White Fragility: Why It’s Flawed… And Racist

White Fragility: Why It's Flawed... And Racist - Robin DiAngelo | The Raging Patriot
Author of White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo. Photo of DiAngelo appearing for the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2020.

I was told my “white fragility” is the only reason I disagree with people when discussing racism, which bases my ability to think freely solely on my skin color. As Paul Maxwell said, “This baseless theory of ‘white fragility’ makes a race-specific generalization about the intellect, psychiatry, and morality of an entire ethnic group.

 This racist assertion assumes that any disagreement is caused by the mental inferiority of an entire race based on skin color. 

The Flaws… And The Racism Of It

Imagine if black fragility was coined, would this same ideological view hold its weight? No, because it is not based on facts. These assertions are based on the opinions of Robin DiAngelo, not on empirical data, and include comments such as, “The problem with white people is that they just do not listen.” She also states, “White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview” and that “a racism-free upbringing is not possible”. DiAngelo’s book is filled with inaccuracies, cultish contentions, psychiatric presumptions, gross generalizations, and essentially says if you are Caucasian in America – you are inherently racist. As one writer points out, “White fragility theory commits the ecological fallacy, the interpretation of statistical data where inferences about the nature of individuals are deduced from inference for the group to which those individuals belong. It may also lead to the fallacy of composition, inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole… DiAngelo has an axe to grind against individualism.” It also defies the principle of falsifiability, does not address individuals, and is incredibly emotionally manipulative. She invokes “implicit bias” as something that defends her theory when in reality, implicit bias is a disaster itself – even the creators of the IAT test admit now that it does not predict “biased behavior”. “Test scores have almost no connection to what IAT research ludicrously counts as discriminatory behavior – trivial nuances of body language during a mock interview, say, or a hypothetical choice to donate to children in Colombian slums rather than South African ones.”

DiAngelo elevates herself as an ‘expert’ on racism by saying, “How can I say that if you are white, your opinions on racism are most likely ignorant, when I don’t even know you? I can say so because nothing in mainstream US culture gives us the information we need…” DiAngelo’s theory on white fragility is also a double bind as Jesse Lile, who holds a PhD in Counselor Education, writes:

  1. An initial negative injunction
    • Step one is directing a Caucasian individual to engage in a conversation on racism and implying that to not do so betrays their racism (the initial negative injunction).
  2. A secondary injunction that negates the first at a more abstract level
    • Step two is bristling at that engagement (which was started in step one) and communicating that their perspective is less valid (due to being Caucasian) and that they should, therefore, be quiet (the secondary negative injunction). This second step has been codified by the term white privilege. Any active engagement of a Caucasian in the conversation can be assumed as an exercise of their privilege, and any contributions or points made can be dismissed on the basis of their white privilege. When a Caucasian individual takes issue with this term’s debasement and dismissal of their life experience, the third and final step of the double bind is employed with the term white fragility.
  3. A tertiary negative injunction that keeps the victim from escaping the situation
    • Step three is expecting compliance with the framing of the whole conversation at the expense of Caucasian individuals. It also involves the consequent labeling of them as fragilefor taking issue with the dismissal of their personhood on account of their skin color (the tertiary negative injunction). Taking issue with the dismissal of one’s personhood is not even considered to be possibly legitimate. Instead, such dissent is assumed to be due to their fragility and inability to stay engaged with the conversation as framed.

The Effects Of Accepting White Fragility Theory As A Fact In Society

It has become common to demonize Caucasian individuals – no doubt by those who perpetuate white fragility as fact. An article published by the Chicago Tribune claims, “White people, you are the problem.” In England, Cambridge University defended an academic who said, “White lives don’t matter.” This kind of racist, evil, and harmful ideology from DiAngelo should not be normalized and promulgated in any society that deems itself as purveyors of truth. 

I challenge those in spiritual and secular leadership not to succumb to the pressure of promoting White Fragility to their congregation and employees as the ‘gospel’ on race relations.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

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