08.03.2021

Robin DiAngelo on “Nice Racism”

Robin D’Angelo is famed for her bestselling book “White Fragility.” D’Angelo’s work aims to educate white progressives on the part they play within a racist culture. It’s a theme she continues in her new book “Nice Racism.” Here she is explaining her work and the criticism that has been leveled against her to Michel Martin.

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> OUR NEXT GUEST IS THE ANTI-RACIST EDUCATOR FAMED FOR 'WHITE FRAGILITY.'

HER WORK AIMS TO EDUCATE WHITE PROGRESSIVES ON THE PART THEY PLAY WITHIN A RACIST CULTURE.

IT IS A THEME SHE CONTINUES IN HER NEWEST BOOK 'NICE RACISM.'

HERE SHE IS EXPLAINING HER WORK AND THE CRITICISM THAT'S BEEN LEVELLED AGAINST HER, MICHELLE MARTIN.

THANKS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ONCE AGAIN.

I'M SO HAPPY TO BE WITH YOU, MICHELLE.

YOUR FIRST BOOK 'WHITE FRAGILITY' IT WAS PUBLISHED JUNE OF 2018.

IT SPENT MORE THAN A YEAR ON THE BEST SELLER LISTS.

THERE WAS ANOTHER RESURGENCE OF INTEREST AFTER LAST SUMMER'S SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH AFTER YOUR LATEST BOOK 'NICE RACISM.'

WHAT DOES THE SECOND BOOK DO THAT THE FIRST ONE DID NOT?

WHAT WAS YOUR GOAL?

THE FIRST BOOK SET OUT TO ACCOMPLISH THE EXISTENCE OF SYSTEMIC RACISM.

THIS STARTS WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT MY READERS ARE WITH ME.

I'M NOT HAVING TO PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF SYSTEMIC RACISM AND THEY WANT A DEEPER DIVE.

THERE WAS A PROVOCATIVE QUESTION OR, EXCUSE ME, STATEMENT I MADE THAT I GET ASKED ABOUT A LOT.

AND THAT IS THAT WHITE PROGRESSIVES MAY IN FACT CAUSE THE MOST DAILY HARM ACROSS RACE.

AND THIS BOOK SET OUT TO ANSWER HOW WE DO THAT.

WHY 'NICE RACISM'? WHAT'S NICE RACISM?

I HOPE THAT IT GRABS YOUR ATTENTION BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE AN OXYMORON.

BUT IT IS THE KIND OF RACISM THAT IS BEHIND A SMILE OR THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE PRESENCE OF NICENESS OR A CULTURE OF NICENESS IS AN INDICATION OF THE ABSENCE OF RACISM.

AND I WOULD ARGUE THAT RACISM CAN AND DOES FLOURISH IN A CULTURE OF NICENESS BECAUSE CULTURE OF NICENESS TENDS TO BE ONE THAT ASSUMES THE WHITE EXPERIENCE AS UNIVERSAL.

IT'S A CONFLICT AVOIDENT CULTURE WHERE ISSUES THAT CAUSE DISCOMFORT ARE SEEN AS A BREACH IN THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

IT TENDS TO BE MORE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE AND JUST HARDER TO GET YOUR HANDS ON.

THERE IS MORE GASLIGHTING.

IT IS THE MORE SUBTLE END OF THAT CONTINUUM OF RACISM.

ONE OF THE THINGS I FOUND STRIKING ABOUT THE BOOK IS THE VERY BEGINNING.

YOUR ARGUMENT IS YOU THINK NICE RACISM CAUSES MORE DAILY HARM TO PEOPLE OF COLOR THAN THE SORT OF OVERT, AGGRESSIVE KIND.

TELL ME WHY YOU SAY THAT NICE RACISM IS ACTUALLY COULD BE MORE PERNICIOUS.

YEAH, AND INSIDIOUS.

