“There is nothing new under the sun,” my creative writing prof used to say. If your pen is going to get anywhere worth going you have to make it new anyway. That was his theory. Hollywood creatively gets that backwards. Take the film “Nobody” as an example. The retired bad-ass, now family man, plot is as played as the lyrics of “Happy Birthday.” Tinsel town surmounts this hurdle packing the script with dialogue that leaves wincing audiences pining for mimes. When theaters that run stuff off the L.A. assembly line reopened last fall they posted achtung notices on social distancing everywhere. None were ever necessary. It would have taken a good arm to hit the next closest viewer with a pebble…in the unlikely case others were in attendance.
So I’m sticking my neck out suggesting a remake of the WC Fields film “You’re Telling Me.” In the original besotted optometrist Sam Bisbee, played by W. C., invents things in his workshop between swigs. A puncture proof tire is what he hopes will place the Bisbee name next to Edison’s. The innovation is presented to a boardroom full of suits in the big city. The plan goes off course when an unmarked police vehicle of the same make and color takes up the parking space his was towed from. The eye-man demonstrates his invention with a pistol shooting out all four tires of the squad car. Homeward bound on a train suicide attempts are averted by a series of interruptions.
I never figured out how Paramount arrived at the name “You’re Telling Me” for the Fields debut in a full length feature film. But that title can’t be beat dramatizing the inventive antics of author Robin DiAngelo—even if the outcomes would get reversed. Unlike Bisbee’s tire, her chef d’oeurve is full of holes and somehow manages to stay inflated. When she’s in a boardroom skepticism is a terminable offense. Her book “White Fragility” hit the ground running without help from the kind of mysterious European princess who rescued Bisbee’s life and career. This so-called “classic of antiracism” was welcomed on Wall Street with open arms. It’s even possible some of the brass there read it.
Listen as John Blake of CNN helps Robin plug her latest infliction “Nice Racism.”
“DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” remembers the precise moment it happened. A friend invited her to join a few friends of hers for dinner. When DiAngelo arrived at the restaurant, she was excited to see that the couple waiting for them at the table was Black.
DiAngelo was a college student who had no Black friends and had rarely spent any time around Black people. But she saw herself as a proud progressive and a feminist. She proceeded to tell the Black couple how racist her family was and spent the entire evening recounting every uncensored racist joke, story, and comment she could remember them making, despite her dinner companions’ growing discomfort.”
This is the clod who doses corporate minions with anti-fragility elixir at 12 grand a crack? Who says you can’t go places from humble beginnings? Should the flick be a farce, a satire, a dark comedy or a tragedy?
DiAngelo strangely presumes her reaction to the sudden introduction of people she finds alien is commonplace. Doesn’t everybody explode with lore of familial hostility upon finally meeting up with the dreaded bête noire?
Let’s put this scenario in another context. Imagine a Midwestern farmer with conspiratorial ancestors. One sunny day a Jew moves in next door. Our sodbuster is delighted. Being enlightened he wastes no time showing the new kid in town grandpa’s old copies of Henry Ford’s Dearborn Independent. And, just too really establish rustic bona fides as a righteous dude, translations of Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer in the family archives are whipped out, as well. Hey man, if there were ever any doubts, as you can see I’m pretty cool. Now, just how do you make that matzo again?
Norman Lear and staff didn’t think of writing Archie Bunker as this much of jackass. They expected a loading dock foreman to be considerably more worldly, and capable of discretion, than DiAngelo expects from college graduates. There may be a few instances, over the course of a lifetime, where you come across displays similar to what Blake describes above. They leave witnesses—of any race, creed or color—in a state of disturbed awe that can linger for days. What kind of person sees himself requiring DiAngelo-ification to dodge such a pratfall? Does it really take a reeducation program run by people suffering Robin’s kind of foot-in-mouth disease to save the lowly toiler from himself?
