Anti-racist activist and librarian Juliette Hampton Morgan observed in a letter in 1952 about how the most polite and nicest individuals identifying as White were the biggest problems in addressing systemic racism. She wrote letters to local newspapers with critiques about segregation. Outside of the mistreatment of Black people during that time in history, what horrified her the most was the way in which White decency obstructed social change. Seven decades later, anti-racist educator Robin D'Angelo wrote a book, Nice Racism, to bring attention to the enduring facets of this activity.
DiAngelo analyses how individuals who identify as White deem themselves exempt from and inoculated against systemic racism, however, uniquely embody racist practices and interventions, including herself. She defines racism as a" collective racial bias that is backed by legal authority and institutional control", in which individuals and communities participate. DiAngelo distinguishes anti-racist strategies from the valued currency of White friendliness, stating that "niceness does not indicate a lack of racism nor is it a solution to racism. She added that a culture of niceness does not mean that racism is absent in the environment.
Robin DiAngelo wrote in her book about the racial illiteracy from proud liberal attendees who insinuate that they are beyond workshops on race, demonstrating how gradations in systemic racism is systemic racism itself. Janine Jones, an African-American philosopher, has also written about the efforts of White people to empathize with the difficulties of non-White people. She describes these individuals as praiseworthy for the concern they have for others, but asserts that they usually do not realize that their efforts are about helping others become more like themselves. Jones writes that unconscious level, they believe that their customs and beliefs are the best customs and beliefs for all. According to Jones, they offer their assistance from a position of condescension, because they do not see themselves as White, and do not understand how their Whiteness has come to deeply inform who and what they are.
These are all writers who have challenged and confronted the machinery of White progressiveness, how it works, and how effective and functional it can be, and impact those who are non-White. There are many liberal-sanctioned tactics and mechanisms that prioritize the insecurity, performance, and superiority of Whiteness over the needs and interests of those racially marginalized and oppressed groups and communities.
Defensive tropes are used against the critique of racial illiteracy -- such as adopting BIPOC children, interracial relationships, cross-racial friendships, or developing programs for children and adolescents in undeserved neighborhoods and communities. D'Angelo explores the ideology of White feminism as a product of racism, where there are dynamics employed by White women to the detriment, denigration, devaluation, and decentralization of BIPOC women in White-dominated spaces. Jones describes in her work that those who identify themselves as "goodwill Whites, administer programs, tools, resources, and interventions that confidently express to the world that what they offer is inherently "better", and individuals who receive their offerings are much more "better off" than those who are in racially-oppressed, poverty-stricken, under-funded environments and communities.
In these critiques of Whiteness, there was a sense of urgency and call to action to get the readers to consider how Whiteness shows up in areas of human activity: its illusions, promises, assumptions, and casual narratives of self-importance. It is in this space where we can collectively begin to remove the veil of Whiteness and see it what it truely is: an overinflation of the self based upon a mythology and lie that systemic racism has afforded itself. When individuals who identify as White interrogate, scrutinize, and deconstruct racial superiority they have inherited from their ancestors, they cannot do it. The perception is that being White is "neutral" in an otherwise racial world that they do not feel equipped with a voice.
DiAngelo challenges her White readers to ask why they think and believe that being nice is the best response to addressing racial inequity. This is a question that would lead one down this path towards knowledge and understanding of the self.