White Fragility: A Pseudoscientific Concept

Since the social justice extremists want to use the term “white fragility” as a weapon, let’s take a closer look at this nonsense concept.  We’ll start with a mainstream review of the book that popularized the term.

The review begins:

In more than twenty years of running diversity-training and cultural-competency workshops for American companies, the academic and educator Robin DiAngelo has noticed that white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism. Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender. They will shout and bluster. They will cry. In 2011, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Why, she wondered, did her feedback prompt such resistance, as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it?

Let’s step outside of DiAngelo’s intellectually inbred bubble and invoke the obvious explanation for such “resistance.”  DiAngelo is not taking a random sample of people to survey.  On the contrary, she is looking at a sample that is quite contrived.  People attend diversity-training and cultural-competency workshops for American companies because they are usually forced to do so.  What’s more, it is well known if someone says or does something, anything, in these “workshops” that can be misinterpreted as racist, that person could lose their professional standing, position, perhaps even their job.  In other words, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that DiAngelo is sampling from a group that is being highly stressed and provoked in a setting that induces anxiety.  Yet for some reason, this sociologist is blind to this explanation and makes no attempt to control for it. 

What’s more is that there is no evidence DiAngelo gathered data in a scientific manner.  It appears she is just relying on her general experience and memory over the years.  If so, there is nothing to prevent confirmation bias from totally skewing her anecdotes.  That is, it’s rather clear DiAngelo comes to us with a preconceived agenda and thus she likely “recalls” various examples that support her agenda. 

It gets worse when DiAngelo decides to go on the attack. 

She is apparently proud of the fact that she coined the term “white fragility.”  Yet this is not a scholarly term.  There is no justification for using the term “fragility” instead of something like defensiveness. Or why not instead use the term ‘resistance?’  Why did she choose to use ‘fragility’?  Is it payback for the way many social justice critics would mock social justice activists as fragile snowflakes?  If so, it is further evidence she is not a scholar.  Look, whatever her mysterious motivation for choosing this word, it is clearly a propagandistic term. It is a term designed to elicit either submission or negative, emotional reactions.  It’s a veiled personal attack.  DiAngelo came up with a way to provoke and attack white people while trying to make it look like she is talking about some objective phenomenon.  A propagandist pretending to be a scholar.

Consider more of her attacks:

In a new book, “White Fragility,” DiAngelo attempts to explicate the phenomenon of white people’s paper-thin skin. She argues that our largely segregated society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress—such as, for instance, when someone suggests that “flesh-toned” may not be an appropriate name for a beige crayon. Unused to unpleasantness (more than unused to it—racial hierarchies tell white people that they are entitled to peace and deference), they lack the “racial stamina” to engage in difficult conversations. This leads them to respond to “racial triggers”—the show “Dear White People,” the term “wypipo”—with “emotions such as anger, fear and guilt,” DiAngelo writes, “and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation.”

Let me propose an alternative.

DiAngelo has come up with a clever marketing scheme to get companies to pay her big money for giving worskshops.  People are forced to attend (which creates negative emotions) and correctly recognize it to be a minefield that has the potential to terminate their employment.  After creating this threatening environment, DiAngelo pretends to be a scholar who will lead people through the minefield.  Yet, in reality, she is a propagandist guided by confirmation bias guided by an extreme left ideology, one who subtlely attacks and mocks people to elicit emotional responses she wants to see.  When she gets such responses, she thinks she has demonstrated the existence of some phenomenon, but, in reality, she just pulled something out of her ass.

Finally, when people insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted,” they are adopting a morally enlightened viewpoint.  Perhaps they express it crudely, or reflexively, but it is vastly superior to DiAngelo’s attempt to return us to the days of primitive tribalism.  If you disagree, I’ll see you in the comments section.

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17 Responses to White Fragility: A Pseudoscientific Concept

  1. Dhay says:

    > Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender.

    My eye was drawn to that “they will insist”. All of these insistent responses are robust responses, the “White fragility” White robustness.

