Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility just entered its third year on The New York Times best seller list, but her latest release — Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm — seems unlikely to match that performance. Still, it has broken onto the prestigious book list ahead of at least one better-selling book by a conservative author: Michael Knowles’ Speechless, which sold nearly twice as many copies, according to Publishers Weekly.
White Fragility saw sales skyrocket after the death of George Floyd, but her follow-up has opened to negative reviews and poor sales. “Robin DiAngelo’s last book sold over a million copies. Her new title debuted with about 3,500 sold the first week,” according to Eric Nelson of Broadside Brooks.
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
Yet The New York Times catapulted DiAngelo ahead of better-selling authors to number 13 of the 15 titles on the Times’ list — and even then, Nelson says, only “because it was an unusually slow week” for book sales.
DiAngelo’s thesis this time out is that racism is often unconsciously perpetrated by people who consider themselves “Woke.” Among her proof of widespread racism, she condemned white people who smile at black people. “I have heard [b]lack people talk about the awkwardness of white people ‘over-smiling,’” she wrote. “A friend described going to Whole Foods and feeling exhausted by the pressure to validate all of the over-solicitous white people making a point of smiling at her when she just wanted to get her errands done and get home.” Lest her readers believe that racial progress has been made (and her services may no longer be necessary), DiAngelo warns that the fact that someone is smiling “doesn’t mean that anti-blackness isn’t simmering just below the surface.”
Without a media feeding frenzy or a racial conflagration to fuel its sales, her fourth book has experienced disappointingly low sales, which the media have largely chosen to ignore. The weak sales numbers show that her book did not benefit from her tour of the legacy media. During the week of June 29, when her book debuted, DiAngelo gave interviews to CNN, “CBS This Morning,” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (where she said she had been doing this work for “20-plus decades”).
Perhaps out of guilt, the legacy media have largely kept the secret that Nice Racism seems poised to become the biggest flop since “Heaven’s Gate.” As of this writing, the only significant outlets to cover DiAngelo’s flagging fortunes are three right-of-center news outlets: The Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and The Washington Free Beacon. (One of those is an opinion piece.)
Her book may not have sold, because broader society has rejected the top-down imposition of racial collectivism like the kind espoused in DiAngelo’s new book. It may also be that racism has actually been reduced over the years. For instance, the number of charges of racial discrimination filed with the EEOC has fallen 38% since its height under the Obama administration.
DiAngelo made an articulate argument against “antiracist” training while promoting Nice Racism, telling CNN that “antiracism” presentations like the kind she offers “can make us more confident and more complacent and believe that we’ve arrived, that we know all we need to know, and that we are the ones that are now ready to enlighten everybody else.”
Those who watched or read her interviews may have also noted that DiAngelo sprinkled her speech with contradictory statements. She told CNN:
While I believe that [b]lack people understand the [w]hite experience more deeply than [w]hite people do because they’ve had to understand it to navigate it across their lives, there is a place where they just can’t know what it is to be [w]hite. And that’s the piece that I can take up and I can pick it up in a way that is both visible to [w]hite people in a way that it wasn’t before and is undeniable.
That kind of verbal jiu-jitsu allows her to maintain the value of her lucrative business without making the equity-building decision to step down and let a person of color take her place.
That assures that, while her sales may have declined, DiAngelo’s net worth will continue to expand. Robin DiAngelo has hiked her speaking fee by $5,000 since 2019, to $20,000 per appearance and $40,000 for a half-day event, and “[t]he eight to ten private events DiAngelo says she speaks at each month likely net her at least $1.5 million annually,” reported The Washington Free Beacon. “As of July 2020, she owned three homes in Washington state worth a combined $1.6 million.”
But DiAngelo’s plummeting sales, whether they garner media attention or not, suggest her position may become less financially remunerative than it has been because she insulted her intended market: college-educated, left-of-center whites.
“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,” wrote Philip Klein at National Review Online. “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.”
As Marji Ross wrote, DiAngelo’s inclusion proves that the formulation of The New York Times’ best seller list is “not exactly a scientific exercise. Instead, the List is ripe for tampering and manipulation.”
- Robin DiAngelo’s New Book Bombs, With One-Fifth As Many Debut-Week Sales As Michael Knowles’. You Will Believe Which One Made NYT List
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.