

Pursuant to this spurious semiotic distortion, the (widespread) expectation that EVERYONE comport themselves in such a manner is (mis)construed as a sign of “white” hegemony. According to such thinking, even something as quotidian as language proficiency or hiking one’s pants up to one’s iliac crest can be seen as “acting white”.  In this view, asserting one’s ethnic identity requires that one rebuff anything that is seen as indicative of “mainstream” culture, adopting overt tribal signifiers that emphasize perceived cultural demarcations.

Consequently, socio-economic injustice is diagnosed in terms of disparities in certain STIGMAS.  (Accordingly, EVERYONE is presumed to participate in stereotypes.)  For p.o.c., failure to play along (that is: neglecting to remain in the first “gear”, irrespective of social context) is interpreted as some sort of capitulation to white cultural domination.  For any social norms that are attributed to “whiteness”–no matter how pro-social–are taken to be a proxy for structural inequalities along racial lines.  The solution to socio-economic injustice, then, is a matter of COMPORTMENT.

In sum: “Whiteness” is a collective pathology; and any meme that is outside the locus of the agreed-upon tribal signifiers is seen as a sop to white privilege; and thus as some sort of ethnic betrayal. Those who demonize salubrious social norms (by ascribing “whiteness” to them) shoot themselves in the foot. For in an effort to EMPOWER p.o.c., they end up demeaning them.

Robin plays into these misapprehensions. After pathologizing an entire ethnicity, all Robin has left to do is offer a cure-all.  Like other mythical substances (aether, ambrosia, phlogiston, pixie dust), quacks concoct some ethereal STUFF to explain an otherwise beguiling phenomenon.  In the early 16th century, a Swiss alchemist named Theophrastus von Hohenheim (a.k.a. “Paracelcus”) posited a (chimerical) universal remedy called “azoth”.  Half a millennium later, Robin DiAngelo posited a (chimerical) universal remedy called “anti-whiteness”.

The difference is that, in ancient times, people didn’t know any better.  There was no tried-and-true scientific method; only rampant superstition.  (Rustling in the bushes?  Must be a ghost!)  To engage in such dogmatic splurges in the 21st century is inexcusable.  Alas.  For Robin, anti-whiteness is supposed to be Kryptonite for anti-p.o.c. racism. It’s just nebulous enough to seem plausible to those who do not subject her (specious) claims to critical scrutiny.

Like any other snake-oil salesman, Robin charges exorbitant sums to hawk her proprietary elixir: an azoth redux that makes racial bias vanish in a puff of contrived gentility. (Add to this the fact that she sets a Kafka Trap for any interlocutor who has the gall to push back on her claims, and we quickly find that she has forfeited any right to be taken seriously.)

And so it goes: “Whiteness” is a pestilence in our land; and must be eradicated.  How?  By adjusting how those afflicted with it COMPORT themselves.  Who, exactly, is afflicted with it?  All white people.  How shall they comport themselves?  By being LESS WHITE.  What does that mean?  Eschewing their “whiteness”.  But what does that entail?  Self-effacement, self-deprecation, self-abnegation…combined with lots of groveling and pandering.  THAT’S the ticket.

Robin fails to see that we’re not dealing with theoretical abstractions; we’re dealing with actual human beings.

It’s not merely that Robin’s prescription is unhelpful; it actually shoots an otherwise noble cause in the foot. Positing anti-whiteness as a salve for white privilege is like prescribing anti-Semitism as a salve for Revisionist Zionism.  Little does Robin realize: It’s not skin color that’s the problem; it’s the (derisive) TREATMENT OF skin color that’s the problem.

With glib obduracy, Robin decrees that white people stop being “defensive” when met with the unfounded accusations of racism she so blithely propounds.  She seems not to grasp that, when leveled sans evidence, “racist” (or variants like “anti-Semite”) is a vulgar accusation.  As a consequence, anyone with a shred of dignity would not hesitate to push back were such an accusation made against them for frivolous reasons.

As if that were not obnoxious enough, whenever anyone objects to talking about race in the cockamamie manner Robin prescribes, she characterizes the dissent as a kind of mendacity (i.e. heedlessness, evasion, or stonewalling); ascribing sub-conscious bigotry to anyone with the temerity to question her specious pronouncements.  So far as she is concerned, to not obsess over race as she does is tantamount to not wanting to talk about race AT ALL, thereby conceding her point. (!)