  2. A quick look at DiAngelo’s wikipedia page and I was immediately struck by two things. First, I don’t know how recent that photo is, but she appears to be making an incredible effort to look much more youthful than her 64 years. Second, I would hazard a guess that much of her motivation comes from bitterness that other people had more than she did as a child.

  3. Ilíon says:

    As with most leftist (and atheist, and Darwinist, and Freudian) “arguments”, DiAngelo can be summarized thus: “That you are resisting my assertions about you proves that I am right and you are wrong … and also, that you are ‘evil’

  4. TFBW says:

    I’m sure she’s a proper sCiEnTiSt and has used Black people as a control group at some point. I’d be interested in hearing her anecdotes about how strong they were when she accused them of being racist; how they agreed heartily and made no pretence of impartiality; how they cheered in approval when she mentioned black supremacy. That’s what happened, right? After all, that’s the opposite of what happens in her White-people anecdotes.

  5. bluecat57 says:

    5 Stars to the first person to DEFINE “racism” and/or “racist”. As far as I can recall, I have NEVER seen anyone on any side of the issue actually DEFINE the terms.

    Everyone KNOWS what they mean, but no one is willing to present a definition for discussion.

    This is how I define it. (OK it is from the Oxford Languages Dictionary from a Google search.)

    “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.”

    Of course, no one defines the term “race” but simply assumes that everyone knows what a “race” is. But despite the “first definition” saying “racial or ethnic group”, those using the word “race” assume that listeners simply define it as “skin color”. Yet one is called a “racist” if they are prejudiced against Muslims who are members of a RELIGIOUS group not an ethnic group.

    And racism seems to be a ONE-WAY concept in which only Caucasians can be racists despite massive evidence to the contrary.

    The first definition presented from the search is an attempt to “normalize” or “generalize” the MISUSE of the words (racism and racist) as synonyms for bigotry and prejudice.

    Everyone is a bigot based on THEIR life experiences. And if we didn’t have prejudices we’d all be dead before puberty.

    So have at it. Anyone willing to actually define “racism” or “racist”?

  6. apollyon911 says:

    Robin DiAngelo knows a good con when she sees it. Making good money shaming white people is the name of the game.

  7. Ilíon says:

    Bluecat57: ==<i?This is how I define it. (OK it is from the Oxford Languages Dictionary from a Google search.)

    “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.”==

    But see, even that definition is tendentious leftist bullshit, for what it *means* is that everyone who sees/acknowledges reality is a *gasp* RAYCISSS!!!!!

    It is an observable fact of life “that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, [which can] distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another … [in some specific regard of characteristics or abilities].

    Observing and admitting this is not sufficient to support the accusation of “racism”. A racist doesn’t merely believe “that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, [which can] distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another” with regard to just any old characteristic or ability; no, the racist holds that one’s race determines one’s moral worth, one’s worth as a human being, irrespective of one’s own moral character.

    Seeing and admitting that in most athletic contexts black Americans are superior to white Americans is not RAYCISSSSS!!, it is simply an acknowledgement of reality. That there may be some *specific* white American who is athletically superior to most black Americans does not refute the *general* observation.

    Seeing and admitting that in most intellectual contexts white Americans are superior to black Americans is not RAYCISSSSS!!, it is simply an acknowledgement of reality. That there may be some *specific* black American (Thomas Sowell, for one) who is intellectually superior to most white Americans does not refute the *general* observation.

  8. bluecat57 says:

    3 stars, but getting there.

    I think we need to add that there has to be a negative something for someone to be truly a racist.

