Nice White Ladies: The Truth about White Supremacy, Our Role in It, and How We Can Help Dismantle It
New York: Seal Press, 2021
Having cash flow problems? Trouble making ends meet? Perhaps you should try selling your children into prostitution. It’s easy, it’s profitable, and many Progressive people are doing it! As an added bonus, you will be helping to dismantle “White Supremacy.”
While that particular example is not literally promoted in this book, the foregoing does describe the author’s general thesis. You know immediately from the subtitle — that old Commie nonsense phrase White Supremacy! — that Jessie Daniels is going to preach a Left-extremist ideology. Any symbol of traditional society and morality is fair game to her. Normal families, white weddings, stable marriages, conventional sexuality, rules of etiquette . . . these are all invidious props of “white supremacy” to Daniels. Thus we need to destroy them and take apart the whole social structure; we must promote more, better, bigger degeneracies.
If Daniels doesn’t specifically recommend selling her children to the whoremongers, that’s probably because she doesn’t have any. But she’s found an equally profitable scam by becoming a sort of academic, in which role she promotes national immolation and race suicide. According to her bio at Amazon, she teaches sociology, something called “critical social psychology,” and “Africana studies.”
When the book came out last year, few knew what to make of it, other than to see it as creative non-fiction in the same basic genre as J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: one part vague autobiography, three parts convoluted and ahistorical sociology. Kirkus Reviews, one of the few mainstream publications to give it notice, simply paraphrased the promo copy, calling the book “An immensely readable examination of White women’s prominent role in the endurance of systematic [sic] racism . . . [The author] discusses the tragic suicide of her mother, who, despite relative privilege, was ‘taught to be nice above all else.'”
More helpfully, Daniels herself describes Nice White Ladies as a look at the “‘Karen’ phenomenon,” that is to say: those bossy, self-righteous white women who like to “demand to see the manager,” and will readily call the cops on misbehaving black people. Karens will complain about non-blacks, too, but the newsworthy instances in recent years have mainly been Karens calling out black men.
Two examples here will suffice. Back in 2018 there was a Starbucks manager in Center City, Philadelphia, and she phoned the police to have two non-customer black men arrested for loitering and refusing to leave. There was hue and cry over this, mainly from the Black Lives Matter community. Within a couple of days the hapless woman was fired — by the Starbucks CEO himself.
Then there was New York’s “Central Park Karen.” Early one morning — May 25, 2020 — she was walking her newly-adopted dog in the Park’s wooded, hilly “Ramble.” She encountered a large black man who threatened to poison her dog, ostensibly because the dog wasn’t leashed. (The Ramble, a legendary gay cruising ground, is not a leash-free area.) Out of fear the lady then called 911, while her opponent approached menacingly and started to phone-video her. This video immediately went viral. The black guy described himself as a “gay birdwatcher,” a Harvard graduate, and comic-book writer. He liked to carry poisoned doggie treats for just such encounters. Perfectly normal fellow. Soon afterwards, “Central Park Karen” was summarily sacked from her job as portfolio manager for an investment firm. (I mentioned the date up top because it was also George Floyd Day, and this ridiculous incident contributed in its own little way to the rioting and burning that immediately commenced.)
Now, the clear moral of these “Karen” stories is that if you’re a woman and you call out a misbehaving Person of Color — most particularly a male black that is acting in a threatening manner — you might very well lose your job. To author Jessie Daniels, this outcome is right and just: These white women were exercising their White Privilege and White Supremistry by refusing to be victimized. Nonetheless, I find it really perverse that Daniels feels no sympathy, let alone solidarity, with these women. Perhaps there was a practical consideration here. She figured she had a better chance of publishing a rambling, disjointed manuscript if she focused on blaming women who try to do the right thing and report crimes. A very edgy viewpoint indeed, particularly coming from a self-described lesbian feminist separatist.