What makes Robin’s hoodwink so risible is that she projects her own racism onto not just a few sundry bystanders, but onto every white person on the planet…as if the “whiteness” (however defined) of all caucasians somehow trumped their capacity to simply be HUMAN.  For, so far as Robin is concerned, this singular phenotypic trait (that ethereal penumbra: “whiteness”) is an inborn pathology afflicting anyone who is not categorizable as a p.o.c.

Determined to expose veiled racism behind even the most trivial gesture, this unctuous schoolmarm manages to find an excuse to shame any and every non-p.o.c. for saying / doing virtually ANYTHING.  (Disagree with her?  You’ve just proved her point!)  Hence dissenting views are taken as corroboration of her thesis.  This discursive swindle is known as a “Kafka trap” (a tac that is standard operating procedure for most hucksters).

This scheme invariably involves prodigious amounts of gas-lighting–that is: getting people to doubt their perception of reality, or even their own sanity. (Such head-games are straight out of the cult leader handbook.) The subtext is clear: Shame on you for not feeling ashamed about something that I insist you should feel ashamed about! Think I’m being unfair in my aspersions? Well then, that’s the “fragility” I’m talking about. Q.E.D. (!)

Robin posits a hobgoblin she dubs “aversive racism”, whereby ostensibly Progressive people are in denial about their REAL (read: covert) racism.  What, pray tell, are the signs that one is guilty of this hidden sin?  Well, one has many p.o.c. as friends.  One sees / treats all people as individuals, irrespective of ethnicity.  And one judges people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  (According to Robin’s diagnostic shenanigans, these are symptoms of a malignant affliction.)  Thus the hallmarks of NON-racism are construed as EVIDENCE FOR racism.  It’s as bonkers as the misandrist “feminist” who could look at a toaster-oven and see a scourge of misogyny.  In the end, Robin wants us to believe that something is racist simply by dint of her saying so.

(Note that “objectivity” and “universalism” are other bogeymen that Robin warns us about; as things like impartiality and global human solidarity are, apparently, inconceivable.  Championing our shared humanity is a pipe-dream.  Intentions are irrelevant.  Common decency is just a mirage.)

That said, we might note that there are some valid concerns about (what could be referred to as) “aversive racism”; though it would more accurately be called “evasive racism”.  This occurs whenever ostensibly anti-racist attitudes are merely performative; and thus compensatory.  For “evasive racism” involves a stage-managed tokenism (of the sort that Robin prescribes), whereby any inter-racial interaction is viewed transactionally (rather than about forging a genuine human connection, even if fleeting).  Such “evasive racism” may be illustrated by juxtaposing it with CONVENTIONAL (overtly right-wing) racism:

White right-wingers tend to say: “Don’t get too close, but we’ll respect you if you rise high (in terms of socio-economic success).”  Plenty of racists revere Michael Jordan.

White left-wingers tend to say: “You’re welcome to come close, just don’t rise too high (unless I can take credit for supporting said rise).”  Any idiot can boycott Aunt Jemima maple syrup, yet makes little effort to rectify serious societal dysfunction.

BOTH involve an anti-racism of convenience.  The former is a reminder that class interests sometimes trump ethnic interests (as exemplified by the likes of Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas).  The latter is a reminder that p.c. is primarily a matter of theatrics; which is simply to say that it involves posturing (as with white people who patted themselves on the back for voting for Obama).  With “evasive racism”, virtue-signaling is misconstrued as a sign of rectitude; which is precisely what enables TACIT racism to be elided with such ease.  (Generally speaking, p.c. depends on us confusing piety for probity.  Thus participants are obliged to put on airs, and then congratulate each other for being “woke”; i.e. pious.)  This is, of course, the FAUX Progressivism on which the corporate wing of the Democratic Party depends.

There are serious dialectical problems as well. More than just derisive, Robin’s theory is self-validating; and thus un-falsifiable.  As one might suspect, this is a feature, not a bug.  One would think that this fact alone would disqualify Robin from being taken seriously by, well, anyone.  Yet there’s a sucker born every minute; and Robin is counting on her audience’s credulity (and its predilection for virtue-signaling).  This all works out splendidly…if, that is, we are to believe that being eternally chastened is preferable to being edified.

