February 11, 2015

Whites too fragile to discuss race

Critics noted something odd about the "4,000 lynchings" story I linked to yesterday.

The NY Times 'Discovers' That Blacks Were Lynched...But Doesn't Name White People as the Killers

By Chauncey DeVegaThe NY Times' failure to name white people as the murderers of black Americans through spectacular and cruel violence is also an example of Whiteness--and by extension white people--imagining itself as naturally benign and innocent. Here, Whiteness is prefaced on radical individualism.

As such, there are no "white criminals" or "white terrorists." There are only individual white people who happen to be criminals or killers. In a society organized around white privilege, it is only the Other, in particular black people and "Muslims," who are labeled en masse as "pathological" and/or where individuals are subjected to group stigma and punishment.

The racial erasure in the Times' lynching story is also a surrender to what researcher Robin DiAngelo has termed "white fragility":White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.

These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
The white racial frame distorts reality. It is operative even in what are ostensibly moments of "anti-racist" public discourse. And because the white racial frame furthers a possessive investment in whiteness, an investment that reflects and sustains a white supremacist society, it distorts how White Americans process and understand empirical reality.

Through that process, the black or brown truth-teller is transformed by the White gaze into someone who is "angry," "hostile," "emotional," "crazy," "irrational" or "overreacting."

Ultimately, the white racial frame is a type of racial narcissism, one that for those white people who have not renounced their personal and psychological investment in Whiteness and white supremacy transforms the rational into the irrational, the sane into the insane, and warps the morals and ethics of its owners.

As I, and those others, who dared to connect the barbarism of ISIS and the spectacular lynchings and burning alive murders of black Americans by whites recently learned, forcing White America to own its history of racial terrorism is not a popular act.
The NYT wrote about lynching by white people without using the word "white"

By Jenée Desmond-HarrisThis sort of oversight has also been interpreted as going hand-in-hand with a widespread reluctance to see white supremacy (versus individual racist acts by bad people) as a driving force in America's history, or a contributor the country's present racial inequality.

That's why, even if "white" was omitted unconsciously by writers and editors who truly wanted to do justice to the lynching report, it's still troubling because it obscures a key part of how racism works. When we're talking about the ways black Americans were terrorized by these horrific lynchings, it's also relevant to note that white Americans were doing the terrorizing.
Comment:  For more on white privilege, see All Politics Is Identity Politics and Tucker Carlson's White Privilege Lie.

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