Daniels pulls a different sort of blame game when talking about a young woman named Emily. (Daniels does not give her last name, perhaps for legal reasons, so I won’t, either.) Emily is a young cartoonist and animator who attained some notoriety in late 2016 when she lost her part-time job selling peanuts and pistachios in a sports stadium. She had just attended the National Policy Institute conference in November, and got caught on video making fun of the antifa people who were rioting outside the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. Daniels explains that Emily became “a convert to white supremacy” as a result of growing up in mixed-race public schools and being forced to read To Kill a Mockingbird:
For Emily, getting involved in the white-supremacist movement was a kind of escape hatch out of the dead-end feelings she associated with being white. This seems to be one way to respond to circumstances, when you have been raised white by people you love, only to realize that your whiteness is part of a system that destroys peoples’ [sic] lives.
A very odd take, given that Daniels has been mainly telling us about white women whose lives were destroyed, or at least significantly damaged. But actually, in describing Emily, she’s alluding to herself. Daniels’ personal narrative is all about how she grew up under the spell of whiteness and white supreemism, and how she’s struggled all her life to throw it off.
The true facts are unclear; what we get instead are the lies she’s been telling herself for 40 years or more. Jessie Daniels is what in fiction we call an “unreliable narrator.” Supposedly, until she grew up, she did not know she was a white person. Seriously! And her mother cried when Jessie was born because mother didn’t really want a blonde, Caucasian child. No, she expected a little papoose! You see, Jessie’s father liked to tell people that he had some Cherokee Indian blood way back there. It was a great disappointment to Jessie when she grew up and found out that this wasn’t the case.
She returns to these stories, again and again, amplifying them with other details. She says her father’s father (who we have now established was not Cherokee) was a child molester (no specifics for that saga). He’d also been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Adding insult to injury, Daniels’ father tells her when she’s about 21 that he’s real sorry Granddaddy interfered with her; but really, that business about being in the Klan was no big deal, especially in those days. When Daniels got to grad school, she decided she was so piqued at Granddaddy that she didn’t want to carry his surname around anymore. That name was Harper, but now she changed it to Daniels in honor of an anti-lynching suffragette from Texas. She loved telling her black friends about this: how Granddaddy was in the Klan and that’s why she’d had to change her name — though she’d leave out her little story about how Granddaddy diddled her.
The delusional “Cherokee” bit is a puzzlement to me. We’ve seen it often enough. Why in hell do people concoct easily disprovable bloodlines like that? Telling stories against yourself and your family is a kind of class marker, it seems, for deracinated, upwardly-mobile “academic” or “professional” people who have little sense of heritage but want a thumbnail description of their background, so it doesn’t look like they’re just generic white trash. Saying you’re mostly “Scots-Irish” without knowing any details, the way J. D. Vance and Jessie Daniels do, ain’t going to do the trick.
One easy, obvious solution might be to claim a grand, even aristocratic lineage. (“Yes, we was Quality Folks in 1850! Owned 5,000 acres of bottom land!”) Alas, that quickly turns into bad Tennessee Williams or Faulkner, and may be largely inaccessible to your interlocutors, particularly if they are colored people, say, or New York Jews. That’s where the Red Indian fiction comes in handy. “We weren’t poor white trash, sir! We were — Cherokee!”
Daniels shows us several examples of this social pathology, fake-non-whiteness, wherein white women so loathe being white that they attempt to pass as blacks (or, sometimes, as “Afro-Latinas” or so-called “indigenous” Red Indians). The most famous, Rachel Dolezal, has a tale that is particularly unsettling. When she was first exposed as an imitation negress who had lied her way into a leadership post at the NAACP, we were told that her parents were conventional middle-class white people. Somewhat later it came out that they had adopted four black children, some of whom apparently bullied the blonde, lily-white Rachel. Dolezal claimed her parents abused them all, beating Rachel with “wooden boards” while whipping the negro adoptees with a “baboon whip.” However much of that is true, it is apparent that the Dolezal tale is really one of race-shaming, to a far more intense degree than author Daniels ever struggled with.
