Recalling The Family of Man: Speaking quite frankly, it happens.
Revolutionary cadres ring in the new ideas, the new terms and the new rules. Along the way, they know they must trample the olds.
Once again, here is Andrew Sullivan's description of the way it was done during the age of the Beatles:
SULLIVAN (6/26/20): The Red Guards did what they did—to their friends, and parents, and teachers—in the spirit of the Communist regime itself. They murdered and tortured, and subjected opponents to public humiliations—accompanied by the gleeful ransacking of religious and cultural sites. In their attack on the Temple of Confucius, almost 7,000 priceless artifacts were destroyed. By the end of the revolution, almost two-thirds of Beijing’s historical sites had been destroyed in a frenzy of destruction against “the four olds: old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas.”"The four olds!" However comical the name may sound, the four olds was an actual thing.
Your grandfather's Oldsmobile wasn't involved. In this passage, the leading authority on the four olds explains when the olds first appeared:
The term "Four Olds" first appeared on June 1, 1966, in Chen Boda's People's Daily editorial, "Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons", where the Old Things were described as anti-proletarian, "fostered by the exploiting classes, [and to] have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years". However, which customs, cultures, habits, and ideas specifically constituted the "Four Olds" were never clearly defined.The four olds were designed to sweep the monsters away. Meanwhile, which customs and habits were the four olds? New decisions might be reached day by day!
At any rate, when John Lennon wrote Revolution, he was saying that he didn't want any part of this new approach, not even in its British and American forms. Some will suggest that this uppity stance was easy for him to adopt.
No one is being murdered and tortured during our current revolutionary days. As with many revolutions, the current revolution has excellent goals, however imperfect or unwise its procedures and immediate points of focus may sometimes seem.
That said, the olds are again being swept away, and are being replaced by the news. We have new language, the better to mark ourselves by. We have new gurus, new rules.
At present, one of the hottest new gurus is best-selling author Robin DiAngelo, the anti-racism corporate workshop leader turned anti-racism writer.
DiAngelo's current best-selling book is extremely hot. This leads us to wonder if the Washington Post's Carlos Lozada is really permitted to say this:
LOZADA (6/21/20): “Race relations are profoundly complex,” Robin DiAngelo writes in “White Fragility,” a book that, two years after a best-selling debut, is having a new burst of popularity and urgency. In the midst of a nationwide debate on institutional racism and police violence, Americans are binge-reading (or at least bulk-buying) recent texts on race to help them grapple with that complexity...DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”—the No. 1 bestseller on the New York Times nonfiction list this week, and The Post’s No. 4—is officially now part of a new canon.In last Sunday's Outlook section, Lozada smashes DiAngeo's book. We mention this because we thought Lozada's review operated on a level that has rarely seen in one of the current olds—in our old upper-end journalism.
Except it doesn’t deserve that distinction. Even as it introduces a memorable concept, “White Fragility” presents oversimplified arguments that are self-fulfilling, even self-serving. The book flattens people of any ancestry into two-dimensional beings fitting predetermined narratives. And reading DiAngelo offers little insight into how a national reckoning such as the one we’re experiencing today could have come about.
We haven't read DiAngelo's book. We did watch the recent rebroadcast of her 2018 interview with Michelle Martin for the PBS show, Amanpour & Co.
We may have seen the original broadcast. We've been amazed by DiAngelo before.
We haven't read DiAngelo's book, but we've seen DiAngelo on TV, and we've read Lozada's review. We thought this passage was astutely reasoned, in a way one rarely sees among the ranks of the current olds:
LOZADA: White fragility is the sort of powerful notion that, once articulated, becomes easily recognizable and widely applicable. (DiAngelo, for instance, uses it to explain Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.) But stare at it a little longer, and one realizes how slippery it is, too. As defined by DiAngelo, white fragility is irrefutable; any alternative perspective or counterargument is defeated by the concept itself. Either white people admit their inherent and unending racism and vow to work on their white fragility, in which case DiAngelo was correct in her assessment, or they resist such categorizations or question the interpretation of a particular incident, in which case they are only proving her point.DiAngelo's basic premise goes like this:
Any dissent from “White Fragility” is itself white fragility. From such circular logic do thought leaders and bestsellers arise.
Every "white" person—every "white" person except DiAngelo herself—is reluctant to acknowledge or admit to his or her racism. (Below, we'll explain the scare quotes.) As with the Red Guard and in Salem Village, so too here:
This disinclination to confess is seen as proof of the crime. This disinclination to confess is what DiAngelo means by "fragility."
In her days as a corporate workshop leader, DiAngelo was forced to deal with this universal, pathetic state of denial. Her condescending attitude towards all the olds with whom she dealt is rarely hard to spot in her televised interviews.
Also rare is the deftness of Lozada's logic. In the passage we've posted, he defines the "Heads I'm right, tails you're wrong" essence of DiAngelo's new superiority:
If the white person confesses her guilt, that shows that she's guilty of racism. If she refuses to confess, that shows the same darn thing!
This, of course, has always been a part of revolutionary logic. If you read Lozada's review in full, you'll be reading an unusually deft presentation, upper-end press corps-wide
As noted, we'd watched DiAngelo on TV not long before reading Lozada's review. On June 12, the PBS program rebroadcast a 17-minute interview which it originally aired, in edited form, in September 2018.
We're sure that DiAngelo is a thoroughly good, decent person. That said, what self-assured revolutionaries we mortals (may occasionally) be!
To an astounding degree, DiAngelo seems to be lacking the gene which provides the capacity for self-doubt. In the exchange with Martin shown below, we see the new certainty joined to elements of the new argot in service to the new ideas.
You'll also see that DiAngelo totally fails to answer the question she's asked. Asked to give an example of her own fragility, she describes her own greatness instead.