    It is not just identifying a difference, but believing that difference is negative in some way. (It is lunchtime and I need some brain food. That’s why I can’t quite find the write words.) (sic)

  9. Doug says:

    Might this work? (X \el {“sex”,”rac[e]”})

    X-ism: “judging someone on the basis of the statistical traits of those who share some genetic similarity”

  10. Isaac says:

    It’s a neat gig if you can just get past the hurdle of having a conscience and human decency…

    1. People who are NOT racist will shut up and pay for my book and seminar to prove it.
    2. People who ARE racist need to attend my seminar to cure their racism.
    3. Saying you are not racist is what racists do.
    4. Providing evidence that you aren’t racist is also what racists do.
    5. Wow, there sure are a lot of racists who need my seminar in here!
    6. Everybody pay me.
    7. By the way, talking about how much you liked my seminar and how everyone should pay me is a pretty good way to show that you aren’t racist.

  11. Ilíon says:

    It’s a neat gig if you can just get past the hurdle of having a conscience and human decency…

    Never been a problem.

  12. Dhay says:

    A bit further on in said ‘mainstream review’ of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” book I notice:

    “I believe,” she writes, “that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color.” Not only do these people fail to see their complicity, but they take a self-serving approach to ongoing anti-racism efforts: “To the degree that white progressives think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived.”
    [Emphasis original.]

    That’s a pretty damning indictment of the posturings of people who proclaim themselves ‘Woke’! DiAngelo seems to declare that, contrary to the loud proclamations we know the Woke make, their holier-than-thou attitudes and their attacks upon the allegedly not-Woke-enough, those who are enthusiastically Woke are actually more racist than John and Jane the unWoke.

    *

    “To the degree that white progressives think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived.”

    I observe that’s a danger for progressives (some) Christians, too.

    *

    Towards the review’s end (and the book’s end):

    The book is more diagnostic than solutions-oriented, and the guidelines it offers toward the end—listen, don’t center yourself, get educated, think about your responses and what role they play—won’t shock any nervous systems. The value in “White Fragility” lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance. Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work.

    Those look like good guidelines. My principal criticism here is that you want to get your aims, objectives and purposes across, then adopted, you don’t put them at the end but right at the beginning where they can provide inspirational leadership. Sticking them at the back of the book, apparently to be discovered only after chapters of sneering denigration, virtually guarantees alienating and demotivating any target audience.

    And virtually guarantees alienating and demotivating those who DiAngelo describes as the most damaging of racists, the white progressive Woke.

  13. Ilíon says:

    Dhay, Look at DiAngelo’s “work” as meta-virtue-signalling, and it’s not so perplexing.

  14. TFBW says:

    “To the degree that white progressives think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived.”

    I recommend a Bible study on the topic of the “Pharisees” and Christ’s interaction with them. Matthew 23:1-36 is one of the best epic rants in all literature. Matthew 6 also contains excellent advice on how to be virtuous without engaging in virtue signalling. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

  15. Dhay says:

    Michael > $12K a Day: How White Liberals Profit From Pushing ‘White Privilege’ [Link.]

    The ‘Education for Racial Equity’ site that she books through (and to which non-profit Robin DiAngelo donates 25% of her speaker fees) had her down for eleven events in 2020: four three-day workshops, one one-day workshop, five half-day workshops, plus a “conversation”.

    https://www.educationforracialequity.com/calendar-for-2020

    That “$12K a Day” was the fee for a three and a half hour workshop (plus half a hour of book signing(/book selling?)), which I take to be a half-day workshop. Presumably she gets more for a full day, and much more for three days.

    https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/07/30/12k-a-day-how-white-liberals-profit-from-pushing-white-privilege/

    DiAngelo’s ten 2020 workshops add up to thirty one half-days, so at $12K per half-day that’s a top-estimate take-home (at 75%, after a donation of 25% to ERE) of $279,000. Add to that whatever a watched “conversation” earns her; I note that the “conversation” circuit is evidently lucrative, ask Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others on the New Atheist “conversation” circuit.

    If we assume just $12K per event, that’s a bottom-estimate take-home of $99,000.

    That’s with all expenses already paid for or to be reimbursed.

  16. Michael says:

    Interesting. So she clearly has a financial incentive for getting people to believe in white fragility. I wonder how much of this money is donated to black Americans.

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