White Fragility: A Study in Irrelevance

By Phil Bair

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July 1, 2020

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 volume subtitled, “Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” has become the anti-racist Bible for a large reader bloc, and for good reason. DiAngelo is both witty and articulate.

Her basic ideological arc is that all white people are racist, whether they want to be or not, and whether they know it or not. One of her primary corollaries is that it is impossible for non-white minorities to be racist, period. This is based on her embarrassingly faulty definition of racism, which has more to do with power and hegemony than personal beliefs. Since whites control all the power centers of society, they alone are the racist ones, since they supposedly wield that power out of intrinsic malice against minorities who are helpless and always the innocent victims of each successive episode of oppressive force.

Though she lays out a model for “racial repair” as a response to alleged racial infractions perpetrated by whites who are supposedly oblivious to their own bigotry, she offers little hope of rehabilitation for the Equinsu Ocha. Only perpetual craven obsequiousness can absolve whites of granular racist crimes against minorities, and that absolution applies only to one offense at a time. Nor will that obeisance prevent the next inevitable racial sin lurking right around the corner which will occur with predictable certainty and unrelenting regularity.

Is DiAngelo ever willing to even consider the possibility that any given white person may not in fact be racist? Not on your life. She provides what is apparently thought of as an exhaustive list of possible responses from whites to the charge of racism. She then proceeds to dismiss them all, one by one, as being hopelessly invalid, and in some cases even further proof of the racism they are attempting to deny. In other words, you’re a racist, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will change her mind. Shut up and admit your racism, you slimy bigot. White people who acknowledge their innate racism can be spared the indictment of being evil people, as long as they humbly bow down, mutilate their own dignity, and declare fealty to her decrees from on high. DiAngelo maintains that being racist is not about being a “good” or “bad” person, and that even if you are a “good person,” you are a racist nevertheless. Therefore if a white person says they are not a racist, but they are a good person, DiAngelo hits the buzzer and sends the Simpsonian electric shock through that person’s body until they mindlessly repent of their lachrymose denial and pathetic fragility.

This “shut up and believe what you’re told” approach is applied to all other possible replies to the accusation of being racist: “I have a person of color in my fam…” – buzz, you’re a racist; “I was taught to treat all people the sa…” – buzz, you’re a racist; “I see people as indiv…” – buzz, you’re a racist. Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz. Nothing you say can override DiAngelo’s arrogant dogma. “You’re racist because I say so. You don’t believe me? I’m not surprised. After all, you’re a racist.”

DiAngelo claims that racism is injected into white people through the process of “socialization.” In other words, it is society and how it functions in relation to the individual that builds their moral and social framework. This idea stands in contrast to the idea of individualism: that each person in society is the product of how their parents raised them and other factors that have shaped their worldview such as religion, philosophy, and relationships. This form of individualism is dismissed in the book in favor of socialization. This should come as no surprise, since the socialization theory is the only one that is compatible with the myth of implicit bias and intrinsic racism. If people had their own worldview, shaped by the normal human factors inherent in how God has created us, her intrinsic racism nonsense would go down the drain.

The logical fallacies in this book can barely be contained in a single paperback volume or digital medium. But DiAngelo has managed to cram almost every fallacy under the sun into her incoherent narrative. The most common one is the fallacy of poisoning the well. This is the fallacy where you state at the outset that no counter-indicatives can prevail against an original proposition, regardless of their validity. This fallacy is what enables her to casually and effortlessly dismiss every possible objection to her central claim. Another fallacy is common to all marxist sophistry, the fallacy of affirming the consequent. The fallacy goes like this: if A then B. B, therefore A. The marxist application of this fallacy affirms that if there is systemic racism in society, it will cause socio-economic disadvantage among minorities. There is socio-economic disadvantage among minorities, therefore systemic racism is automatically inferred to exist and to be the cause of it. This faulty reasoning ignores the fact that a variety of sociological conditions can cause socio-economic dysfunction and disparities, therefore that dysfunction is irrelevant in the attempt to prove systemic racism.