LET ME BE CLEAR NOT TO DOWN PLAY THE IMPACT OF REALLY EXPLICIT RACISM AND THE IMPACT OF VOTER SUPPRESSION AND THE LEGAL BLOCKING OF US BEING ABLE TO JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTENCE OF RACISM.

IT IS A VERY, VERY SERIOUS, VERY POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE BACKLASH.

BUT IT IS EASY TO GET YOUR HANDS ON.IT IS VERY CLEAR.

AND IT IS EASY TO AVOID PEOPLE THAT WOULD STAND BEHIND THOSE KINDS OF ACTS.

SO ON A DAILY BASIS AND SINCE WE'RE BEING DIRECT AND BLUNT, MICHELLE, YOU ARE IN A CLASSIC, WHITE PROGRESSIVE ENVIRONMENT AND INSTITUTION ON A DAILY BASIS.

YOU LIKELY DO NOT INTERACT WITH WHITE NATIONALISTS OR PEOPLE WHO WOULD PROFESS EXPLICIT RACISM.

ON A DAILY BASIS, YOU INTERACT WITH ME AND PEOPLE JUST LIKE ME.

AND THE THEME THAT I HEAR OVER AND OVER, PARTICULARLY FROM BLACK PEOPLE WHO ARE IN OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE ENVIRONMENTS IS EXHAUSTION.

AND NOT JUST EXHAUSTION FROM THEIR DAILY WORK, BUT THE EXHAUSTION FROM THAT CULTURE OF NICENESS THAT COVERS UP AND MAKES IT HARDER TO TALK ABOUT THE MORE SUBTLE -- I'M GOING TO PUT AIR QUOTES.

SUBTLE TO ME SLIGHTS AND INDIGNITIES.UNEXAMINED ASSUMPTIT YOUR QUALIFICATIONS OR HOW YOU GOT YOUR JOB OR THE RESENTMENT SIMMERING JUST UNDER THE SURFACE THAT I HEAR QUITE OFTEN FROM WHITE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT DIVERSITY HIRES OR, WE HAD TO AND THAT'S WHY.

YOU KNOW, THAT CREATES A CULTURE, TOO, THAT CAN BE DEBILITATING.

DIFFERENT EXAMPLE.

I THINK OF ONE.

YOU THINK OF ONE.

WHAT RECENTLY HAPPENED AT ESPN, THE SPORTS NETWORK WHERE A WHITE CORRESPONDENT WAS OVERHEARD MAKING COMMENTS ABOUT HER DISAPPOINTMENT THAT A BLACK COLLEAGUE OF HERS HAD A HIGH PROFILE POSITION COVERING BASKETBALL AND SHE SAID, I TOTALLY LOOK THEY NEED TO DEAL WITH THEIR DIVERSITY PROBLEMS, BUT NOT AT MY EXPENSE.

IT'S CAUSED THIS HUGE INTERNAL UPROAR.

THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN CORRESPONDENT ENDED UP LEAVING AFTER THAT.

I'M NOT PRIVY TO ALL THE INTERNAL DISCUSSIONS THAT WENT ON, BUT IS THAT AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT?

I THINK IT IS A GREAT EXAMPLE BECAUSE WE HAVE A TWO-PART MOVE.

THE FIRST MOVE IS I'M ALL FOR DIVERSITY.

SO THIS ISN'T SOMEBODY COMING OUT SAYING, WE SHOULDN'T HAVE BUT THE BUT IS YOU WON'T DO IT ON MY BACK, IF YOU WILL.

NOW YOU HAVE WHITE FEMINISM, THE KIND OF RESENTMENT THAT WHITE WOMEN CAN FEEL BECAUSE PATRIARCHY IS REAL.

SEXISM AND MISOGYNY ARE REAL.

AND SOMETIMES OUR RESENTMENT ABOUT THAT, OUR SENSE THAT WE'RE NOT BEING SEEN OR HEARD CAN TRANSLATE TO US NOT BEING OPEN TO WHERE WE'RE NOT SEEING OR HEARING SOMEBODY ELSE.

