According to the results of a Freedom of Information Act Request, Greenwich Superintendent Toni Jones
sent an email on August 14, 2020, to Marc D’Amico, the Director of Curriculum K-8 & Head of Leadership K-5 telling him that, “we really need every admin to enroll in this... and as many of our teachers as possible https://www.ycei.org/selcourse.” The 10-hour course that Superintendent Jones wanted all admins and teachers to take was entitled “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress: Research-Based Strategies.” It was offered for free by Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence — the same group that developed the RULER obedience training program that Eastern Middle School piloted with funding received from Greenwich Alliance for Education. The sequence for the course included a lesson about becoming a “culturally responsive emotion scientist” where participants were required to describe their personal biases, and then reflect on the potential impact of their own biases on their interactions with others. Participants who took the course should be able to better explore the intersection of race, bias, identity, and social and emotional learning. The term “intersectionality” was coined by the architect of critical race theory (CRT), Kimberle Crenshaw,
to describe how traditional feminist ideas and antiracist policies exclude black women because they face overlapping discrimination unique to them. The term has since been expanded such that intersectionality now reflects the inter-connectedness of race, class, gender, disability, sex, religion, and so on..
Intersectionality is a key tenet of CRT — something which Superintendent Jones has repeatedly denied promoting in Greenwich, despite evidence to the contrary. Including the GHS Sociology course which has taught about white privilege since 2014, as well as the new Black & Latino Studies course that includes several CRT-inspired lessons. Nonetheless, shortly after promoting Yale's training course that featured a lesson inspired by CRT, Deputy Superintendent Ann Carabillo
guided the school’s Leadership Council as they read Robin DiAngelo's CRT classic White Fragility.
The term "white fragility" was coined by critical race theorist DiAngelo in a 2011 paper, and refers to "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” The Leadership Council had weekly reading assignments from the book, after which they were required, “to practice discussing and engaging the readings” according to Dr. Carabillo.
Here is an excerpt of a book review provided from DiAngelo’s website, where the tagline under her name reads “critical racial and social justice education”:
White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress. Although white racial insulation is somewhat mediated by social class, the larger social environment insulates and protects whites as a group through institutions, cultural representations, media, school textbooks, movies, advertising, and dominant discourses… In turn, whites are often at a loss for how to respond in constructive ways… White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This book explicates the dynamics of White Fragility and how we might build our capacity in the on-going work towards racial justice.
DiAngelo believes that racism is essentially the bedrock of American society, and she asserts that all white Americans are holding this racism in place. So if you are white, then you are automatically guilty of white fragility, full stop. One of the examples in the book that illustrates white fragility explains how the Black Lives Matter movement is being contorted into ‘All Lives Matter’ by white people who feel threatened. Another example from the book "manifests in anti-immigration policies by President Donald Trump’s administration, as shown in the travel ban on people from majority Muslim countries.”
DiAngelo argues that, "If we cannot discuss these dynamics or see ourselves within them, we cannot stop participating in racism. The good/bad binary made it effectively impossible for the average white person to understand— much less interrupt— racism." What impact did reading this book have on the Leadership Council? Well, that remains to be seen… but in the same school year that administrators were required to read White Fragility, students in at least one Greenwich middle school were assigned to read the Peggy McIntosh article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and then took the corresponding white privilege survey so the students could identify their own biases.