There’s no particularly good conversation that includes the angry exclamation, “Read ‘White Fragility!’”
In case you haven’t read the book, “White Fragility” is Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 bestseller, now given new life by the wave of protests touched off by the death of George Floyd.
It’s basically “Whiteness Theory for Dummies,” a book-long discussion about how fragile white people allegedly are and, among other things, how their “pillars of whiteness” had been erected to protect them from racial stress. If that sounds like academic jargon, that’s because it is, although it’s been dumbed down for public consumption.
However, one of the central messages the book tries to get across is that if you’re white and you get called a racist, you might get angry or challenge the person calling you racist — which is just more evidence you’re a racist insulating yourself from racial stress. I mean, why else would you say something like that?
I mention this just because it’s a good window into the online meeting of New York City’s Community Education Council District 2 on June 29 and how it devolved into an insane shoutfest between several council members that’s going viral a week after it happened.
I know, that doesn’t sound particularly interesting to begin with. However, while all happy bodies of local governance are alike, all unhappy bodies of local governance are unhappy in their own way. When it comes to the Community Education Council District 2 — hereafter referred to as the CEC D2 for obvious reasons — there seems to be a whole lot of sniping involved. Some of that seems to be because some of the board members have embraced the jargon of the “White Fragility” crowd.
So, a bit of background, as per The Federalist: Council member Thomas Wrocklage, at the previous meeting, had brought along his daughter, who is a toddler, and his friend’s nephew. Wrocklage is white; so is his daughter. His friend is black; so is her son. The topic was school integration. During an argument over the topic, Wrocklage said that “my living room’s integrated right now.”
If Wrocklage wanted comity, that wasn’t the best idea. He faced accusations of racism from members on the council and roughly 100 parents sent a letter to the council president, Maud Maron, with complaints about Wrocklage. There was also sniping on social media.
The next meeting wasn’t a terribly pleasant one. It turns out that by the 40th minute, participants hadn’t been able to yell themselves out of steam. This led to an angry exchange between Council Members Benjamin Morden and Robin Broshi.
Morden asked why they were dealing with this incident when students had come to them complaining about racism in their schools. Instead of dealing with trying to figure out a way to investigate the racist incidents, Morden said, they were instead navel-gazing and wondering if individual council members had done enough anti-racism training to uproot their own prejudices.
Broshi said some parents had even accused her of not doing enough to deal with “racism” among her fellow CEC D2 members.
“‘You don’t call out the racism when it happens!'” Broshi said she’d been told, during a heated response to Morden 41 long minutes into the meeting.
“I spent a full year getting tweets from you people saying, ‘It’s toxic whiteness,’ I’m a white supremacist, I’m racist,” Morden said.
“Ben, it’s not about you and me,” Broshi responded. “We all do racist things. We have to learn … about that. It’s hurtful.”
The argument about racism then leaned into the line everyone’s going to remember from this dumpster conflagration: “It hurts people when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context!” Broshi said. “That is harmful! That makes people cry. That makes people log out of our meetings … I’m getting pressure for not being enough of an advocate, and I take that to heart and that hurts me.”
After a bit more shouting, enter Wrocklage:
“I would like to know before this meeting adjourns how having my friend’s nephew on my lap was hurtful to people and was racist,” he said.
“Tom, I’ve explained it to you,” Broshi said. “You can Google, you can read a book. Read a book. Read Ibram Kendi. Read ‘White Fragility.’ Read ‘How to Talk to White People.’ It’s not my job to educate you! You’re an educated white male! You can read a book!”
“My friend is going to educate you, Robin,” Wrocklage responded.
Wrocklage, by the way, isn’t exactly some sort of MAGA-aberration in deep-blue New York City. On his Twitter account, he comes across as a Good Liberal, rarely tweeting but doing so in support of Pete Buttigieg during his run for the presidency — including this retweet of one of Buttigieg’s debate zingers:
Pete Buttigieg: “Let’s not equate age with wisdom. We have the oldest president in American history. How is that working right now?” pic.twitter.com/PNgFokE48T
— The Hill (@thehill) February 19, 2020
This is a case of the left eating its own in the name of the new secular religion of self-flagellation for whites.
There are several things you can take away from this meeting, apart from the obvious fact that social distancing is a good idea for the CEC D2. (Watching their meetings on Zoom is a spectacular byproduct if you’re amused by cultural multi-car pileups, although it’s more than a bit frightening if you think about having a kid their decisions affect.)
I’m sure Broshi and the others on the council didn’t want to become object lessons in a wider cultural debate, but they are now. While no other video on their YouTube account had more than a few hundred views, as of Monday morning, the video of the 85-minute-long Great Whiteness Reckoning had 77,000 views.
It’s a fascinating look-in on a body where everyone in the middle has essentially been steamrolled. Maud Maron, the council president, tried her best to appeal to both sides. Later in the meeting, she was chastised by another council member for not “doing the work” to get appropriately jargonized.
“You can say, ‘Racism is wrong, we’ll denounce it,'” Council Member Shino Tanikawa said.about the 53:20 mark in the meeting. “But the bottom line is how you act. And your actions have not shown to me that you understand what racism is at a structural and institutional level.”
Ah yes — critical theory, the last refuge of a scoundrel. At least Tanikawa was relatively calm and rational about her embrace of the language of “White Fragility.” That approach wasn’t favored by the rest of the meeting.
In this I don’t exempt Wrocklage or Morden, although I’ll say this much: Nobody was able to answer their questions, which were factually sound.
The other side talked past them, telling them the answers were to be found in those foundational texts listed as their secular bibles. The jargonistas weren’t going to educate them. They needed to do the work! You read their opinions for them and then you come back and tell them why they’re right.
Just don’t come back and tell them you disagree. That’s even worse. Remember — in the world of “White Fragility,” it’s all about admitting that you’re in the wrong. If you don’t, then you’re even more wrong.
A horrible fate awaits any individual that volunteers for and gets elected to CEC D2 without watching this first. Apparently, a white person can be racist by holding his friend’s black baby. It’s not just the comment he made. The very sight of it is problematic for the very white Robin Broshis of the world, who apparently are unwilling to learn from the black person who left the baby in the white person’s care.
An even worse fate awaits any student who needs allegations of actual racism addressed by the council when its members can’t stop assuring themselves they’ve read enough Ibram Kendi and worn the hair-shirt of their own making long enough to address those concerns.
Maybe the kids can read “White Fragility” in the meantime.
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