Who Radicalized Robin DiAngelo? A biographical investigation into the coiner and promoter of White Fragility theory

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A character study of Robin DiAngelo, the woman behind “White Fragility,” is in order.

What follows is an investigation into DiAngelo’s family origin, childhood and adolescence, Lost Years, personality, some on career and education and relationships but with a personal focus. Novel sources and hard-to-find information extensively used.

This is a “biographical continuation” of the investigation into the history of the term she term she coined; see “White Fragility” and the Academia-to-Mainstream ‘Pipeline.’ An investigation into White Fragility Theory and its life-cycle from 2011 to 2020.

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In Pursuit of the Woman Behind White Fragility Theory. “Who Radicalized Robin DiAngelo?”

By E.H. Hail
5500 words

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Introductory: The ‘People’ behind the ‘Pipeline’

“From an obscure fringe of academia in 2011 to the mainstream by mid-2020” sums up how the term/idea/taunt/disempowerment-slogan “White Fragility” traveled through US discourse.

There were several identifiable steps, stages, critical periods. The upward inflection points were generally associated with violence. A full account of the ascent-cycle for White Fragility can be read here.

White Fragility followed a traceable path, a path which we have referred to as The Pipeline, in which ideas born or nurtured on the fringes academia, so radical or bizarre they are laughed-off at the time (if indeed any mainstream person even becomes aware of them at this stage) in time penetrate to the “mainstream.” To use a more well-known term, this is the process by which the Overton Window shifts (is shifted). A close look at the way The Pipeline works gives great lessons on how politics and discourse work in the US and the West generally.

What about the ‘people’ behind the ‘Pipeline’? Ideas travel through The Pipeline. The term ‘Pipeline’ is intended to convey that a lot of ground is covered. White Fragility doctrine wasn’t imposed on America by some edict by Robin DiAngelo out of the blue in mid-2020. As such the process cannot really be reduced to (blamed on) the actions of single actors along the way. All the same, individuals do fill certain roles at different stages of The Pipeline and it would help to understand these people. Who fills these roles? Who are these people? What motivates them?

There are several brief portraits of individuals along different stages of The Pipeline process (ascent cycle) for White Fragility, but none is more important than the term’s coiner and popularizer, ROBIN DiANGELO. This study is about her.

Who is this woman? What lessons might a close look at her background yield as to how/why she ended up devoting her life to the promotion of an aggressive strain of ethnomasochism with religious-cult tendencies? In other words, Who (or ‘what’) radicalized Robin DiAngelo?

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“White Fragility” and the Academia-to-Mainstream ‘Pipeline.’ An investigation into White Fragility Theory and its life-cycle from 2011 to 2020

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An inquiry into the birth and rise of WHITE FRAGILITY along the Academia-to-Mainstream ‘Pipeline’

An in-depth tracing of the origins and rise of the term/idea/slogan “White Fragility” from deep obscurity in fringe-academia (2006/2011) to its steady rise on the left-wing talking circuit (2010s) to its sudden breakthrough into mainstream discourse (June 2020). A study of this process yields insights into the way the academia-to-mainstream “idea pipeline” works. Forward-jumps and upward inflection points for White Fragility are, in almost every case, associated with political violence and peaks of racial-political agitation. The surprisingly tight correlation is suggestive of High-Low Coalition Against the Middle theory of US politics.

By E.H. Hail

9000 words

(See also companion post at “Who Radicalized Robin DiAngelo?“, a biographical exploration of the coiner of the term White Fragility and a search for her motivations.)

Robin DiAngelo speaking on her discovery of White Fragility, July 2018

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Article Organization

This article is really about the academia-to-mainstream pipeline of ideas and how it works. It is inspired by the sudden cultural phenomenon of “White Fragility,” which I capitalize herein to refer to it as an idea rather than as the thing itself, i.e. when I say “the rise of White Fragility” I mean the rise of the idea/term and not the thing itself, i.e. not an increase in Whites displaying fragility.

The article is organized into sections to tell the story, the biography of an idea.

It opens with background and theory. Next it follows the ascent-arc for White Fragility theory, roughly chronologically and identifies key inflection points when interest shot up and stayed high. This is done using a data-driven approach to trace the course of White Fragility. The goal is to answer the questions of ‘when’ and ‘how’ White Fragility was able to break through, with also one section on ‘where’ and some indication also of ‘who’ played key roles along the way. Case-study examples of uses in the wild during its ascent cycle fill in a human side, supplementing the data-driven narrative, largely from Google Trends. The end of the article consists of remarks on the relevance of the findings for present-day cultural and political analysis.

