Another sign of this dis-enlightenment: the modern fashion that treats stereotyping as sophisticated analysis. We’re told much about a vague monolith of white people ever ready to circle the wagons and defend white interests. Robin DiAngelo’s best-selling “White Fragility” is Exhibit A of this trope, and her latest book, “Nice Racism,” includes a chapter titled “Why It’s OK to Generalize About White People.” But the existence of racism does not, as DiAngelo suggests, make it valid to propose that there is a kind of undifferentiated body of white people with indistinguishable interests.
White America consists of myriad groups and individuals, whose actions and non-actions, intentional and not, have a vast range of effects whose totality challenges all thinking observers. Writers like DiAngelo, who wield enormous influence in our current discourse, encourage the assumption that white people act as a self-preservationist amalgam. This notion of a pale-faced single organism stomping around the world is a cartoon, yet smart people hold this cartoon up as an enlightened way of thinking, and it has caught on.
I also suspect I am hardly alone, when hearing the term “systemic racism,” in quietly wondering how useful it is to use the same word, racism, for both explicit bigotry and inequality, even if the latter is according to race. In his similarly best-selling “How to Be an Antiracist,” the Boston University professor Ibram Kendi begins by defining a “racist” as “one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” He then defines an “antiracist” as “one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.”