White Fragility — NZ and British version

British artist tried to sell paintings she’d made of two Māori women without their consent. After a public outcry, the artist withdrew them from sale. Then this is what happened.

Some context for why I am writing this: I am in the middle of reading White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and it leads to a certain “loss of innocence” (if you read it with a reasonably open mind) about the actions of White people and about myself as a non-Black non-LatinX POC in the US. If I think of it as a textbook to learn from, all I am doing is homework: looking for examples that fit the descriptions in the book. Yes I also look for examples of “non-White Fragility”, “White non-Fragility” and the much less surprising “non-White non-Fragility” otherwise known as life.

Quote from the article:

Art historian Dr Rangihiroa Panoho (0) said it was tiring that these types of issues continued to occur over decades (1).

He also expressed some compassion for the artist. (2)

“I would imagine Samantha is terribly distraught (3).

“If she’s human like the rest of us she would probably be genuinely surprised (4) and it’s this whole issue about the lack of conversation that exists between Pākehā (5) and Māori over these very important issues.”

End quote.

(0) Strictly speaking this seems to be not “white fragility” per se, but rather an attempt to prevent a backlash. If White Fragility is a disease, this is not preventive nor curative, this is simply an attempt to soothe or suppress the symptoms, effectively acknowledging its existence and its toxic impact. Which might make sense, because we know who will bear the brunt of the symptoms. We’ve learned to anticipate defensiveness (some legalistic “Well, as a public figure, …” referring to the subject, or based on an appeal to innocence “the artist didn’t mean anything by it, in fact she was showing her appreciation”) or plaintiveness (“Why do you always make it about race?”) or judgement (as a recent example: referring to the Black jogger killed by White Racists in Georgia, when you type “Ahmaud” in the search bar the third suggested search term is for his criminal record! Every. Single. Time. A. White. Person. Kills. A. Black. Person.)

(1) Off by an order of magnitude, try “centuries”.

(2) Emphasis mine. Most of the rest of what he says is rather intellectual art/history/culture and not about the individual subjects at all.

(3) I’m sure.

(4) Oh I’m sure.

(5) Hunh? I don’t see why we need a conversation about this. Don’t take a picture of an individual without their permission, don’t sell that image without their permission. After all, Pākehā don’t do that to Pākehā. And if a conversation is needed, it is not like POC have not been talking, it is just that somebody has not been listening.

I stop to miau to cats.

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