Hail to You offers a deep dive into the obscure life of Robin DiAngelo, who, after she turned 60 in 2016, became one of the highest paid public intellectuals of our day due to her 2018 book White Fragility.
Little is known about the life of DiAngelo before she graduated from the U. of Seattle when she was evidently 34 in 1991. But between her own statements and those of her husband, who publishes a garrulous, rather likable blog about his life, she appears to have grown up in a Catholic blue-collar broken home on the edge of poverty. She may have spent her 20s doing the hippie travel thing. At some point in the early 1990s, she got hired by the state of Washington to train government employees in diversity awareness or whatever the jargon was back then. She was very shocked that some white employees spoke back to her unsububmissively and even complained — out loud—about affirmative action.
Meanwhile, she appears to have been a lesbian in the 1990s and a birthing coach and then in 2004 in her late 40s got married to a man, the ex-husband of one of her old birthing coach business clients. She appears to be high-strung and her cheerful-sounding husband appears to be good for her mental health.
Over the next 13 years she earned a master’s and a doctorate in education from the U. of Washington. In 2007, in her early 50s, she got hired as a professor of education at Westfield State, which is somewhere or other. In 2011, she coined her zillion-dollar phrase “white fragility.” Basically, it’s her zinger to use on uppity trainees who give her any backtalk: That’s just your White Fragility talking.
“White fragility” is like George Constanza’s comeback “The Jerk Store called; they’re running out of you.”
Except, “white fragility” works!
As I wrote in 2018:
I imagine that if in 1692 in Salem, Ms. DiAngelo had been in the business of offering sermons on the Witch Menace, she would have similarly encountered “witch fragility” as various people objected to pleading guilty to “systemic witchness” and then crying their “witch tears.”
And finally in 2018 she published her book. It’s currently #2 on the overall NYT Bestseller List.
Now it could be that she’s hiding all sorts of exciting secrets about herself. For example, maybe she’s younger than she says she is?
But if we take her at her word that she will turn 64 in September, what strikes me about this outline of her life is how boring and depressing her career has been until her very recently getting rich and honored. To call her an “academic,” for instance, gives the wrong impression because she’s from the prole depths of the most lowbrow academia. She sounds like a character out of a Raymond Carver short story about semi-impoverished creative writing instructors at Directional State U. in the middle of nowhere.
In contrast, compare the career of well-paid gender theorist Judith Butler, who was born the same year as DiAngelo. Butler is famous/notorious for an opaque prose style that is catnip to grad students while impenetrable to civilians:
Butler attended Bennington College before transferring to Yale University, where she studied philosophy, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978 and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1984. She spent one academic year at Heidelberg University as a Fulbright Scholar. She taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University before joining University of California, Berkeley, in 1993. In 2002 she held the Spinoza Chair of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. In addition, she joined the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University as Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Visiting Professor of the Humanities in the spring semesters of 2012, 2013 and 2014 with the option of remaining as full-time faculty.
It sounds like being Judith Butler was, until recently, much more fun than being Robin DiAngelo: e.g., nobody asked poor Robin DiAngelo to jet off to Amsterdam to hold the “Spinoza Chair of Philosophy.”
DiAngelo, in contrast to Butler, appears to have spent years training pink collar office workers in boring diversity sessions. She gives me the impression of being a 110 IQ person who has, over grinding years of delivering boring workshops on diversity, learned how to manipulate the emotions of 100 IQ women.
Hail’s theory is that DiAngelo is basically a blue-collar prole by upbringing who has always resented the kind of white-collar office workers she is paid to harangue.
None of this has much to do with black people. Eventually, her black competitors in the diversity racket will likely figure out a way to get her canceled so they can feast on her fees. But until then the money is good, finally.