Some will say that I’m reading DiAngelo too uncharitably—but how else can one make sense of her guidelines for whites? During her CRT training sessions, for example, DiAngelo asks whites to refrain from crying around blacks. Why? Because historically, white tears have often accompanied false rape accusations that led to lynchings. Thus, for black people, she explains, white tears “trigger the terrorism of this history.”
Holding back tears to spare others’ emotions is not something that adults do around their equals; it’s what parents do around children. Indeed, DiAngelo’s picture of the ideal relationship between whites and blacks bears a disturbing resemblance to the relationship between an exasperated parent and a spoiled child: the one constantly practicing emotional self-control, the other triggered by the smallest things and helplessly expressing every emotion as soon as it comes. These are the roles she expects—even encourages—whites and blacks to play. That people can call this anti-racist with a straight face shows how far language has strayed from reality.
If White Fragility is the only book you read about race this year, then you will come away with a horribly one-sided education. You will learn, to take a representative example, that “it has not been African-Americans who resist integration efforts; it has always been whites”—as if Zora Neale Hurston did not exist; as if the Hyde County boycott and similar black anti-integration efforts did not happen all over the South. The book’s fundamental one-sidedness, however, should not be surprising, because White Fragility is zealotry disguised as scholarship.