Social Justice Usage
Source: DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Beacon Press, 2018, pp. 4–5.
None of the white people whose actions I describe in this book would identify as racist. In fact, they would most likely identify as racially progressive and vehemently deny any complicity with racism. Yet all their responses illustrate white fragility and how it holds racism in place. These responses spur the daily frustrations and indignities people of color endure from white people who see themselves as open-minded and thus not racist. This book is intended for us, white progressives who so often—despite our conscious intentions—make life so difficult for people of color. I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as anyone who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or is in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure other people see us as having arrived. None of our energy will be going into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.
New Discourses Commentary
When Social Justice scholars and activists speak disparagingly about white people thinking of themselves as a “good white,” this means that they see them as having failed to grasp how racism works because they (mistakenly) believe themselves not to be racist. The Social Justice view, drawing upon critical race Theory (see also, interest convergence), tends to insist that white people claim allyship with people of color so as to position themselves in a way that enables them to feel good about themselves and to avoid further antiracism work into their own complicity in systemic racism and white supremacy (see also, solidarity). Being a “good white” is considered profoundly problematic. Repeatedly throughout the critical race and critical whiteness literature, we find insistences that there is no such thing as a positive white identity because of its inherent relationship to systemic power.
Within Social Justice scholarship, racism is understood not as attitudes and behaviors held by individuals due to racial prejudice but as a system of power that is learned and internalized through socialization. It then works through white people regardless of whether their intentions are good or not (see also, internalized dominance and white supremacy). Under the Theory of Social Justice, everybody in the Western world is understood to have been born into a set of discourses that contain the belief that white people are superior to people of color (see also, racial contract, white equilibrium, and white solidarity). White people are motivated not to notice these discourses or their own complicity in perpetuating them (see also, dominance, positionality, white comfort, white ignorance, and white innocence) and so have a moral responsibility to learn to be better able to see them and attempt to reduce them (although they will have limited success due to the deeply ingrained nature of racism). (See also, critical consciousness, wokeness, and antiracism.)
This concept of racism as a system one cannot help learning and repeating is in contradiction to liberal concepts of racism, which maintain that racism is a belief that one or some races are superior to others that people can choose to hold or reject. (Critical race Theory makes the nature of this opposition explicit and openly criticizes liberalism for it.) Liberalism promotes the following understanding: people who hold the belief that some races are superior to others are racist (and this is bad), while those who hold the belief that no race is superior to any other are not racist (and this is good). This view is viciously problematized in the Social Justice literature, especially by contemporary critical race Theory, because it is believed to make it much harder to confront racism in white people because they’re too afraid of being considered bad for being complicit in systems of racism. It is important to liberals who value racial equality to support non-racist attitudes and oppose racist ones and thus produce a society where racism is increasingly recognized as bad and ceases to have any place.
Many antiracism activists working from a position of critical race Theory do not believe it is possible to be non-racist, however; one can only be racist or actively antiracist. That is, Social Justice’s view of antiracism rejects liberal positions on race and racism—and insists these are little more than the constructions (or regulatory fictions) of an ideological system by which racism can be perpetuated by providing minoritized racial groups with the illusions of freedom and opportunity. Instead, they insist that the idea that some white people are racist and some are not just enables white people to evade their complicity in racism by saying that they are among the “good whites” because they are doing their antiracism work or are not going around explicitly saying that whites are superior.
For this reason, as can be read in the example above, Social Justice Theory is particularly harsh on “white progressives” (that is, good whites), who it insists are the most complicit in causing and perpetuating racism. In plain language, this supports the hypothesis that the more woke one gets, the more intensely one will be criticized by the woke. This makes it very difficult to avoid concluding that critical whiteness studies done by white people are hardly more than the masochistic projections of the theorists engaging in it (and reveals a particularly sadistic component to the same when done by people of color).
Social Justice activists, especially critical race Theorists, believe it is essential that everybody accepts their belief that racism is a deeply ingrained belief system that no-one can escape. Liberals tend to believe that normalizing racism in this way carries the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and to assert that individuals have the ability to reject racist beliefs and the moral responsibility to do so. Antiracism activists, on the other hand, insist that this is yet another way that white dominance continues to oppress people of color and tend to believe that to disagree with their views is, itself, another form of racism.
Ally/allyship; Antiracism; Complicity; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; Discourses; Dominance; Equality; Identity; Ideology; Injustice; Interest convergence; Internalized dominance; Liberalism; Minoritize; Normalize; Oppression; Position; Privilege; Problematic; Problematize; Progressive; Race; Racial contract; Racism (systemic); Regulatory fiction; Social construction; Social Justice; Socialization; Solidarity; Systemic power; Theory; West, the; White; White comfort; White complicity; White equilibrium; White fragility; White ignorance; White innocence; White solidarity; White supremacy; Whiteness; Whiteness studies; Woke/Wokeness
Source: Applebaum, Barbara. Being White, Being Good. Lexington Books. Kindle Edition, pp. 2–3.
In the field of critical whiteness studies, for instance, questions of complicity are especially notable in the academic discourse around social justice education. Here we find a claim about complicity that is addressed to all white people regardless of and despite of their good intentions.
What I refer to as “the white complicity claim” maintains that white people, through the practices of whiteness and by benefiting from white privilege, contribute to the maintenance of systemic racial injustice. However, the claim also implies responsibility in its assumption that the failure to acknowledge such complicity will thwart whites in their efforts to dismantle unjust racial systems and, more specifically, will contribute to the perpetuation of racial injustice.
Recognizing that one is complicit, according to the claim, is a necessary (albeit not sufficient) condition of challenging systemic racial oppression. Most significantly, since the white complicity claim presumes that racism is often perpetuated through well-intended white people, being morally good may not facilitate and may even frustrate the recognition of such responsibility…
What is of specific interest about white complicity is the claim that white people can reproduce and maintain racist practices even when, and especially when, they believe themselves to be morally good.
Source: DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility. Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition, p. v.
Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We consider a challenge to our racial worldviews as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as an unsettling and unfair moral offense. The smallest amount of racial stress is intolerable—the mere suggestion that being white has meaning often triggers a range of defensive responses. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation.
Source: DiAngelo, Robin., https://pluralist.com/robin-diangelo-colorblindness-dangerous/
“I’d like to be a little less white, which means a little less oppressive, oblivious, defensive, ignorant and arrogant.”
Revision date: 2/4/20