Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why it's so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, was interviewed by ETHS Assistant Superintendent and Principal Dr. Marcus Campbell last Friday night via Zoom. The event was sponsored by Family Action Network (FAN).
Thousand of people in Evanston, the US, and around the world tuned in to listen to the discussion.
Last year, Dear Evanston's racial justice book group ran two sessions to discuss DiAngelo's 2018 book last year for more than 180 Evanston residents.
Here are snippets from the dialogue between DiAngelo and Dr. Campbell. You can (you should!) listen to the whole discussion in the video below.
MC: How have you been processing the murder of George Floyd and the response to his death?
RD: I had a hard time looking at my Black friends in the eye ... but there are glimmers of hope. It's an incredibly high price to pay for white enlightenment, that that is the image it took--the accumulation of images--because of course that's not the only similar thing we've witnessed.
I've been offering a question to white people. We're all asking, "what do we do?" My question back is, "Why are you asking that now, and why weren't you asking it before?"
MC: There've been millions of people protesting. What do you think it is in the way white people have been raised that makes the concept of Black Lives Matter so controversial?
RD: Black Lives Matter emerged because clearly Black lives don't matter. If we lived in a society in which all lives matter, we wouldn't need to identify the lives that haven't mattered. Of all the things we white people have to look at, the hardest thing to look at is white superiority.
MC: You mentioned glimmers of hope. I certainly was inspired by the protests in New Zealand, France, Germany. This is a signal that maybe Black folks are starting to be humanized around the world. But what a great cost that Black Americans have had to pay just for the acknowledgement that we are human beings as well.
Recently in the news, the George Floyd and Amy Cooper incidents were almost simultaneous. Over past several years it's been making the news that Black folks have had the police called on them for just doing regular stuff: BBQing in a park; sitting at Starbucks; shopping in CVS; selling water; selling hot dogs; going to the grocery store; playing golf; napping on a couch in a dorm.
What makes Black people such a threat doing mundane things?
I mean, Amy Cooper said she voted for Obama.
RD: I think white progressives do the most daily harm to Black people.
MC: It reminds me of my work doing a lot of antiracist work in this very diverse community, and part of the pain in their profession of "I'm not racist." What they really want to be saying is, "I don't want to be racist," but the difficulty in whites failing to acknowledge their own racism is more painful that someone who is openly racist. It's a complicated and complex challenge to get whites who don't want to see themselves as racist to own their racism.
How do you get white people to engage in racial humility?
RD: When you change the question from "Am I a racist?" to "How have I been shaped by the forces of racism that I'm literally swimming in?" it opens a whole lifelong journey.