SO SHE EXPRESSED THAT RESENTMENT THAT I'M TALKING ABOUT THAT SOMEHOW YOU HAVE TO RATHER THAN SEEING IT AS AN ENHANCEMENT OR A CONTRIBUTION.

LET'S SORT OF STAY WITH THAT AS AN EXAMPLE, IF YOU DON'T WHY ISN'T SHE ALLOWED TO HAVE HER FEELINGS TOO?

WELL, OF COURSE SHE IS ALLOWED TO HAVE HER FEELINGS, BUT IT DOES TRANSLATE INTO THE CLIMATE.

IT'S GOING TO COME OUT IN SOME KIND OF WAY.

IF I AM YOUR COWORKER, AND I BASICALLY RESENT YOU AND SEE YOU AS KIND OF TAKING SOMETHING THAT IS INHERENTLY MINE, YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL THAT FROM ME.

IT'S GOING TO IMPACT THE WORKPLACE.

IT IS GOING TO -- I WILL PROBABLY UNDERMINE YOU IN WAYS YOU MIGHT NOT BE AWARE I'M DOING SO.

AND I'M PRETTY SURE, AND YOU CAN CHECK ME IF I'M WRONG, THAT YOU CAN FEEL THAT FROM ME, RIGHT, AND THAT IT IMPACTS YOU AS YOU DO YOUR JOB.

IT IS INTERESTING BECAUSE YOUR BOOKS FOR SOME PEOPLE, OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVEN'T BEEN BEST SELLERS FOR AS LONG AS THEY HAVE FOR NO REASON.

OBVIOUSLY SOME PEOPLE FEEL LIKE, YEAH, IT JUST BRINGS A SENSE OF PEACE.IT IS COMFORTING.

YOU REALIZE, OH, I'M NOT CRAZY.

I REALLY AMEX PEERNSING THESE THINGS.

BUT FOR SOME PEOPLE, THEY SEEM TO FIND IT INFURIATING.

I'M CURIOUS WHAT YOU THINK IS BEHIND THAT FURY.

YEAH.

IF YOU CAN'T LET GO OF THE IDEA THAT IT IS A MORAL ISSUE, YOU ARE GOING TO BE INFURIATED BY IT.

YOU ARE GOING TO THINK THAT SOMEBODY IS SAYING THAT YOU ARE AN IMMORAL PERSON AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

IT IS GOING TO FEEL LIKE AN UNFAIR ACCUSATION.

I'M WITH YOU.

I FIND IT INCREDIBLY FREEING AND LIBERATING.I DON'T FIND IT AT AT ENHANCING.U KNOW, IT JUST KIND E MOVES YOU PAST ALL OF THE DEFENSIVENESS INTO A PLACE OF DEEP SELF-REFLECTION.

AND, SO, I THINK THAT'S A PIECE OF IT FOR PEOPLE HANGING ON TO THIS IDEA OF EITHER/OR.

APPARENTLY A LOT OF WHITE PEOPLE THINK THAT IF YOU CAN TALK TO BLACK PEOPLE CALMLY, YOU CAN'T BE RACIST.

YOU KNOW, THIS IDEA THAT PROXIMITY IS PROVE.

AND THIS IS ANOTHER WAY THAT I THINK NICE RACISM MANIFESTS, IS THE URGENCY THAT MANY OF US FEEL WHO ARE WHITE TO ESTABLISH AS QUICK AS POSSIBLE THAT WE'RE NOT RACIST.

AND ALL OF THE WAYS WE SEEK TO ESTABLISH THAT ARE PRETTY MUCH NOT CONVINCING.

THE EVIDENCE WE OFFER UP IS KIND OF RIDICULOUS.

LIKE WHAT?

LIKE WHAT?

LIKE I CAN'T BE RACIST.

I MARCHED IN THE '60s.

I CAN'T BE RACIST.

I HAD A BLACK ROOMMATE IN COLLEGE.

