A Christian Reading of White Fragility: chapter 6.

Chapter 6, “Anti-Blackness” addresses the sting in the tail of white racism. In understated ways, DiAngelo has recognized that all people groups tend to view themselves as normal and other as abnormal. Racism, in some form or another, is the default human condition. We all look at other races in particular ways. White racism against African Americans is particularly virulent because white racism is anti-black. “In the white mind, black people are the ultimate racial ‘other.’” A 2015 study found that the highest level of segregation in American society is between blacks and whites, the lowest is between Asians and whites, while the level of segregation between whites and Latino occupied an intermediate position.  “A majority of white, in both the expression of their beliefs and the practice of their lives, do not want to integrate with blacks.”

DiAngelo asserts that the fundamental driving force of anti-blackness is white guilt. White people, as a race, feel guilt about what they have done and continue to do and their complicity in the past and continuing torture and subjugation of black people, as a race. White people, as a whole, hate black people, as a whole, because of what blackness reminds white people of: that we are guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains have come through the subjugation of others.

One way to assuage white guilt is to view black people as those we can “save” through our own mercy. DiAngelo uses the film The Blind Side to illustrate the common ways we denigrate black people and see them as in desperate need of white rescue. When poor black youths do succeed, it is often through the goodness of white labors. The Blind Side reinforces many common white avenues of domination through patronization:

  • White people are the saviors of black people
  • Some black children may be innocent, but black adults are morally and criminally corrupt
  • Whites who are willing to save or otherwise help black people, at seemingly great personal cost, are noble, courageous, and morally superior to other whites
  • Individual black people can overcome their circumstances, but usually only with the help of white people
  • Black neighborhoods are inherently dangerous and criminal
  • Virtually all blacks are poor, incompetent, and unqualified for their jobs; they belong to gangs, are addicted to drugs, and are bad parents
  • The most dependable route for black males to escape the “inner city” is through sports
  • White people are willing to deal with individual “deserving” black people, but whites do not become a part of the black community in any meaningful way (beyond charity work)

Having never seen The Blind Side, I cannot speak to DiAngelo’s evaluation of it. Her list of charges have the ring of truth about them though. I have seen these things in other media, and felt them to varying degrees in my own life and experience.

This chapter, like those preceding it, does not offer any solution to the problem- perhaps that will come later. Nevertheless, the chapter is shot-through with the language of sin, guilt, and salvation. Throughout the chapter, DiAngelo is careful to couch her accusations corporately: white people as a whole are antagonistic toward black people as a whole. How then, does a 21st century white person find redemption for sins committed historically and corporately? How does a 21st century African American grant forgiveness for sins committed historically and corporately? How can white people repent? How can black people forgive? I am not sure DiAngelo will have the answers to these questions.

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