White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo: comedy is an excuse to be racist

White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo: comedy is an excuse to be racist
American Library Association/Flickr
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Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, claimed that comedy is ‘an excuse to be racist,’ during an interview in April. DiAngelo’s attempt to stoke controversy come alongside the release of her new book, Nice Racism, which has failed to make anywhere as much of a splash as her previous book. 

On a publicity tour for the book, sales of which have been lagging, DiAngelo has done numerous interviews talking about her observations of pop culture, one of which focused on comedy and the role it plays in reinforcing systemic racism. 

Speaking to interviewer Joseph Jaffe, Di Angelo stated, “So comedy is, I think it’s an excuse to get to be racist, right? Like irony. And I think TV shows like ‘Family Guy’ and ‘South Park,’ maybe a little bit ‘The Simpsons,’ right, allowed white people to be racist self-consciously, right?”

“Like, ‘I know I’m being racist and therefore it doesn’t count and it’s okay,’” DiAngelo continued, as reported by the Daily Wire. “And it’s a lot like what I exposed that couple to at dinner. I’m still reinforcing racist tropes and ideologies and stories. It’s still being reinforced in everybody’s mind who’s listening, and so I don’t think it’s benign to do it in a joking way. And there is a concept in comedy called punching up, not down. So you know, you want to punch up, there’s very different power dynamics and it doesn’t hurt in same way, it doesn’t invoke a deep deep centuries long history of oppression when you poke fun at say, white people, but it’s very very different when you poke fun at people of color.”

Prior to those comments, DiAngelo said, “One of the stories I open my book, ‘Nice Racism,’ with is going to dinner with another couple, a black couple that I hadn’t met before, and it my urgency to prove I wasn’t racist, immediately, as soon as I see this couple’s black, I need to prove to them I’m not racist. This happened back in the ‘90s, so I wouldn’t be doing this today. But, and so how did I attempt to show them I wasn’t racist? I told them how racist my family was, and I shared every joke and comment my family made, with a kind of ‘Can you believe they said that?’ I mean, I subjected that couple to racism all night long and thought I was showing that I wasn’t racist, right? But I would never have brought the conversation to racism if they were a white couple. There (sic) wouldn’t have even been on my radar.”

“So who I am, my true self, if you will, is changing based on the social conditions,” she added.

Vice President and Executive Editor at the conservative HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, Eric Nelson, noted that DiAngelo’s previous book “sold over a million copies. Her new debuted with about 3500 sold the first week. That's pretty interesting.”

As the Daily Wire’s Ben Johnson points out, “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”).”

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