Thank you for this article!
I admire DiAngelo and the work she has done to expose institutional realities of white supremacy as well as the white defense mechanisms that are employed to protect that power.
I believe that BOTH the institutional and the individual matter. I think that placing everything in the ‘institutional’ bucket allows for some degree of personal shirking of responsibility, even as pure ‘individual’ responsibility denies the impact of collective institutionalized realities. DiAngelo doesn’t focus as much on pragmatic decisions that white people can make — these are individual decisions.
Generally speaking, white people lie to themselves in order to protect their investment in power, which is ‘whiteness.’ This self-deception can be managed on an individual basis by assuming that one’s perception is distorted and relying most heavily upon the person (POC) with the actual experience. This will require that higher level positions controlled by white people be replaced with POC’s. This means the cronyism which exists in each profession — in which corporations favor WHITE men at higher levels and, in the case of publishing, favor WHITE women — and which elevates white mediocrity above POC higher-level performance must be ignored and eliminated.
The way this is done on an INDIVIDUAL level is to have white people assume ‘privilege,’ not ‘merit,’ at each step. That is, if you, the individual white person, got the promotion, look around and ask who of color DIDN’T get it, and then act to give that to that POC. No matter how much this feels like ‘giving up,’ the white person should ASSUME PRIVILEGE and intellectually realize that this is actually ‘giving back’ to its proper owner: the POC performing at a higher level.
If each white person ASSUMED privilege — instead of MERIT — then each one would be more inclined to shift that gifted item, whether it be prize, promotion, recognition, house in suburbs, etc etc — to the POC. This may feel demoralizing. But intellectually, it is the right thing to do. White people should ASSUME they will FEEL uncomfortable but should conclude that, given white supremacy, it is the RIGHT thing to do, regardless of how it feels.
I propose that white people reevaluate the concept of ‘merit’ regardless of whether or not this FEELS wrong: assume that it will feel wrong to ‘give’ the white prize ‘away,’ but understand intellectually that this is in reality allowing the actual winner to win. One cannot ‘give away’ something that was never truly that person’s to begin with; they can only reorient themselves to truth and give it back (see Adele and her 2017 Grammy acceptance speech: she broke her award in half and gave half to Beyonce because, as she admitted, white people always gives prizes to other white people just for being white.) ALL white people should approach their ‘wins’ as forms of extrinsic privilege which have potentially — and very likely — taken something from a POC.
This is one pragmatic approach that white individuals can take. Obviously, it will require individual work that is uncomfortable, because all people ‘shift’ their beliefs to support their achievement. This tendency should be overcome by white people, because in the case of white people, merit is often a distortion of reality. As a direct and indirect result of naming the last 500 years the ‘Enlightenment’ and completely macerating the meaning of the word ‘merit,’ white people still place ‘merit,’ in their minds, where they should place ‘privilege.’ Critical race theorists call this ‘white psychosis’ because it is an extreme distortion of reality to call unjust enrichment and gifted items ‘earned.’
Thanks again for your dynamic intellectual thought processes!