Were a student in a Freshman seminar on the scientific method to propose this zany theory, it would surely elicit a chuckle from the professor…if not a swift palm to the forehead.  It is no surprise that Robin lasted only a year at her sole academic position (at Westfield State University 2014-2015), where–as someone who commands virtually no knowledge of other cultures–she was hired to pontificate about “multi-culturalism”.  (For more on the conflation of multi-culturalism with cultural relativism, see my essay: “The Progressive Case For Cultural Appropriation”.)

The indiscriminate imputation of “white fragility” to hundreds of millions of people that she’s never met is, of course, disingenuous in the extreme.  But given her designs, it makes perfect sense.  After all, stirring up anxiety about phantom menaces is the metier of any snake-oil salesman.  The trick is the oldest in the book: Create the impression of an ailment, then offer the purported cure.  (See Christianity, “original sin”.)  Like any other cultic scheme, the idea is to offer atonement / redemption by insisting that everyone hew to some sort of catechism.  Instead of incantations, Robin traffics in chimeras.  Her currency is fabricated contrition.

From whence did this emphasis on personal interactions come? And why the DE-emphasis on socio-economic inequalities?

Such (inter-personal) rigamarole is nothing more than a distraction from the actual (structural) problems that addle American society.  Worse, it gives well-meaning people the impression they are making a difference when, in fact, they are not accomplishing anything of note.  Purveyors of DEI pablum end up re-creating the very Reactionary mindset they (claim to) seek to undo, though in new terms.  Their stage-managed hijinks do nothing to remedy the socio-economic dysfunctions that continue to plague the U.S.

The origins of identitarian psycho-babble can be traced back to a cultic movement known as Re-evaluation [Co-]Counseling (RC), founded by the self-proclaimed “guru”, Harvey Jackins.  RC was effectively an offshoot of Scientology.  (Think of an extra-cloying version of “est” in which participants were concerned with nothing but the intersection of demographic categories.)

Jackins was good friends with L. Ron Hubbard.  His 1965 book, “The Human Side Of Human Beings” was effectively a regurgitation of Hubbard’s “Dianetics” from 15 years earlier; though with academic-sounding jargon.  (Going “clear” was re-cast as “re-emerging”.)  When Hubbard chartered Scientology, Jackins was on the board of directors; but in 1952, Jackins broke with Hubbard to found his own self-help cult.

The articles of incorporation for RC stated that the organization’s mission was “to engage in, conduct, and teach the art and science of Dianetics.”  The cult’s proceedings primarily involved acts of performative self-abnegation, conducted—as sacred rituals—before an assemblage of devotees.  (These mealy-mouthed displays of contrition were precursors to today’s “call-out” / “call-in” shenanigans.)  Such theatrics stemmed from the prioritization of subjectivity over critical analysis.  The idea was to pretend that emotive ejaculation was somehow a surrogate for reflection. ***

This epistemic boondoggle served as the basis for political correctness—whereby etiquette is passed off as ethics; and class struggle is entirely disregarded.  After all, the hallmark of p.c. is the conflation of propriety with probity—a delusory semiotic maneuver that mandates the denial of objective reality (a.k.a. Reality).  The “catch” is that the (alleged) subjective state of any given bystander can be invoked to impose mandates / restrictions on the rest of the world (if doing so is presumed to ameliorate any discomfiture reported by the aggrieved party).  An anarchy of contrived grievances inevitably ensues, whereby each person is expected to cater to the (purported) sensibilities of others (typically, via token gestures).  All the while, calcified socio-economic stratification persists.

It’s no wonder so many otherwise iniquitous corporations are so eager to conduct these daffy seminars.

The legacy of RC carried over into a new generation of gimmickry.  The “I’m white, shame on me” schtick was re-branded in the 1980’s by Ricky Sherover-Marcuse when she started her cult-like “Unlearning Racism” workshops.  A gauge for how well Sherover-Marcuse understood racism: She insisted that any criticism of the Israeli government’s flagrantly racist policies against the Palestinians was somehow anti-Semitic.  Thus ACTUAL anti-racism was characterized as “racism”, while the touted “anti-racism” was itself patently racist. (!)  The entire program was laughably Kafka-esque.  With an obsessive fixation on each participant’s subjective state, “Unlearning Racism” amounted to a scheme of obligatory narcissism disguised as “awareness”…thereby setting the precedent for Robin DiAngelo’s de-programming cult (targeted at Millennials and Gen Z).

