Last year, in the wake of the riots and protests triggered by George Floyd’s death, white anti-racist author Robin DiAngelo appeared to be everywhere. Her book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism skyrocketed to the top of the Amazon bestseller list; she raked in five-figure speaking fees; trained major corporations; and addressed 184 Democratic members of Congress. But it seems like her license to print money comes with limits:
Robin DiAngelo’s last book sold over a million copies. Her new debuted with about 3500 sold the first week. That’s pretty interesting.
— Eric Nelson (@literaryeric) July 8, 2021
As of this writing, her new book is ranked 2,326 on Amazon.
My rough thesis is that white progressives were okay purchasing her earlier a book because it was on white racism broadly speaking. As long as white people in general are being accused of being racist and fragile, white progressive readers can imagine that other white people are racist and fragile, and not them. But the title of her new book is: Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm. In retrospect, it may not have been the wisest marketing strategy for DiAngelo to write a book directly accusing her core audience of white progressives of being racists themselves.
For those unfamiliar with the book (which I confess to not having read) this ridiculous CNN interview provides some background. This anecdote is a taste of what DiAngelo’s readers can expect:
DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” remembers the precise moment it happened. A friend invited her to join a few friends of hers for dinner. When DiAngelo arrived at the restaurant, she was excited to see that the couple waiting for them at the table was Black.
DiAngelo was a college student who had no Black friends and had rarely spent any time around Black people. But she saw herself as a proud progressive and a feminist. She proceeded to tell the Black couple how racist her family was and spent the entire evening recounting every uncensored racist joke, story, and comment she could remember them making, despite her dinner companions’ growing discomfort.
She didn’t know it at the time, but DiAngelo was doing something she now calls “credentialing” — a conversational tactic White progressives sometimes use to show Black people they are not racist. Well-meaning White liberals do this by casually dropping into conversations such comments as, “My grandchildren are biracial,” or “I don’t see color,” or “My best friend is Black.
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