What’s established here is the pathology of the author—which isn’t diminished by the image she flaunts in publicity stills. It’s not the mug of an emotionally healthy human being. It’s a face that means business and that business is demanding we listen to an overbearing, tactless, socially inept fanatic who believes everyone else is as inhumanely awkward as she is. This film could knock Citizen Kane down a peg or two, if only anyone on the left coast had the guts to make it.
Robin’s kind of bumptiousness, we would hope, is not a natural development. Do children normally react with these kinds of narratives the first time they meet up with folks who look different? If anyone says so I’d like to see the evidence. By my lights kids do best confronting new things without adult supervision and that would go triple for Robin’s. The idea that the lady suffers from the affliction of being what mature people–of any color–used to call a “jerk” is worth entertaining. That doesn’t mean racially unjustifiable attitudes aren’t troublesome. It’s her idea of repair that should give you the creeps.
“Experts,” like Diangelo, have ways of rationalizing their boorish outbursts.
“She didn’t know it at the time, but DiAngelo was doing something she now calls “credentialing” — a conversational tactic White progressives sometimes use to show Black people they are not racist. Well-meaning White liberals do this by casually dropping into conversations such comments as, “My grandchildren are biracial,” or “I don’t see color,” or “My best friend is Black.””
Is Blake at all sure “credentialing” wasn’t stolen from a Saturday Night Live skit back in the heyday of Eddie Murphy? If you run in circles where “credentialing” is unknown are they the right or wrong ones? Where do you find an audience gullible enough to believe that people who speak in these kinds of transparent bromides lurk all around us? Or, that an “educated” adult likely to behave in such a fashion is sustainably fixable? How often does “don’t say anything stupid” work when you reluctantly bring a dope along?
“If you’re a White person who is now rewinding every conversation you’ve had with a person of color to see if you flashed your “I am not a racist” credentials, then you might understand the power of DiAngelo’s hard-hitting new book, “Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm.””
Or, you might be inclined to project all of your unfounded biases, irrational fears and delusions of grandeur onto to people you tacitly think of as untermenschen? We get assurance this is not the case when the lady says:
“We are the ones — with a smile on our faces — who undermine Black people daily in ways both harder to identify and easier to deny,” she writes. “To the degree that we see ourselves as “not racist,” we are going to be very defensive about any suggestion to the contrary. We will see no further action needed because we see ourselves as outside the problem.”
It sounds good to the unseasoned ear—but it’s the oldest line in the hypocritical speech book—“it’s not your fault peons, it’s my fault, for sparing the rod.” In the end the whole sermon never leaves the congregation on any solid ground. There is something a strident “progressive” is not supposed to do—but whether it’s order fish or order fowl becomes less clear every time a reader turns a page.
The so-called anti-racists continually tell us this is not about guilt and–leaving off the second half of the line–that’s true. It’s about a façade of guilt that obstructs all meaningful conversation. It’s used to out shout the real story: incremental enserfment of yeomen by Wall Street in concert with academia, media and a diverse assortment of mutant creatures hissing from inside the beltway. Complexion is irrelevant if you’re outside the loop. The mass subjugation of anti-racist angst is a costly deflection. It diverts attention from what forces are reversing trends in home ownership, driving up rents, speeding up small business failure, concentrating farm land into fewer hands and encroaching on human potential. They happen to be the same ones covering Jimmy Swaggart’s “I have sinned” song and dance in remade woke tunes.
The Weekend Interview in the June 26-7 Wall Street Journal features ex-CEO of Riovant Sciences Vivek Ramaswamy. He left his lucrative position to speak more freely about what all the victimist-bible thumpers are up to. His upcoming book’s title, “Woke, Inc.,” says more in two words than DiAngelo can muster in 192 pages. This man makes it new both literally and figuratively. It’s the opposite of what’s demanded by book reviewers from across major media. In the unlikely event it gets write-ups at all you can expect a panning in August when it comes out.
Has a movie ever been made about sociologists? The experts on “society” may have motive to keep the lid on such a production. It’s like the outrage that would result if you made a movie about a reporter who couldn’t find a con-man at a psychology convention. It would reveal too much about both fields.