In surveying Robin’s material, one finds that there are too many cringe-worthy proclamations to count.  A brief sample should suffice to make the point (I paraphrase): “We white people feel entitled to our racial advantages.  We have an unspoken sense of superiority.  We feel that we are deserving of more than p.o.c. deserve.”  Wait.  What?  One must wonder: Has Robin only ever commiserated with racists?  “Many white people believe that racism ended in 1865.”  Is that so?  One must wonder: Has Robin only ever commiserated with ignoramuses?  Who in heaven’s name is she talking about?

Such comments are enough be make one wince.  They are absurd not merely because they are demonstrably false; but because nobody in their right mind actually believes such things.

So what’s going on here? Robin assumes that because SHE feels these things, then ALL white people must be of the same mind.  It seems that she has only led a segregated life; as she avers that in America, there is no racial mixing.  As someone who lived in Harlem / Washington Heights for almost two decades, such an assertion is laughable. (Even the most uneducated hillbilly would hesitate to make such a spurious claim.)

The gimmickry here is actually quite simple: You, dear white person, don’t REALLY know what you’re misapprehending.  I’M here to bring it to you’re attention.  (For those familiar with cult leaders, this should sound oddly familiar.)  Robin pulls off this stunt by acting as though she knows anything about race and racism (which she clearly does not).  In fact, one can’t help but wonder if Robin has ever spent time with a p.o.c. outside of the controlled environs of her hallowed seminars.  It is obvious that she has no experience communing with African Americans at length (let alone living amongst ANY p.o.c. over an extended period of time).  It’s like a self-proclaimed botanist who has never stepped foot in a forest; yet asserts expertise due to having sporadically tended to the chrysanthemums on a few hand-picked window-sills.

A consummate con-woman, Robin perpetrates this racket by pretending that she is not completely full of shit.  So we are invited to witness a shake-down artist using a guileful combination of pedantry and perfidy to cash in on corporate consultation gigs.  This is no exaggeration.  Outside of over-priced corporate seminars, focus groups, and workshops, it is plain to see that Robin has absolutely no relevant experience with black people (or even, it seems, with WHITE people).  The way she blathers on about p.o.c., it quickly becomes evident that she has never actually spent any appreciable time getting to know p.o.c. in the real world–which is to say: in their communities, contending with everyday situations.  (Recall who tends to use focus groups: political advisors and marketing departments; i.e. propagandists.)

Testament to Robin’s blinkered thinking is her (befuddling) pronouncement that “racism is not an event.”  It seems nobody has ever brought to her attention that no sane person has ever suggested that “racism” was an EVENT.  She may as well have declared that objectivity is not a vegetable.  Yet Robin makes this statement as though she is bestowing upon the world a glimmering pearl of wisdom that will–finally, at long last–usher in a much-needed paradigm shift.

In a (purported) stroke of genius, Robin notes that when a person uses locutions like “diverse” and “bad neighborhoods” as pejoratives, it is a sign of racism.  She seems to think that it is a jaw-dropping revelation that most racism is not overt.  (Newsflash: Racism isn’t just about being mean to p.o.c.)  In sum: Robin has made an art-form of stating the obvious; then patting herself on the back for having the wisdom to enlighten the rest of us.

Meanwhile, Robin defines racism as a “system”…rather than what it actually is: a frame of mind (to wit: the tendency to make judgements about people’s worthiness / character / merit according to race).  Thus she pretends that racism is systemic BY DEFINITION.  Presumably, then, an Aryan Supremacist could not possibly exist as a hermit–grumbling to himself in seclusion.  Robin is advised to read up a bit on systems theory before expounding about SYSTEMS.

All this is, of course, artificially-flavored hogwash.  There is, after all, a reason we make the distinction between isolated incidents of racism and systemic racism (or, for that matter, between individual cases of X and systemic X; where X could be any pathology).  The former occurs interpersonally; the latter is reflected in power structures.  Such is the difference between the individual and the institutional.  To conflate these two modes of racism–as Robin does–is to fixate on the former at the expense of addressing the latter.

