A New York City education council was having a zoom meeting last week but the meeting broke down into shouted accusations of racism. One member of the council named Robin Broshi, who is the group’s past president, was shouting at another man named Benjamin Morden. It’s clear from the conversation that she’s accused Morden of racism before and he is sick of it. In the midst of this, she accuses another council member named Thomas Wrocklage, who is also on the call, of racism. His crime? Wrocklage, who is white, was seen on a previous zoom meeting bouncing a black child on his lap.
Morden: During our last meeting you were talking about someone’s friend on someone’s lap when there were actual kids who were saying there are racist acts in your school! Sad! You are sad! But today you want to talk about…
Broshi: Ben!…It hurts people when they see a white man bouncing a brown baby on their lap and they don’t know the context! That is harmful! It makes people cry! It makes people log out of our meeting! They don’t come here! They don’t come to our meetings! And they give me a hard time because I’m not vocal enough! And I’m not trying to be a martyr! I’m trying to illustrate to you that you think I’m a f**k–excuse me–you think I’m a social justice warrior! And you think I’m being patronizing and I’m getting pressure for not being enough of an advocate! And I take that to heart and that hurts me! And I have to learn to be a better white person!
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. Can you please explain?
Broshi: Tom! I’ve explained it to you! You can Google–you can read a book! Read [inaudible]! Read White Fragility! Read How to Talk to White People! It’s not my job to educate you! You’re an educated white man! You could read a book and you could learn about it yourself!
At this point another woman chimes in claiming Wrocklage’s intent was to make a joke about segregation. According to Emily Hellstrom, Wrocklage had a “smirk” on his face when he put the child on his lap. Then he said something about his living room being integrated which Hellstrom took as dismissive of slavery and Jim Crow or something.
Wrocklage responds to Hellstrom’s accusations of racism calling it “slander.” After another intervention by a moderator another member of the council says he doesn’t get what the fuss is about and didn’t see anything racist or offensive in Wrocklage’s behavior.
The real sin here, and it is a serious sin for members of this cult, is Wrocklage’s light-hearted tone and comment which implied that he thought he wasn’t racist because he had black friends over. That’s a sin because the first rule of DiAngelo’s view of the world is that everyone is racist all the time. By accusing Wrocklage or racism, Hellstrom and Broshi are trying to re-establish the framework for their worldview, i.e. that everyone is guilty. By not acknowledging or agreeing to those allegations, Wrocklage is effectively doubling down. He is rejecting their most fundamental assumption about people to their faces. That’s why they are so angry and why they want him to read a book to correct his mind. They may not be able to explain or convince him but surely Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, aka this cult’s holy scripture, would set him on the true path.
I’m starting this in the middle of a long clip. You don’t need to watch 45 minutes of this. Just watch about 3-4 minutes and I have one more clip below.
After this blew up, Wrocklage was interviewed by Benjamin Boyce about some of the backstory to this. Asked to explain his approach to race, Wrocklage said, “People can get along with each other without reading a book.” He adds that you do that by treating people as people and not as representatives of a race.
Update: Here’s a link to the full 4-hour council meeting in which Wrocklage had the child on his lap (a couple of times). Having seen it, the idea that this offended people enough to claim it was racist seems truly nuts to me but I guess that’s where some people are.