Steak and potatoes; “bland is best”

Jonathan Chait wrote a thing in New York magazine last month, about anti-racism training and some eccentric ideas some such trainers (or entrepreneurs) have embraced. In Googling for more I saw that National Review and Don Junior were also interested, so keep that in mind – but even National Review and Don Junior aren’t wrong about everything. (Nearly everything, in Junior’s case, but not quite everything.)

The star of anti-racism training is Robin DiAngelo of White Fragility fame. What Chait focuses on is the whiteness studies part.

The African-American History Museum has a page on whiteness, which summarizes the ideas that the racism trainers have brought into relatively wide circulation. The museum’s page summarizes what it calls “white culture” in this astonishing graphic:

What’s the problem? The problem is ascribing things like “emphasis on scientific method” to whiteness ffs! Bam, with one blow of their fist they declare black people uninterested in science. That will work out well! I guess Katherine Johnson was just mistakenly trying to be “white” with all that math skill she had? Neil Tyson should have played basketball instead?

And by the way this dreck was created by white people, for…anti-racism training. What would pro-racism training look like?

Also the graphic is full of baby talk. In the second item on the list, Family Structure, it says “father, mother, 2.3 children is the ideal social unit.” It is? White people think 2.3 children is the ideal? What do they do with the .3 of a child?

It’s confused, it’s dopy, it’s talking about different things at different times, it’s a grab bag, it’s silly. The section labeled “history” – what is that even supposed to mean? History as taught in school, history as scholarship, history as museum gift shops, what? And it’s not true.

But the worst part is including various instrumental virtues and treating them as part of whiteness when what they are part of is what it takes to get shit done. Oh no, planning for the future! Paying attention to time! How hideously pale, everyone must do the opposite!

Chait comments:

“White” values include things like “objective, rational thinking”; “cause and effect relationships”; “hard work is the key to success”; “plan for the future”; and “delayed gratification.” The source for this chart is another, less-artistic chart written by Judith Katz in 1990. Katz has a doctorate in education and moved into the corporate consulting world in 1985, where, according to her résumé, she has “led many transformational change initiatives.” It is not clear what in Katz’s field of study allowed her to establish such sweeping conclusions about the innate culture of white people versus other groups.

Also: she is white. It’s almost as if it’s a cunning plan by actual racists.

The African-American History Museum took the page down after all this hostile attention. Good move.

24 Responses to “Steak and potatoes; “bland is best””