In order to pad the book out with varied material, Daniels goes off onto many loopy tangents. Some are pretty funny and might be mistaken for parody. In a section called “FAIRY TALE WEDDINGS” AND CREATING ALL-WHITE FAMILIES, she spends a number of pages ripping into bridal culture, the essential whiteness of the white-lace wedding dress, and how it stands for purity and prevention of rape and miscegenation. She complains that “If you put the term bride into a search engine, the images that appear are of mostly fair-skinned, thin, and cisgender female bodies in long white gowns.” Then, in search of new windmills to tilt at, she finds fault with wedding venues that consist of broad, verdant estates and grand old houses. “Plantation weddings,” she calls marriages at such places, even though the majority of them are not on old Southern plantations or even in the Old South:
The whiteness that undergirds the wedding services industry is clear in the continued acceptance of “plantation weddings.” Hundreds of former plantations continue to make money as wedding venues that beckon customers with ad copy about “beautiful emerald farmlands” and homes with “Southern charm,” but no mention of the history of forced labor or brutal violence that took place at those sites. In 2019, the advocacy group Color of Change demanded that wedding platforms that host advertisements for plantation venues stop carrying them . . . [The Knot and Pinterest agreed to avoid wording that celebrated the antebellum South, however] Martha Stewart Weddings and other platforms never even responded to the demand from Color of Change.
Comment: Martha Stewart Weddings and those “other platforms” clearly understood that such petty harassment is best ignored. This “Color of Change” outfit is hardly an “advocacy group.” Like Black Lives Matter, it’s a black shakedown outfit set up as a not-for-profit. But instead of rioting in the streets and burning down cities, Color of Change intimidates and begs through the Internet.
Although not every bride, and certainly not even most brides, want to host their wedding at a former enslaved labor camp, the fact is that the wedding industry caters to the buying habits of their largest demographic and the one that sees nothing wrong with plantations as wedding venues: white heterosexual women. . . .
Weddings have traditionally been a celebration of heterosexuality. but as sociologist Jane Ward points out in her insightful 2020 book The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, the American construction of modern heterosexuality is inseparable from white-supremacist gender norms . . .
This is then followed by several daffy pages arguing that heterosexuality is itself an artifice, and has been promoted in Western culture primarily to promote white supremacism, eugenics, and disenfranchisement of the less fortunate races.
A less silly, but more useless bit of padding comes in when Daniels quotes at length from Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness (which I reviewed here in 2019). Metzl’s book is weak and tendentious in many respects, using selective statistics and outlandish examples. But nothing he says dovetails with Daniels’ ideology that nuclear families, heterosexuality, and big white weddings at the Farm ‘n’ Barn Event and Conference Center are destructive and must be dismantled. Metzl’s argument is much simpler. From my review:
Metzl has one central idea: Right-wing Americans are why we can’t have nice social services and healthcare reform. This is because the gun-obsessed, low-information white people think that public-health and social programs mostly benefit poor blacks and other non-whites, and so they vote against those programs. (Incidentally, these people are very unhealthy, so if they get sick, they brought it on themselves.)
Daniels uses Metzl’s irrelevant study as a lead-in to something much more gripping and personal. When Daniels was 21, her mother Shirley committed suicide. It wasn’t a fancy suicide: just a fifth of vodka, a few vials of pills, and into bed you go. Easy-peasy; she knew what she was doing.
But daughter Jessie tells herself, has told herself for years, that Shirley ended it all at age 48 because she always tried too hard to be too nice, to spend all her time on housework, to be the dutiful wife and mother. It left her with a feeling of worthlessness, Daniels believes, and finally the despair was too much. (Surely you’ve read The Feminine Mystique?) And this is why we have to stop being Nice White Ladies and why we must dismantle White Supreemism.
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