This conceptualization is key if we are to expose the fatal flaws of Robin’s paradigm. On the level of the individual, racism is a way of thinking (based on a tribalistic mindset).  This is something that may or may not be systemic.  And what of measurable effects?  Anyone’s racism could yield any number of results, depending on the virulence of the racism and the socio-economic leverage they have.

Systemic racism, on the other hand, IS a result (sometimes inadvertent, sometimes by design).  The fact of the matter is: It is theoretically possible for structural inequalities to exist due–in part–to systemic racism without there being even one racist person on the entire planet; which means that trying to eradicate systemic racism by scolding racists would be like trying to dismantle the military-industrial complex by preaching pacifism on a street corner. (See Appendix.)

Systemic racism means that the moral dereliction is not conscientious; it is built into society’s institutions.  In other words: It is hardwired into power structures…whether or not anyone intends it to be so.  This is something that does not require conscious thoughts of–or deliberate acts of–racism (that is: on the part of any given person).  And this is a key point that Robin DiAngelo doesn’t get.

Why, then, doesn’t Robin deal with the ACTUAL meaning of “racism”?  I suspect that–deep down–she realizes that a perspicacious treatment of the phenomenon would incriminate of her own ministry.  In other words, the real definition of racism is a perfect description of HERSELF.  Openly conceding this would undermine her ability to perpetuate her scam.  Indeed, were she ever to use plausible definitions, the entire jig would be up.  (Recall that her con-game is based on projection.  When she’s not engaged in finger-wagging, she engages in finger-pointing.)

Little more than a grievance-peddler, Robin seems to think that it’s an earth-shattering revelation that biases are oftentimes SUBCONSCIOUS; and only her penetrating insight is capable of finally exposing this little-known fact.  (Memo to Robin: The vast majority of biases are subconscious.  THAT is why we tend to persist in having them even when we don’t want to.)  Equipped with this ersatz wisdom, Robin forges on as if she might somehow make racial biases magically vanish in a frenzy of pearl-clutching.

It seems to have never occurred to Robin that gross generalizations about the ideological bent of entire haplo-groups is the very definition of racism.  No matter; gross generalizations are her stock-in-trade.  Oddly enough, the way she describes “white people”, one would think that she has only ever commiserated with racists.  (Many of the things she claims all white people think / say are things that only racists would ever think / say; which makes one wonder about the company she keeps.)  Meanwhile, her supercilious caricature of “black people” is so condescending, it is virtually indistinguishable from the ghastly pontifications of Richard Spencer. (Robin’s weird portrayal of p.o.c. imbues them with a hyper-fragility that surpasses the fragility of her thesis. To hear her tell it, most black people have a frangible constitution, and are chronically peevish.)

What Robin fails to understand is that if one claims to see a problem around every corner, one vitiates the meaning of the indictment, thereby stripping important terms of semiotic ballast; and so utterly denuding them in the event that they are actually needed to make a point.  (This is a lesson most children learn from the tale of the boy who cried wolf.)  If a term of disparagement can mean anything, then it means nothing.  Promiscuous use of important terms (e.g. “assault”, “aggression”, “violence”, “harm”, “injury”) deprives ACTUAL victims of the ability to express legitimate grievances with ample gravity; thus doing them a grave disservice.

The indiscriminate use of language also diverts desperately-needed attention from incidents that REALLY DO warrant redress.  Such semantic dilution makes it impossible to convey what needs to be conveyed in the event we need to invoke potent language. (Something that might be said to Madame DiAngelo: Please, for the love of god, stop.  You’re not helping.)

Robin seems not to realize that white people–privileged or not–do p.o.c. no favor by simpering.  Civil rights is about taking the bull by the horns, not about eating crow.  We don’t empower people by coddling them.  (To be patronizing amounts to congenial hubris.) More to the point: Incumbent power structures are not fundamentally transformed by penitence.

But no matter.  Robin has explicitly stated that she doesn’t like the question: “So what can we ACTUALLY DO?”  Presumably this is because she does not have a good answer.  Even worse: She doesn’t seem to care about there even being an answer.  She is satisfied with her “tsk-tsk-tsk” campaign; and that’s all there is to it.  She even writes on a slide in her presentation that being a good or bad person is irrelevant.  (No kidding.)  Probity is not the point; it’s all about contrition.