Each section is internally linked here for easier navigation and reference:

  • Introductory: “White Fragility” breaks through; things to note on the phenomenon;
  • The Research Question: Where does the term White Fragility come from; how did it succeed?;
  • Summary of the findings of the investigation;
  • The story begins;
  • On the Academia-to-Reality Pipeline, of which White Fragility turns out to be a striking example. Discussion of remarks by John Ellis on the general process; discussion of Christopher Caldwell’s work as applicable here;
  • Who is Robin DiAngelo?
  • 2006: “White Fragility” is quietly born;
  • Early uses of “white fragility” (pre-2011);
  • 2011: The beginning of the long ascent arc for White Fragility;
  • Important events between 2012 and 2014 in the White Fragility cycle: The Racism Moral-Panics of the Obama era and the Black Lives Matter movement; the first-ever small, non-sustained breakout of the term “white fragility” (Nov. 2014, same week as Ferguson Riots);
  • March/April 2015: White Fragility’s first breakout, associated with ongoing disturbances in Ferguson and fresh Black Lives Matter riots in Baltimore;
  • White Fragility’s major July 2016 upward inflection point, associated strongly with the peak of Black Lives Matter and with Trump-Hillary race;
  • “White Fragility” in the James Damore material leaked from Google’s internal communications and employee message boards from late 2015 to 2017;
  • Late 2016 to June 2018: “White Fragility” waits in the wings for its next inflection point in its ascent cycle;
  • June 2018: DiAngelo publishes her White Fragility book, which appears on NYT Bestseller List, but the term is still far from mainstream;
  • Dating the exact time the White Fragility takeoff begins to May 27, 2020, precisely in line with the George Floyd riots;
  • The breakout rise of the term “Systemic Racism” parallels the “White Fragility” arc;
  • The geography of the advance of “White Fragility;”
  • Conclusions, Lessons, and Further Work.

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[Introductory]
White Fragility theory bursts forth onto the mainstream scene; things to note on the phenomenon

If you were in the US in June 2020, or observing events in the US, you very likely heard the term “White Fragility.” Seemingly dropped out of nowhere onto the body politic, all of a sudden it was everywhere.

Here is its course from 2011 to June 2020:

The discoverer of this important new doctrine was suddenly famous:

The breakout of the term/idea White Fragility was dramatic enough to be worthy of close study.

Where did it come from?

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Against the Corona-Panic, Part XV: The coronavirus death curves in Stay-Open Sweden and the Stay-Locked-Down USA are remarkably similar over four months, discrediting lockdown-pushers

For earlier entries “Against the Corona Panic,” see:
Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,
Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen,
Fourteen, Fifteen

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Was the lockdown necessary? Sweden continues to show, No, it wasn’t. Regardless of strategy used, the epidemic curves generally look the same.

I recently noticed, in passing, that the shape of the corona-death curves for Sweden and the USA were very similar. I hadn’t seen anyone graph them together on the same scale (on a per capita basis), so I did it. The graph is above.

They really are remarkably similar, aren’t they? The two curves show the same rise; peaks coming at the same time and reaching the same magnitude; sustained declines also at the same time and magnitude.

Despite it all, the flu epidemic runs its course. Despite all the huff and the fluff, the normal epidemic curves proceed as they always do, making the whole Lockdown effort a sad and tragic farce. Further comments on similarities and differences follow below.

[Update: Federalist raises a good objection to this graph the comments. Viewed alone, some might think: “See? The US curve is lower. That proves the lockdown was a good idea.” The point is, both are something like 25x to 50x below the predictions made in mid-March that justified the lockdowns. Regardless of strategy employed, both ended up following the same, low curve, peaking in late flu-season and tailing off by late spring. See my reply. Both Sweden and US death curves are dwarfed by the prediction curves.]

This USA vs. Sweden graph is a new one in this series, so I am leading with it here. Several other of the running Sweden graphs I’ve been running were updated for this post (Deaths and ICU-intakes; all-cause mortality; actual deaths vs. the predictions) and the four updated graphs and comments on them follow below.

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Sweden was Right; the Media was Wrong

The pro-Panic side has always had those loudly insisting there was going to be a big surge in deaths in Sweden, any time now. Right around the corner, inevitable, just you wait! As if divine punishment for corona-blasphemy. To paraphrase quote a Swede for the occasion, How dare they not to lock down (Greta Thunberg, 2019). The media naturally also pushed this, or some implicit version of it.

Here was one CoronaPanic-pusher, speaking two months ago (April 29), stringing people along that his foretold apocalypse was just delayed, that’s all:

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Against the Corona Panic, Part XIV: Total all-cause mortality data in Europe confirms Wuhan-Coronavirus comparable in magnitude to flu waves of the 2010s; Panic and lockdowns fully discredited

For earlier entries “Against the Corona Panic,” see:
Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,
Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen,
Fourteen, Fifteen

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Much work in the field of Corona-Panic Studies remains to be done. Some of it is technical/quantitative and some of it psycho-sociological (how/why did the Panic Pandemic begin and why were we unable to contain it?) and political.