We offer the exchange at some length because it's so instructive. To watch the fuller exchange, click here, move ahead to the 7:30 mark. This is the way the exchange was aired during the original broadcast:
MARTIN (9/21/18): You speak very frankly in the book about how you’ve stepped in it yourself, if I can use that phrase. Can you give an example of where you experienced your own white fragility?In that exchange, DiAngelo is asked to cite an instance in which she herself displayed "white fragility." In her response, she describes an incident in which she heroically displayed the opposite of "white fragility."
DIANGELO: So I’m in a room with three black women, two of which I’m very close to and one I don’t know at all. And she gives us a survey to fill out, and it’s tedious to me, it seems kind of template. It doesn’t capture the nuance of what we do.
So I push it aside and I say, “Let me explain. We go out into these different offices and we do these anti-racism trainings. In fact, Debra here was asked not to come back when she went to such-and-such office. I guess her hair scared the white people.” She has long locked braids.
So I want you to notice what I’m doing. Not only am I making a joke about a black woman’s hair, which is a sensitive issue and I do know better, but I’m positioning myself as the cool white person, and they’re all the clueless white people. And I wish I could tell you that I recognized I was doing that. I didn’t.
Meeting’s over. A couple of days later, the assistant, Marsha, comes to me and says, “Angela was really offended by that joke you made about black women’s hair.” And I immediately, “Oh God, thank you.” And I called Angela and I said, "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?"
She said, “Yes.” We sat down. We talked about it. And she said, “I don’t know you. I have no relationship with you. I have no trust with you. And I do not want to be joking about black women’s hair in a professional work meeting with a white woman I don’t know.”
I hear you. I apologize. Then I asked, is there anything I missed? And she said, “Yes. That survey you so glibly shoved aside, I wrote that survey. And I have spent my life justifying my intelligence to white people.”
Owned that, apologized. Asked, is there anything else that needs to be said or heard that we might move forward? And she said, “Yeah. If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?”
DIANGELO: I love her for that! I said, "Publicly, in my case, please. It’s really important that other white people see that I’m not free of this but it gives me an opportunity to model non-defensiveness."
And: “Are we good?” “We’re good.” And we moved on. And one of the things she said to me was: “This kind of stuff happens to us all the time. What has never happened to me before is what you’re doing right now, this repair. And I appreciate it.”
When we read Lozada's review, we learned that DiAngelo's memorized anecdote was drawn straight out of her book. At any rate, here's what happened in the incident she described to Martin:
In a meeting with three black colleagues, DiAngelo adopted a know-it-all attitude about a survey one of her colleagues had designed. Along the way, she threw in a joke which offended one of the women on a racial basis.
When DiAngelo was told that she had offended this woman, she displayed no "white fragility" at all. Instead, she quickly confessed her racism to the offended party.
In the ensuing conversations, she and the offended colleague engage in some truly remarkable forms of the new language. By the time these conversations are done, DiAngelo is being told that she has displayed the new behavior in a way no other white person has ever done!
At the start of her anecdote, DiAngelo chides herself for having "position[ed] myself as the cool white person" as opposed to "all the clueless white people." By the end of the anecdote, she's positioning herself the same way!
She's the newest "white" person ever! Along the way, she has claimed that somewhere in this universe, two different people have actually produced such unlikely locutions as these:
DIANGELO: Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?Back in Maotime, the Red Guard invented some truly remarkable newspeak. Even they would have to marvel at the new locutions described in that passage.
OFFENDED COLLEAGUE: If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?
Han anyone ever said such things? Only the CIA knows!
Meanwhile, we humans! Some of us may sometimes have an amazing lack of self-awareness. So it seems to be with DiAngelo, self-certified queen of the whites.
Every time we read or watch DiAngelo, we're struck by the controlling narrative in which she is the most morally advanced "white" person in all human history. She is always able to see how pathetic the other whites are. As she was told by her offended colleague, she alone, among the whites, possesses the degree of insight and rectitude she put on display in that anecdote.
None of this means that Robin D'Angelo is some sort of bad person. We would suggest that she seems to possesses almost no self-awareness. This will often be the case with those elect who are charged with inventing the newthink.
In closing, a point concerning those scare quotes. It takes us back to a once famous book, The Family of Man [sic].
The Family of Man is a book of photographs assembled by Edward Steichen. Included is a poetic commentary by Carl Sandburg. Sandburg's commentary includes such matter as this:
There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men. There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women. There is only one child in the world and the child's name is All Children.The book has never been out of print since it appeared in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it was very hot, even as the four olds were being smashed and destroyed.
The first cry of a baby in Chicago, or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, "I am! I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family." Many the babies and grownup here from photographs made in sixty-eight nations round our planet Earth. You travel and see what the camera saw. The wonder of human mind, heart wit and instinct is here. You might catch yourself saying, "I'm not a stranger here."
This book was designed to promote a certain understanding of "race." It was the dominant liberal understanding of "race" in that street-fighting era.
According to this dominant thinking, there was only one race, the human race. Babies were the very same babies in Chicago and in Rangoon.
According to this revolutionary thinking, the human race should be understood as a family. The concept that people belong to different "races" was an example of oldthink. It was understood to be an unfortunate product of "the world the slaveholders made."
That was conventional liberal/progressive thinking back then. On balance, it's now a discarded artifact of counter-revolutionary oldthink.
Today, our tribe is deeply invested the idea that everyone actually does belong to some particular race. Not that various people will be treated as if they belong to a race, but that it's actually so.
Everybody belongs to a race. Your identity actually is your race. We will remind you of this every day. Everything turns on your "race."
So goes one part of our modern tribe's tribal newthink. For ourselves, we think the oldview was much more humane, but then too was also more accurate.