So, we might ask: What insights are worth heeding?  Well, brutally candid self-reflection is always a worthwhile exercise.  But the fact remains: Robin’s asseverations offer insight into the plight of African Americans in roughly the same way the 90’s sit-com “Friends” gave the world a penetrating look into the plight of impoverished Latinos in New York City barrios.  The parallels here are rather disturbing.  In Robin’s contrived set-pieces, p.o.c. are used as props.  And all interactions are strategically choreographed so as to hit the right notes (to a song that only Robin is capable of hearing, but which we must trust is playing in the aether that surrounds us).  The difference is that the bizarrely all-white, un-realistic, mildly-amusing TV show did not purport to be an accurate depiction of the most ethnically diverse city in the world…let alone a incisive documentation of what life might be like on the Lower East Side for, well, actual people.  In sum: “Friends” wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.  By contrast, charlatans tend to take themselves very, very, very seriously.

In this respect, the message to Robin is simple: Want to empower p.o.c.?  Stop patronizing them.

So far as I can surmise, Robin has not written a single page articulating possible ways to mitigate structural inequality (which is a real problem) in ANY way, let alone proposed measures that might attenuate the vestiges of systemic racism lurking in our institutions.  Regrettably, Robin is solely concerned with tacit prejudices on the micro- and meso-levels.  This makes sense, as she is not in the business of proposing (credible) solutions to anything…let alone to systemic problems at the macro-level.

For Robin, racial issues are to be understood primarily–if not entirely–in terms of inter-personal dynamics; and everything (yes: EVERYTHING) is to be taken personally.  Her boondoggle is predicated on inculcating myopia under the auspices of enlightenment.  We should be wary of those who deign to lord it over an entire demographic group; especially when they seem to do so with oodles of cordiality.

Robin has proven to be a maestro at ingratiating herself with her target audience. She’s going for the applause line, not for edification. What makes this so grating is that, when it comes to the topic at hand (racism), Robin is not only tone-deaf, she’s insufferably priggish. This does not prevent her sycophantic admirers from showering her with accolades in a flurry of virtue-signaling fervor. And so far as she’s concerned, as long as the check clears, hers is a job well done.

In the meantime, many issues remain the same as they were almost a half-century ago; especially for p.o.c.  At the beginning of 1974, the first episode of the sit-com, Good Times aired.  Viewers were introduced to the Evans: a black family living in the Chicago projects trying to figure out how they were going to make their rent.  As it happened, they couldn’t come up with the requisite $104.50 after having had to pay for the mother’s recent medical bills.  Even working two jobs, the father was unable to make ends meet. Being offended by WASPs’ sense of entitlement had nothing to do with the Evans’ woes.  It was the long legacy of institutional racism that led to their impoverished existence—stymied by limited opportunities largely due to accident of birth.

Half a century later, low wages and the inability to bargain collectively are still problems for the working class, who continue to go bankrupt due to the gross inefficiencies of America’s for-profit sickness-treatment industry.  It is not “white fragility” that is responsible for this; it is corporatism.

This sorry state of affairs can be rectified only by significant structural change.  A retreat into tribal identities will not bring this about.  A regimen of unctuous posturing won’t help either.  Want to empower marginalized people (of ALL stripes)?  Universal healthcare and labor protections would be a good start.  That means voting for politicians who are sincerely dedicated to pushing such legislation.  Short of that, even a thousand years of “sensitivity / diversity training” will do nothing to move us toward social democracy.

To reiterate: Robin’s preachments do more harm than good.  She stigmatizes Progressives as puritanical ideologues, thereby making our mission that much more difficult. (It’s hard to imagine someone providing right-wing polemicists with more fodder.) Rather than fostering healthy human connection across demographic lines, her oleaginous scolding emphasizes those lines, turning them into boundaries.  The result is to engender a chronically captious disposition amongst all participants…in what can only be described as a cloying charade.  We are then to proceed as if we could “tsk-tsk-tsk” racism into oblivion.

Robin is not merely your run-of-the-mill grifter; she’s a race-hustler.  The tragedy of her sales-pitch is that she makes the battle against structural inequality (spec. along ethnic lines) all the more difficult for those of us who actually care about curtailing bigotry.  Meanwhile, she laughs all the way to the bank.