Speaking of fallacies of relevance, many more of them run amok throughout the book—not the least of which is that the psychological response of someone accused of a moral defect has no bearing on the truth of the accusation. Every single white person on the planet could get defensive when you try to talk to them about racism. It proves nothing. It’s possible that not one of them is racist, and you could still observe the same defensiveness that would be there if every one of them was. It’s also possible that someone could be racist, and they won’t get defensive in any way when you talk to them about it. Relevance is not DiAngelos’s strong suit, to put it mildly.

Another common feature of DiAngelo’s ideology is the fallacy of self-referential incoherence. She raves about how evil racism is, and then goes on to state categorically that all whites are guilty of it. Contrary to her miserable failure of a definition of racism, it is actually the belief inside one’s mind that some races are inferior to others morally, intellectually, or genetically. To so say someone is guilty of a moral defect simply because of the color of their skin is as close to the core of what racism really is as you can get. Apparently, DiAngelo misses the irony: the idea that all white people are racists just because they’re white is a glaring example of racism.

DiAngelo spews out all the standard marxist dogma that we’ve heard over and over again for years: there is toxic systemic racism in our society, white people have stacked the cards against minorities, all white people are unaware that they have implicit racial bias, the United States was founded on and run by white supremacy, blacks are held back from socio-economic success and prosperity just because of their skin color, blah blah blah. The wording is slightly different, but the message is the same.

Does DiAngelo provide any evidence to support this myth parade? She pretends to. But the “evidence” mainly amounts to what she sees as whites being defensive and indignant if you suggest they have racism baked into their souls and that only she and others of her ilk have the tools to help them understand how this happened. Her pretense of evidence focuses almost exclusively on the reactions of whites when people attempt to communicate to them about their implicit bias against all but their own kind. Her education does not seem to have given her the skills to conduct a critical analysis of the numerous possible causes of psychological responses. For example, she thinks if a white person becomes indignant or defensive when confronted with the accusation of racism, there is only one possible explanation for this reaction: they must be racist. It makes me wonder if it has ever occurred to her that people may react this way simply because they don’t like being falsely accused.

DiAngelo places heavy emphasis on listening. But people of color are the only beneficiaries of her willingness to grant mere mortals an audience. Listening to what whites have to say about what’s in their own hearts doesn’t seem to be a meaningful option for her. It’s simply not necessary. And what’s worse, she might learn something, and in the process might have to face the frightening possibility that virtually everything she is saying is incoherent nonsense.


Notes

For more problems with this book, see Ben Shapiro’s 7 Reasons Why “White Fragility” is the Worst Book Ever.

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About the Author

By Phil Bair

Phil Bair studied philosophy, technology, earth sciences, and music theory at the University of Iowa, the University of Colorado, the National Institute of Technology, and Simpson College in Indianola Iowa. He has been dedicated to independent study and research for over thirty years in a variety of subject matter pertaining to the Christian world view. He has written several monographs on the relationship between theology and hope, being true to the Word of God, the creation/evolution controversy, and critiques of alternative spiritual doctrine and practices. He has written two books: From Rome To Galilee, an analysis of Roman Catholic theology and practice, and Deconstructing Junk Ideology - A Modern Christian Manifesto, a series of essays on the culture wars and applying Biblical principles to our socio-political landscape. He has delivered lectures, seminars, and workshops to churches and educational institutions on apologetics, textual criticism, creation science, ethics, critical thinking, the philosophy of science, understanding new age thought, and the defense of Christian theism, as well as current religious, philosophical, cultural, and political trends, with an emphasis on formulating a meaningful and coherent Christian response in those areas. His roles include author, speaker, Bible study leader, worship pastor, and director of contemporary music and worship for several evangelical churches. He has served as philosophy consultant and speaker for Rivendell, a cultural apologetics organization founded in Denver, Colorado and headquartered in Santa Barbara, California.