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‘Distinguished scholar’ lectures U. Washington crowd on whites’ ‘racial illiteracy’

Dr. Robin DiAngelo, whom the University of Washington’s Daily dubs a “distinguished scholar,” gave a talk Wednesday on “White Fragility” in the final installment of the college’s Equity & Difference: Privilege and Politics series.

This “fragility” is defined by the professor as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”

DiAngelo is a graduate of UW and the director of equity for the organization Sound Generations. According to her bio, her area of research is “Whiteness Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis,” which deals with “explicating how Whiteness is reproduced in everyday narratives.” In addition, she’s taught courses on “Multicultural Teaching, Inter-group Dialogue Facilitation, Cultural Diversity & Social Justice, and Anti-Racist Education.”

The mere fact that a person is white, DiAngelo told the crowd of approximately 700, means he/she is “raised not to understand what that mean[s].”

“[A]nd it’s not a benign or innocent lack of understanding,” she adds. “It is a willful refusal to know or to understand.”

From The Daily article:

Over the past 20 years, DiAngelo has studied white racial illiteracy and challenged the racial binary that society is accustomed to: racism is bad, so those who are not racist by default are good, progressive, and well-intended.

“This [racial illiteracy] is so incredibly effective, and [makes] it virtually impossible to talk to white people about racism as a system, as the water we are all swimming in, as an inevitable and an internalized dynamic for us,” DiAngelo said. …

DiAngelo noted that most people believe they were taught to treat everyone the same.

MORE: Improve your fight for racial justice by cleansing yourself of ‘toxic whiteness’

“No you weren’t,” DiAngelo said. “Not one single person in this room was taught to treat everyone the same. How can I say that when I don’t know you? Because you actually can’t do that. It’s not humanly possible.” …

According to DiAngelo, the white racial frame in which many view society keeps racism alive. This frame of mind gets passed down through generations, making it impossible not to see white as the ideal member of society, she continued.

DiAngelo concluded by calling on whites in the audience to “get uncomfortable” and to “combat this new form of racism by acknowledging and changing their own racist behavior.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that someone who does research on “Whiteness Studies” and “Critical Discourse Analysis” has helped  forward the notion of this “new form” of racism.

As for getting “uncomfortable,” aren’t white people entitled to safe spaces too? What about intersectionality? Doesn’t DiAngelo consider that some of the Caucasians in her audience might be gay? Transgender? Hispanic? (Yes, Hispanics can be white.)

Read the full article.

MORE: White students undergo weekly ‘deconstructing whiteness’ program at Northwestern U.

MORE: ‘Whiteness is terror’ prof hired at Rhodes College

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.