At the end of the day, Robin’s avocation is singular: monetizing shame.  The irony here is quite striking.  For as she cavils about the scourge of “entitlement” / “privilege”…she fails to look in the mirror, where she would come face to face with its most glaring personification.

. . .

{*  Perhaps the most flagrant example of this is Revisionist Zionism.  Even as they actively promote crimes against humanity, proponents of this execrable ideology pretend to care about human rights.  History has shown that those abiding ethno-centric agendas will always find innovative ways to rationalize their iniquity, even when it’s something as obviously malign as ethnic cleansing.}

{**  This is an inversion of another form of bigotry: The association of admirable traits (e.g. good grammar / vocabulary) with “whiteness”…as if p.o.c. were less capable of speaking well.  This entails racism against p.o.c.; and–in a weird irony–is often perpetrated BY p.o.c.  Other specious associations include: morality with religiosity, logic with patriarchy, and masculinity for men / femininity for women with heterosexuality.}

{***  In their book, “On the Edge: Political Cults Right And Left”, Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth explain: “Artificially engineered peak experiences have long been known to induce extreme conformity.  In the case of RC, the supremacy of emotion over thought means that the discharge process is exalted as the most important part of the counseling experience… Research suggests that when people engage in embarrassing behaviors in front of a group they are inclined to exaggerate the benefits gained from group membership.  Given what they have been through, they are in urgent need of some justification for their behavior.  Who wants to admit having just made a prize fool of oneself?  Counseling individuals in front of large crowds at workshops, while encouraging the strong display (or dramatization) of extreme emotion, unleashes precisely this dynamic within RC.”}


In cases of institutional racism, outcomes are the focal point; as the issue is: things that actually occur.  In cases of personal racism (by contrast), outcomes are entirely beside the point; as any given person’s racism exists irrespective of its (often idiosyncratic) manifestations in everyday life.  When it comes to institutional racism, then, the demographic categories of the culprit and victim are salient factors; as the ensuing inequity is invariably a function of power asymmetries (which are often part of an institution’s architecture).  When it comes to an individual’s racism, though, the myriad (intersecting) demographic categories of the culprit and victim are generally irrelevant. Why? Because a person’s character is what it is irrespective of his position in the socio-economic strata; and is AT LEAST IN PART independent of his own demographic profile. (Obviously, a certain amount of enculturation occurs within a given ethnic group; especially if it is insular.)

Thus: In cases of institutional racism, we are looking at the kinds of things that HAPPEN (societal events).  In cases of personal racism, we are looking at how someone thinks / feels (perceptions, sentiments, pre-dispositions), regardless of the effects those subjective states have upon the world; and regardless of the proximal causes of problematic mental processes, which vary from case to case.  The former is not personal; the latter is ENTIRELY personal.  The former has nothing to do with subjective states; the latter is ALL ABOUT subjective states.  When observing the (often bewildering) world in which we find ourselves, we must be very careful when assessing outcomes.  And we must be especially perspicacious when drawing sweeping conclusions; as all factors must be taken into account if we sincerely seek an exhaustive explanation for a given societal dysfunction (re: exactly what happened, how it happened, and why it happened).

Disparities defined in terms of demographic categories arise for myriad reasons…ONE of which may be systemic racism.  However, structural inequalities, even when they occur along ethnic lines, may emerge due to any number of factors (e.g. class-related interests, run-of-the-mill corruption, tyranny, etc.)  Institutional racism comes in many opprobrious forms: red-lining (which persists tacitly if not explicitly), biased policing tactics, the “war on drugs” (replete with egregiously unfair laws and racially-skewed incarceration rates), sub-prime mortgage targeting, voter suppression, unequal public funding to poor minority communities, and a slew of other odious phenomena that have become so normalized as to escape notice.  Yet heaven forfend if one were to ever insinuate that there may be other factors AS WELL: exigencies that account for structural inequalities (spec. grotesquely warped financial incentives in the private sector and routinized legalized graft in politics). When assessing inequities in terms of demographics, we should bear in mind that correlation is not necessarily indicative of direct causation. Moreover, we must not assume that a societal feature–good or bad–has a singular proximal cause. For it is important to recognize that highly problematic incentive structures (spec. those in which a particular racial group is marginalized) are not exclusively a function of racial biases.

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