I CAN'T BE RACIST.

I WORK ON A REALLY DIVERSE TEAM.

I'M NOT RACIST.

I'M FROM BOSTON.

I SPEAK SEVERAL LANGUAGES.

I MEAN, IT DOES BEG THE QUESTION WHAT DO YOU THINK RACISM IS THAT THIS WOULD, YOU KNOW, ENSURE THAT YOU'RE FREE OF IT.

YOU KNOW, HARVEY WEINSTEIN WAS AROUND WOMEN ON THE TILE.

HE WAS MARRIED TO A WOMAN.

DOES THAT MEAN HE WASN'T MISOGYNY.

AND WHILE HE DIDN'T ASSAULT ALL WOMEN, I IMAGINE IF I WAS AROUND HIM, I WOULD PICK UP ON IT.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I HAVE TO SAY SOME OF THE MORE STINGING CRITIQUES I HAVE SEEN HAVE COME FROM PEOPLE OF COLOR.

IN TRYING TO POINT THE FINGER AT WHITE PEOPLE THAT YOU DEHUMANIZE AND FLATTEN OUT BLACK PEOPLE IN PARTICULAR, PEOPLE OF COLOR, THAT PEOPLE OF COLOR BECOME SORT OF THE MORAL AUTHORITY.

THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE THE WISE ONES.

THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE SORT OF GIFT EVERYONE WITH THEIR MORAL SENSIBILITY.

AND THAT'S KIND OF RACIST IN ITS OWN WAY.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT?

BLACK PEOPLE CAN BE JERKS, TOO?

SELF-ABSORBED, NARROW MINDED, BIGOTED JERKS, TOO.

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BLACK PEOPLE WHO WILL CLAIM THAT RACISM DOESN'T EXIST AND THEY RARELY EVER EXPERIENCED IT, THAT, YOU KNOW, THE PROBLEMS BLACK PEOPLE HAVE ARE BROUGHT TO THEMSELVES AND THEY WILL BE EMBRACED AND THEIR VOICES WILL BE AMPLIFIED.

I DON'T TAKE THAT AS SERIOUSLY AS I TAKE SOMEBODY WHO HAS A RECORD AND A COMMITMENT TO ANTI-RACISM CRITIQUING ME.

SO LET'S MOVE TO THOSE FOLKS.

AND ABSOLUTELY.

IT'S THE MASTERS TOOLS DILEMMA.

I'M AT A PLACE WHERE I'M WONDERING WHY ANYONE THINKS ANY ONE PERSON COULD GET THIS RIGHT AND GET THIS RIGHT BY EVERYBODY AND IS RESPONSIBLE TO GET IT ABSOLUTELY RIGHT BY EVERYONE.

OF COURSE THERE ARE GOING TO BE CRITIQUES.

AND, YES, IN A WAY I DO SEE THAT.

I'M ASKING WHITE PEOPLE TO BASICALLY DEFER AND THAT'S BECAUSE MOST OF THE WHITE PEOPLE, MY AUDIENCE, HAVE NOT OR COULD NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE WHITE?

AND IF YOU ARE IN THAT PLACE IF YOU HAVE NEVER EVEN THOUGHT DEEPLY, I DON'T THINK YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO DETERMINE WHAT IS LEGITIMATE AND WHAT IS NOT YOU KNOW, WHAT IS VALID WHAT YOU'RE SHARING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AND WHAT ISN'T IT.

AND, YOU KNOW, DOES IT HURT TO DOES IT HURT TO JUST LISTEN OPENLY AND CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT WHAT THIS PERSON IS SHARING WITH YOU.

YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST WHITE PERSON TO WRITE ABOUT RACISM FROM A WHITE PERSPECTIVE AND TO DIRECT YOUR WRITINGS TO OTHER WHITE PEOPLE.

I'M THINKING ABOUT A NUMBER OF PEOPLE.

I'M JUST WONDERING WHY PEOPLE COME AT YOU SO HARD.

