Sun, 26 Apr 2020 02:21:58 +00001]}Dear Nanette,

I just wanted to thank you for your voice. I happened upon your website because a colleague sent a link for an upcoming talk given by Resmaa Menakem (whose book I have been listening to) and Robin D’Angelo. The title of a talk you gave (and I hope will continue to give) “beyond white fragility” stood out to me. So I have been reading some articles on your blog and want to let you know that I hope you keep it up, keep honing your craft, get your book out there, etc. The last paragraph of a recent essay really resonated with me:

“Debbie Irving woke up white in 2009, then made a wad of dough when thousands of white people woke up with her in her 2014 book about coming to realize how white privilege has indeed buoyed her life circumstances. The book White Fragility by white author Robin DiAngelo lorded over the New York Times best seller list for over a year and all she did was restate all the things white people haven’t been listening to black people tell them for decades. But a white lady with some degrees puts it in a book, now everyone’s ready to pay over a hundred dollars when she comes to town to essentially read the book back to them– the book she already got twenty five dollars out of them for once (“nice work if you can get it”). Anything but, God forbid, go to the black side of town, sit at these people’s dining room tables and listen to them like their stories really could stand on their own.”

That last line hit me in the gut. While I appreciate what I believe they are trying to do (not having read either of their books) there is something deeply sad to me that these are the voices we are listening to. I am myself a white woman, but I grew up in Orange, NJ (90-95% African American). Complicated. My life has gotten whiter the older and more educated I became. I am both heartened that white America is for some reason “waking up” and wanting to understand the effects and legacy of hundreds of years of slavery, oppression, and discrimination of every kind, and, at the same time, wary of how it is doing it.

Ironically, I am a psychologist and spend a lot of time talking to people about their feelings. But I am seeing in the institute in which I teach how people seem to think that they are going to right some wrong simply by facing their own shame and guilt, sharing that with other liberal-minded people, and then challenging (e.g., shaming) other white people to face their own “fragility.” For the life of me I have not been able to figure out how this changes the reality of systemic oppression for black people.

I still have not quite figured out how I can effectively participate in undoing racism. My first step seems to be educating myself further, reflecting on my own complicated history around this issue, and seeking out voices and experiences of African -American people to learn from. Yours will be one. I do hope you put me on a list to let me know when your book is released. And thank you.

Sincerely,
Eileen M. Russell

AUTHOR: Eileen Russell
AUTHOR EMAIL: Eileenmrussell@gmail.com
AUTHOR URL:
SUBJECT: [Nanette D. Massey] Contact
IP: 173.70.155.195
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[1_Name] => Eileen Russell
[2_Email] => Eileenmrussell@gmail.com
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[4_Additional Comments] => Dear Nanette,

I just wanted to thank you for your voice. I happened upon your website because a colleague sent a link for an upcoming talk given by Resmaa Menakem (whose book I have been listening to) and Robin D’Angelo. The title of a talk you gave (and I hope will continue to give) “beyond white fragility” stood out to me. So I have been reading some articles on your blog and want to let you know that I hope you keep it up, keep honing your craft, get your book out there, etc. The last paragraph of a recent essay really resonated with me:

“Debbie Irving woke up white in 2009, then made a wad of dough when thousands of white people woke up with her in her 2014 book about coming to realize how white privilege has indeed buoyed her life circumstances. The book White Fragility by white author Robin DiAngelo lorded over the New York Times best seller list for over a year and all she did was restate all the things white people haven’t been listening to black people tell them for decades. But a white lady with some degrees puts it in a book, now everyone’s ready to pay over a hundred dollars when she comes to town to essentially read the book back to them– the book she already got twenty five dollars out of them for once (“nice work if you can get it”). Anything but, God forbid, go to the black side of town, sit at these people’s dining room tables and listen to them like their stories really could stand on their own.”

That last line hit me in the gut. While I appreciate what I believe they are trying to do (not having read either of their books) there is something deeply sad to me that these are the voices we are listening to. I am myself a white woman, but I grew up in Orange, NJ (90-95% African American). Complicated. My life has gotten whiter the older and more educated I became. I am both heartened that white America is for some reason “waking up” and wanting to understand the effects and legacy of hundreds of years of slavery, oppression, and discrimination of every kind, and, at the same time, wary of how it is doing it.

Ironically, I am a psychologist and spend a lot of time talking to people about their feelings. But I am seeing in the institute in which I teach how people seem to think that they are going to right some wrong simply by facing their own shame and guilt, sharing that with other liberal-minded people, and then challenging (e.g., shaming) other white people to face their own “fragility.” For the life of me I have not been able to figure out how this changes the reality of systemic oppression for black people.

I still have not quite figured out how I can effectively participate in undoing racism. My first step seems to be educating myself further, reflecting on my own complicated history around this issue, and seeking out voices and experiences of African -American people to learn from. Yours will be one. I do hope you put me on a list to let me know when your book is released. And thank you.

Sincerely,
Eileen M. Russell
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