Bunch of Whining White Bastards

Robin Diangelo gives a perfect example of how antagonising people makes them resist your message. In a workshop, a white woman teacher mimics a black mother’s accent while telling a story. Professor Diangelo takes her to task in a manner that so upsets the woman that she leaves the group. (pp74-5) I assume the Prof wasn’t hired to make her clients walk out, yet she made no attempt to take the woman aside to explain, confidentially, why her accent was inappropriate, or to flag up the problem in a light-hearted manner or come back to it, as a general point, later on. 

Diangelo seems proud of her conduct – this woman was to be made an example of. Any reluctance to humiliate her in front of her colleagues would have been a weakness, on Diangelo’s part, that would have allowed racism to flourish and thus must be overcome. Kindness is a flaw![1]

Robin Diangelo’s career as a diversity trainer presumably relies on the openness of people and institutions to addressing their prejudices. That’s why they hired her, right? However, her experience of her clients’ constant indignation makes me wonder if she needs to exercise a bit more tact. But, rather than addressing her own part in these exchanges, and thinking, “perhaps my teaching method is a little too antagonistic”, she has come up with the concept of “White Fragility” to explain why she is right and they are all a bunch of whining white bastards.

[1] If I’d been asked to evaluate Robin Diangelo’s workshop, I’d probably have said, “You could have handled that a bit better. Pick your battles; don’t get distracted from the workshop’s main goal – you can’t address everything at the same time.” Of course, I would have taken her aside to give her this feedback, confidentially! (I might even have used her own language: “I am offering you a teachable moment…and I am only asking that you try to listen with openness”, although I’d be risking a punch in the eye.)

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