I WONDER IF YOU THINK GENDER IS PART OF IT.

I DO THINK GENDER IS PART OF IT.

I EXPECT MY IDEAS, AS AN ACADEMIC AND MY THEORIES AND MY ANALYSIS TO BE ENGAGED WITH AND QUESTIONED, BUT IT IS THE PERSONAL.

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF PERSONAL VILIFICATION THAT IS NOT TYPICAL WHEN SOMEBODY WRITES A BOOK AND, YOU KNOW, MAKES A PROVOCATIVE ARGUMENT.

AND I THINK GENDER IS A PIECE OF THAT.AND I DO WANT TO SAY THAT R THE PAST FIVE YEARS THERE HAVE BEEN 32 BOOKS ABOUT RACE ON 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' BEST SELLER LIST.

AND 29 OF THEM HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY BLACK PEOPLE.

AND ONLY THREE BY PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT BLACK, AND ONE OF THEM IS ME.

A COUPLE OF THOSE BOOKS HAVE BEEN ON LONGER THAN MY BOOK.

SO IT IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE THAT PEOPLE AREN'T LISTENING TO BLACK PEOPLE ON THIS TOPIC.

AND, YOU KNOW, I'M SPEAKING TO THE MAJORITY OF FOLKS WHO PERPETUATE THIS PROBLEM.

TALK TO ME, IF YOU WOULD, ABOUT CRITICAL RACE THEORY.

AS YOU AND I WERE SPEAKING NOW, THERE HAS BEEN THIS TREMENDOUS EFFORT TO, BY SOME STATES, TO OUTLAW THE TEACHES OF ISSUES AROUND RACE AND CLASS.

MOSTLY RACE.

IN SCHOOL DISTRICTS AROUND THE COUNTRY.

I DON'T WANT TO GIVE A NUMBER BECAUSE I MAY BE WRONG BY THE TIME PEOPLE HEAR THIS.

BUT I THINK AT LEAST A DOZEN STATES ARE MOVING TO EITHER OUTLAW THE TEACHING OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY OR REGULATE HOW TEACHERS CAN TALK ABOUT RACE AND CLASS IN SCHOOL SETTINGS, TO TAKE CERTAIN BOOKS OFF THE SHELVES, FOR EXAMPLE, IN SCHOOL LIBRARIES.WHAT DO YOU THINK THA?

LET ME JUST SAY IT'S STUNNING AND TERRIFYING.

AND I THINK IT REALLY SPEAKS TO WHERE POWER LIES, THAT THAT QUICKLY ACTUAL LAWS COULD BE ON THE BOOKS.

SUMMER 2020 WAS REALLY DIFFERENT.AD BEEN A LONG TIME SE YOU SAW THAT KIND OF GALVANIZATION OF WHITE PEOPLE.

WE HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE SOUTHERN STRATEGY, WHICH IS TRIED AND TRUE.

AND CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS THE PERFECT NEW BOOGIE MAN.

RIGHT?

IT'S JUST VAGUE ENOUGH TO, YOU KNOW, SOUND SCARY.

REALLY IT JUST MEANS CRITICALLY THINKING ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF SUCH PERSISTENT RACIAL INEQUALITY.

I'M NOT A CRITICAL RACE THEORIST AND IT TRULY COMES OUT OF LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP.AM, ACCORDING TO THD OF BOOGIE MAN APPROACH, IN THAT WHAT THEY ARE REALLY TALKING ABOUT IS ANYONE WHO SAYS THAT SYSTEMIC RACISM EXISTS.

ANYONE WHO SAYS THAT OUR COUNTRY WAS BUILT ON IT.

AND IT IS IN THE FOUNDATION.

THAT IS SOMEONE WHO IS GOING TO BE LABELED A CRYSTAL RACE THEORIST.

ONE OF THE BILLS, FOR EXAMPLE, MOVING THROUGH THE TEXAS LEGISLATION SAYS THAT STUDENTS SHOULD HAVE TO TALK TO SOMEBODY IF IT MAKES THEM UNCOMFORTABLE.

