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THE PITKIN REVIEW:
SPRING 2023 EDITION
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I WANT MY MONEY BACK: AN OPEN LETTER TO ROBIN DIANGELO
September 12, 2022
Dear Robin DiAngelo,
Your book, White Fragility, was recommended to me by a dear friend. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to read it until months later for reasons unknown to my conscious mind at the time. However, when I was asked to create a book list for my first semester of grad school at Goddard College, I decided that I would put this on my list. If anything, I was curious at best. I naively wanted to understand what you, as a white woman, had to say that caused such pandemonium in the literary world when it came to race and racism in America. I admit, as a black woman, I was highly skeptical – even if the cover was splashed with NY Times #1 Bestseller along with Claudia Rankine touting this work as “ ‘[a] necessary book for all people invested in societal change.’ ”
I can’t blame my dear white friend for recommending this book to me. She didn’t know any better. That I can forgive. I wish I could extend such grace with your work. I still shudder at the audacity I felt as I read White Fragility as I sit in my window seat reflecting on this self-help book I closed for good a year and change ago. A book I would have demanded my money back for, except I’d already wrote in and highlighted it. There was no turning back at that point and I fought you at almost every turn with margin-filled handwritten notes.
White Fragility attempted to stay rooted in facts but failed as it also tried to weave in your feeble subjective point of view. You tell us how you are “…using [your] insider status to challenge racism.” (xv) What exactly is this insider status of yours? Is it your whiteness? The fact that you billed yourself as a diversity trainer since the 1990s? What exactly establishes you as a voice to be reckoned with? Good intentions are fine and dandy; that is, until they don’t land correctly.
The dilemma of your work unraveled quickly as you “[argue from the beginning] that racism is deeply complex and nuanced, [and] given this, we can never consider our learning to be complete or finished.” (xv) In dealing with a subject matter of this magnitude, it is that much more important to establish yourself as a voice of authority, even if just for a particular time and moment on such a complicated, politicized, and institutionalized matter in America. How do we listen to someone talk about breaking down racism when they themselves admit – quite bluntly – on page 149, “I know that because I was socialized white in a racism-based society, I have a racist worldview, deep racial bias, racist’s patterns, and investments in the racist system that has elevated me. Still, I don’t feel guilty about racism.”
I re-read those words in horror. Who are you, Ms. DiAngelo? How do you dare bill yourself as an antiracist trainer? There is good reason for your avoidance and evasion on these questions, that is, until we are two-thirds into the book. Alas, you tell us who you are: a woman who “…was a full adult, a parent, and a college graduate before [you] ever experienced a racial identity or position, and that experience was only because [you] had taken a position as a diversity trainer.” (101)
Oh dear …Racism is an experience, not something just gleaned over in your research books. I urge you to take a look in your blind spots and then maybe we have a conversation face-to-face. As for now, don’t insult me with this weak voice on something you demonstrate needs major work in your own world. Please don’t feel that you need to give us black folks a rest from teaching white people about racism. You’re right that it’s not our job. But no one asked you do it for it us…
I Want My Money Back