Evidence is mounting that “wokeness” is a creation of abnormally anxious and prejudiced white women who feel that elaborate rituals are necessary to interact with people of other races — something that most people, who simply treat them as peers, have no need for.
Matt Taibbi made such a case about Robin DiAngelo this month, highlighting a passage from the “White Fragility” author’s latest book in which she describes not knowing what to do when having dinner with a black person. She compensates by spouting racial and political bromides in an attempt to prove that she wasn’t racist, instead of simply enjoying a dinner with a potential friend.
But there is an entire class of timid white women who have made a profession out of instructing others in racial matters. And there is an unmistakable pattern suggesting that the racial tensions they sense everywhere are projection — that they are exceptionally sheltered, fragile people who have hang-ups about race and make the faulty assumption that others do, too. In short, what has spawned an industry imposing speech codes and bizarre rituals on society at large might be better worked out by the handful of people it affects in a therapist’s office.
Debby Irving has been on the paid race-relations speech circuit since before “White Privilege,” writing a book in 2014 called “Waking Up White.” Both women draw from the same influences, such as 1980s college academic Peggy McIntosh. Irving has 75 speaking dates this year, bringing her expertise from places like the Martha’s Vineyard Nonprofit Collaborative to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Blues Alliance to the Heuvelton School District.
Here — as part of an occasional Daily Wire series called “We Read It So You Don’t Have To” examining leftist influencers through the words of their own books — we bring you insight into the mind of a white, female race expert.
Debby Irving might be the whitest person you have ever met.
Her family came over in the Mayflower era and became major New England landowners. In 1807, it received a land grant in northern Maine.
She was born in 1960 and grew up in “an almost exclusively white Boston suburb” called Winchester, where she attended private schools and spent her free time at the Winchester Country Club and the Winchester Boat Club.
“I identified 100 percent as a New England WASP, with parents and an extended family who bore all the trappings of the social elite and an extensive network of like-looking and like-minded family and friends with whom to preserve our Anglicized, Yankee culture,” she writes.
Growing up, “I moved about in a world where CEOs were just dads and board chairs just friends and family,” she wrote. Even if her life was nearly as different from the average white person as it was from the average black person, she ascribes this to race: “now I can see they were white children with white homemaker mothers and white commuting fathers.”
Establishing one’s place in the cultural hierarchy of WASP elites meant mastering elaborate social codes for everything, and her early life was largely dedicated to this art. When in the south, she knew to say “ma’am.” Among Protestant New Englanders, emotions should always be restrained.
She was so intent on mastering such protocols that the prospect of a faux pas wracked her with anxiety. If she said the wrong thing at a dinner party, there could be “tension, silence, or swift change of topic.” She later suffered from depression and hypochondria.
After college, she used her family’s connections to “Boston’s corporate and foundation gatekeepers” to work in the arts, for a dance company. After one prospective donor said it wanted to help poor people, she gained access to the money by deciding the dance company would rescue children from the “inner city” by bringing 500 of them to watch a recital at the Boston Shakespeare Theater.
She soon realized that there was one set of social codes she’d never been taught: How to interact with such a foreign group. When she was around “people of color,” she was like a “bull in a china shop.” She got “so jumpy when talking to a person of color.” Dealing with minorities was so strange that she had a name for it: the “zap,” similar to a dog running into an invisible fence.
She married a man who worked in real estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the most expensive markets in the country, and who produced the TV series “This Old House,” and who helped support her volunteer and creative endeavors.
The professional diversity trainer now splits her time between Cambridge, where 4% of the population in her neighborhood is black, and a lake cabin on the Maine property passed down from the Mayflower era, where according to Census data, there are only 16 blacks in the surrounding 194 square miles.
Likely more than the average person, she was neurotic, oriented around rules and social conventions, and filled with racist thoughts. When she went to a chiropractor, she was “caught off guard” to find that he was black, and “my subconscious began spewing forth feelings of being unsafe.” When he suggested that she get X-rays, “a suspicion flashed into my mind that he was somehow in cahoots with the X-ray business and scamming me.”
Eventually, she had a revelation: Her racism wasn’t her fault! It was America’s. “How could I live in a racially organized society and not have filed away racial stereotypes?” She became obsessed with racial dynamics to the point where they overshadowed normal human interaction.
To try to get a black friend, she thrust herself in front of a teenage boy who was walking down the street. “Hi there. Isn’t this a beautiful spring day,” she said. The boy ignored her. She knew why he didn’t seem to like her: it must have been the “deep and traumatic history of black men being tortured or killed for speaking to a white woman.”
When she met a Harvard Law graduate who was from Trinidad and therefore had black skin, she was so in awe that she was able to have a normal conversation with her that she wanted to write an article “exploring our connection across racial and cultural differences.”
When she had children of her own, there were minorities in the school, so she joined “diversity committees.” But “the persistent worrying about doing or saying something wrong perplexed me.”
She decided to learn about blacks the way any WASP obsessed with rules and order would: by taking an expensive college course about them.
In her class, she expressed enthusiasm about the election of Barack Obama, but a black classmate was not happy. “I don’t think that’s right, you calling him ‘Obama,'” the classmate said, insisting that he should be called President Obama. Irving knew that she always called all presidents by just their last name — except for George Bush, who she called “something much worse.” But when the stranger said “Doubt it,” Irving felt her “insides churn.” She didn’t know who to believe: herself, or a stranger.
Then she had a discovery. She learned that some of the attributes of “white culture” were “defensiveness” and valuing “facts” rather than “intuition.” That was her!
She was elated that there were more formal classes one could take to teach them the intricate art of speaking with a black person.
“It excited me to know that there were professionals in the world, ‘diversity trainers,’ who could help people like me navigate the complex world of cross-race relations,” she writes.
She learned “tips” one needed to interact with blacks. For example, she learned not to say “shhh!” to them at a movie theater. She was fascinated to learn that you should not call a black person articulate.
But the necessary code was so complex! “Every workshop I went to left me feeling increasingly aware of how easy it was to say something offensive,” she writes.
Though she was unemployed, she paid to attend a conference for professionals of color. She also attended the “White Privilege Conference,” with 1,500 people, about 85% of whom were white. There, she learned more about the complex behavior that must be followed to properly interface with minorities; for example, you should not ask them what they do for work.
Eventually, she went through a transformation. She still had her nerve-wracking anxiety, but this time, it seemed more moral.
When she saw herself in the mirror, she “jumped back in horror. There in the mirror were two bright blue eyes set against dead-fish white skin and unkempt hair the color of the sun… A montage of scary white faces streamed in opaquely over my own. First Hitler, they Yul Brynner in Westworld, and then a stream of white men in business suits.”
She concluded that she and other whites were perpetuating racism through such actions as being involved in their children’s education, volunteering as “committee members and room parents.”
“I assumed the low involvement of families of color [was] a result of parents working long hours. I had no idea that the more white parents like me—already comfortable in America’s public spaces—bonded and took over, the more uncomfortable the school culture became for families of color.”
But there were still more tips to learn. And if you, too, are struggling with severe anxiety, a need to organize life into a set of rules that can be taught, and an inability to have authentic friendships with people who don’t hail from similarly privileged backgrounds, you can learn them too, from the expert herself.