WHAT IS YOUR BEST ARGUMENT?

I WOULD ASK TWO QUESTIONS.

ONE, WHO DOES IT SERVE OR WHAT DOES IT SERVE NOT TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION?

IT IS NOT NEUTRAL OR BENIGN.

WHO IS MADE UNCOMFORTABLE BY THIS CONVERSATION?

I WANT TO ASK IS THERE ANY OTHER SOCIAL ILL THAT WE WOULD ARGUE THE BEST APPROACH TO THAT SOCIAL ILL IS TO NEVER SPEAK OF IT: SUICIDE, BULLYING, EATING DISORDERS, SEXUAL ASSAULT?

WOULD WE ARGUE WE SHOULD NEVER SPEAK ABOUT THOSE THINGS?

I DON'T THINK WE WOULD.

SO THERE IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT HERE.

AND I THINK IT IS ABOUT DEEPLY VESTED INTERESTS.

I DO THINK THAT WHITE, MIDDLE AND UPPER CLASS PARENTS WHO BELIEVE THAT THEIR CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE THE BEST OF EVERYTHING ARE IN LARGE PART LEADING SOME OF THIS BACKLASH AGAINST LOOKING AT RACIAL INEQUALITY IN SCHOOLS.

RIGHT?

ANYTHING THAT WOULD CAUSE THEIR CHILDREN NOT TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE BEST WILL BE PERCEIVED AS A THREAT OR TO CAUSE THEIR CHILDREN TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

BUT RESEARCH HAS REALLY SHOWED THAT YOUNG PEOPLE DO SO MUCH BETTER WHEN THEY ARE EQUIPPED TO ENGAGE IN CONVERSATIONS LIKE THIS, WHEN THEY HAVE INFORMATION AND THEY'RE PREPARED TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE TO THEM AND THEY CAN ACTUALLY ACT IN A WORLD.

HOW DO YOU WANT THIS BOOK TO BE USED, IF I COULD PUT IT THAT WAY?

WELL, WE DID BUILD INTO IT REFLECTION QUESTIONS.

SO AS A GUIDE TO KEEP TRYING, KEEP STRUGGLING TO STAY ENGAGED, TO FIND SOME KIND OF INSPIRATION AND SOME SENSE -- YEAH, SOME SENSE OF GUIDANCE.

RIGHT?

BECAUSE THIS IS HARD.

THIS IS HARD.

AND LET ME JUST BE REALLY CLEAR.

TWO KEY THINGS.

AS A WHITE PERSON, I LIVE, LOVE, WORK, CREATE EVERY SINGLE DAY IN A RACIST CULTURE IN WHICH I'M I AM COMFORTABLE IN A RACIST CULTURE.

I'D LIKE TO CHANGE THAT.

RIGHT?

IF THAT DISCOMFORT HELPS BRING SOME OF THAT RACISM DOWN, THEN IT'S ACTUALLY A GOOD THING.

AND AS A WHITE PERSON, I WAS NEVER MEANT TO KNOW OR LOVE BLACK PEOPLE.

LET'S BE HONEST.

WHITE PEOPLE IN LARGE PART MEASURE THE VALUE AND THE STATUS OF THEIR ENVIRONMENTS, THEIR SCHOOLS, THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS BY THE ABSENCE OF ANY SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BLACK PEOPLE.

THAT'S PRETTY DEEP.

AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO CHALLENGE THAT AND BUILD THOSE RELATIONSHIPS AND SEE HUMANITY IN ONE OTHER IF WE CONTINUE TO LIVE IN SEGREGATION.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TALKING WITH US.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

About This Episode EXPAND

California Governor Gavin Newsom discusses COVID, wilfires and his recall election. Elif Shafak discusses her new book “The Island of Missing Trees.” CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen gives an update from Iran. Anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo discusses her new book “Nice Racism.”

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