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The bestselling book "White Fragility," whose ideas have gained mainstream currency in the wake of protests against police brutality and systemic racism, dehumanizes and infantilizes Black people by encouraging a "cult" of White guilt, Columbia University associate professor John McWhorter argued this week.
McWhorter, who is Black, charged in The Atlantic. that "White Fragility" is "about how to make certain educated [W]hite readers feel better about themselves."
The book by Robin DiAngelo, a White woman who works as a diversity consultant for corporations, was first published in 2018. Its paperback edition has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 97 weeks.
"DiAngelo’s outlook rests upon a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children within this self-gratifying fantasy about how [W]hite America needs to think," McWhorter wrote. "Or, better, stop thinking. Her answer to [W]hite fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people."
For example, McWhorter claimed, DiAngelo recommends White people refrain from or engage in certain behaviors in order to avoid reinforcing racial inequality, including not crying in Black people's presence while discussing racism and not asking Black people about their feelings or experiences.
"A corollary question is why Black people need to be treated the way DiAngelo assumes we do," he wrote. "The very assumption is deeply condescending to all proud Black people."
"In my life, racism has affected me now and then at the margins, in very occasional social ways, but has had no effect on my access to societal resources," McWhorter went on. "If anything, it has made them more available to me than they would have been otherwise."
"The sad truth," he concluded, "is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way."
McWhorter isn't the only critic who has pushed back against DiAngelo's book. Slate, a liberal outlet, published criticism last year, which, like McWhorter, suggested DiAngelo was encouraging White People to focus too much on themselves.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait similarly asked: "Is the Anti-Racism Training Industry Just Peddling White Supremacy?" in an article alleging that DiAngelo engages in a "business model spreading kooky, harmful, and outright racist ideas."
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