The pro-Panic side still has sway over much of the public mind. I remain an optimist that, at least for many people, the facts can penetrate the fog.

The anti-Panic side has long recognized Total Mortality, the sum of all-cause deaths for a given place and time, as a dataset that can slices through the Corona-Panic fog.

This post is a large-scale overview of total mortality in European countries from 2015 tthrough May 2020.

First, I present the case of Berlin, Germany.

(If you read no more of this post, the point is conveyed in this one graphic; also for skimmers, see the final section which summarizes the magnitude of the all-cause-total-mortality excesses in all the countries reviewed against their own late-2010s flu spikes, which constitutes a kind of TLDR here):

See below for a brief explanation of what these lines mean.

There never really was any “Corona” event at all in Berlin observable in all-cause mortality. It was so mild as to be negligible, totally forgettable. The disconnect between this reality and the intense media coverage is puzzling, and a core subject of study withinin Corona Panic Studies.

What’s going on? Is something unusual about Berlin? Let’s see. I invite you to stay along for the long haul here and see for yourself.

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This post will include a look at each of the 24 countries for which data is available in the EuroMOMO database. It includes the following sections:

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Against the Corona Panic, Part XIII: The “Corona-Riots.” The angry looting, rioting, arson, were caused by the Corona-Response and by the pro-Panic side’s complete victory and lack of serious/successful pushback by the anti-Panic side; is the US any longer a serious country?

For earlier entries “Against the Corona Panic,” see:
Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,
Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen

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“Black people built this country — They have the right to tear it down” (pro-Riot slogan, Washington DC, May 31)

With riots, looting, and arson widespread in late May and early June, suddenly we see almost no media at all cover Corona anymore. The seamless transition of coverage is curious, if they really believed it was such a major pandemic with “100,000 dead.” What’s going on?

The best way to understand it: The Corona-Response caused the riots in the US. The riots are a direct extension of Corona.

The media, and most regular people who get their information from the media and follow its lead, all go along with the charade that the riots are about what the claimed trigger is, which any close analysis or basic critical thinking will show to be untrue.

Most of the media, academic, corporations, celebrities, and in a word the entire US regime, has spent a long time pushing the ideas here, behind the latest quasi-hoax (the claimed trigger). They always meant it to be controllable, a political-cultural wrecking ball with them at the helm, for the people they rile up to serve as their pets, as it were. What happens when the ‘wrecking ball’ goes rogue, or the ‘pet’ goes rabid?

Still, true-believers in large sections of America are easy to find.

A white female protester holds up a sign, “Being Black should NOT mean less likely to survive | #BlackLivesMatter,” Washington DC, May 31

The role of the hostile media and elite-class in inciting the riots

The media, for its part, with the lifting of the Corona-Lockdowns it agitated so hard for and with Corona looking like the failed god it always was (though it will still have partisans and believers for time to come), as if on cue began pushing the latest moral panic/malicious-hoax hard, and said not a word against protestors for breaking social distancing rules, as it had condemned the anti-Lockdown Michigan and other anti-Panic protesters before as “terrorists.” A close examination of facts of the claimed trigger is something no one in the media seemed to want, nor even cared about (which sounds to me again like Corona).

These are largely race riots and the riots are very obviously a follow-on effect of the wrong, destructive, and often-maliciously-made lockdown policies. The riots cannot be understood at all outside a Corona Lockdown context.

A concise summary of the pro-CoronaPanic stranglehold on the media and its effects, all predictable (from @JeremyDBoreing)

The pro-Panic side is guilty here, a national-scale Yelling ‘Fire!’ in a Crowded Theater situation. The writing at this website and elsewhere, fighting a rearguard action against the pro-Panic side’s arguments (imposed from above by a coup d’etat junta after a while, with mass support via religion), was worth it, and remains worth it for the historical record and as people pick up the pieces going forward.

I have several more Corona posts planned (on who formed into the pro- and anti-Panic coalitions in March and why). While they may seem irrelevant now, I believe in the medium- and long-run they are more valuable than ever.

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A police line blocks an intersection, Washington DC, May 31; the crowd is largely white leftists and carries signs that say “White Silence is Violence” and similar

Why does the media not so much as bring up the Corona Lockdown as a factor in the riots/looting, much less argue (point out) that the Corona-Response (lockdown) is the direct cause of the riots? This is curious given how obvious the connection is.

For one thing, it shows just how weak the anti-Panic side was in the media and elite class, which we already knew.

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