The Fatal Assumptions of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Fatal Assumptions of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility
Robin DiAngelo in video for the Unitarian Universalist Association, June 9, 2020 (Unitarian Universalist Association/Wikimedia Commons)

The Left’s long march through our institutions has finally clinched the ultimate glittering trophy — the unfettered indoctrination of our young. A stampede of schools seeking to boast the credential of becoming anti-racist, guided by the lodestars of diversity, equity, and inclusion, has been accelerated by the post–George Floyd rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. When parents live in fear, not speaking out against critical race theory–based school seminars and classes to avoid being canceled, and when children are taught that they must be racist just because of their skin pigmentation, the triumph of the Left is complete. And the most influential resource guiding schools and corporates across the nation is Robin DiAngelo’s wildly popular book White Fragility.

On the New York Times bestseller list for 130 weeks as of this writing, White Fragility focuses on the attitudes and behaviors of white people confronted by DiAngelo’s charge that they are all, collectively, racist white supremacists. It’s an intriguing exercise to explore the unspoken assumptions underlying her book, and it raises the troubling question of how something so flawed can enjoy such success. It is marred by internal incoherence, classification errors, and false assertions.

Not only is DiAngelo racist herself, collectively lumping all whites together as an undiversified entity, but she is also oblivious to her self-contradictions.

DiAngelo’s “white supremacist” epithet is more than just a poke in the eye of white audiences. The term carries the tremendous stench of death and insane prejudice embodied in Nazi death camps, overlaid by images of burning crosses and lynchings. As a corporate trainer delivering diversity seminars, DiAngelo records entirely predictable reactions to this charge, and she knows exactly why they are so visceral. She declares, “To suggest that I am racist is to deliver a deep moral blow — a kind of character assassination.”

Yet her charge of white supremacy entails much, much more. Racism in any Western country today can have monumental repercussions, spelling the end of career and livelihood. But for her, white resistance to her accusation is a self-verifying proof of the guilt and complicity of whites in their racism. She fails to recognize that the behaviors of the falsely accused — being offended, outraged, scandalized — are not dissimilar to the feigned behaviors of the guilty.

A surface reading of DiAngelo’s hypothesis reveals that not only is she racist herself, collectively lumping all whites together as an undiversified entity, but she is also oblivious to her self-contradictions. She harangues whites for their solipsistic individualism but proposes nothing short of individualist pathways as her solution for transcending the herd. She thereby affirms the very thing she seeks to deny. Then she fails at elementary logic — why are Chinese or Indian racial majorities likewise “privileged,” according to her definition of the term?

Things get more untidy when one looks more closely at her assumptions. DiAngelo’s diversity training sessions teach what I will call “advanced racism.” This is not the racism of early civil rights movements remedied by equal opportunity legislation across the Western world, but something new and more sinister.

At the center of DiAngelo’s “advanced racism” is the ultimate inequality of “white privilege,” a first assumption driving her criticism of white people. Today, in Western society, there are two incompatible, clashing notions of equality. The first is equality of opportunity, and the second is equality of outcome. That Western society is unequal is not a problem according to the first notion so long as all are justly given equal opportunity. Some grasp that opportunity, while others are less inclined to do so. But for the latter notion, any ripple on the smooth surface of thoroughgoing economic egalitarianism is an injustice requiring intervention.

DiAngelo’s is artful in running together two irreconcilable notions of equality — the first premised on individualism, the latter on collectivism – seamlessly moving from one to the other as if they are on the same continuum, one an extension of the other. DiAngelo conceals her evangelical Marxism, given the track record of communist or socialist economies that have implemented Marxism with poor to devastating economic outcomes.

DiAngelo’s oft-repeated condemnation of white society’s stolid commitment to “meritocracy” should give the entire Marxist game away. After all, if meritocracy is the blatant evil she constantly claims it is, the NBA should be stripped of its overabundance of black players and new quotas should be introduced to ensure equal racial representation in the game. A comprehensive meritocracy-thwarting vision can only be genuinely attempted by a property-divesting communism committed to a police state and totalitarian control, which historically has come with very high body counts.

Thus DiAngelo’s reproof of white culture presupposes, without her visible acknowledgment, a Soviet-style society where the USA’s vibrant colors are replaced by their shades of collectivist grey. Yet this is the obscured platform from which she delivers her denunciations.

Central to the advanced racism DiAngelo describes is a purported deep racial bias among white people that stems, she believes, from white culture’s belief in its own superiority. White liberals who championed anti-racism civil rights might have fully honored equal opportunity legislations in their employment practices but they still held deep racial biases, she argues: “We don’t see through clear or objective eyes — we see through racial lenses. On some level, race is always at play, even in its supposed absence.”

This statement uncovers two terminal assumptions in White Fragility that ultimately destroy DiAngelo’s systemic racism hypothesis. First is her adamant certainty that white people can never be objective about race issues — an assertion that she repeats axiomatically, without any justification. But that claim is palpably false.

David Popenoe, in his book Families Without Fathers, demonstrates via copious statistical evidence that fatherless households are a major predictor of poverty, criminality, and at-risk behaviors, contributing to a more violent and less stable society. He records that 51 percent of black teenage mothers in 1965 were unmarried (versus 12 percent of white teenage mothers), but 55 percent of white teenage mothers were unmarried by 1990. White teen families thus trailed their black counterparts by several decades.

In addressing these causes of societal dysfunction and calling out the failings of black and white cultures according to the same standard, Popenoe exhibits no racial bias. Unless poverty, crime, and at-risk behaviors are to be exalted as of higher value than their opposites, DiAngelo’s absolutist statements denying racial objectivity are falsified by the evidence he provides. Claims that white bias drives Popenoe’s use of empirical methods are equally fatuous.

This leads to DiAngelo’s second false assumption. For her, it would seem, any expression of white culture being considered, in its own eyes, as better than another is necessarily racist. But this is simply untrue. Whites no doubt during the 1970s prided themselves on their higher fidelity to the value of “intact families” and their related societal benefits. But it is equally true that middle and upper-class whites despaired of white working-class and white poor families for their lesser commitment to “intact families.”

So here both blacks and whites were judged against a value, and both were found wanting. Because race is immutable whereas values chosen, the 1970s judgments about intact families were selecting for values, not race. Specific examples DiAngelo gives of advanced, systemic racism in her book reduce to these non-racial value differences where expressed frustration about those differences, expressions that should rarely be construed as hate. When men joke over a beer about the idiosyncrasies of women, it hardly means they hate their wives. While litigation has all but extinguished real acts of racism, value differences will always exist between people groups. This entirely collapses DiAngelo’s “advanced racism” and charge of pervasive white supremacy.

What possibly disturbs DiAngelo, as a neo-Marxist, is the essential inequality of values. Because there is no shortage of evidence that intact families are, frankly, better, superior, and more value-able than broken or single-parent families, this introduces better/worse hierarchies that cheat Marxist sameness. In the Marxist world of idealized equality, the peaks and troughs of individual values and aspiration must be bulldozed to a common collective denominator, explaining the lethargy in socialist economies by dragging down the human aspirational spirit into the deadweight grey of the collective.

So important are values, and so carefully chosen, many parents bequeath them as a conscious gift to their children. While Marxists have always sought out the young, annexing schools and universities for the proliferation of their values, the same recognition inexorably guides parents. In seeking to shield their children from sponging up lesser values, they send them to schools populated with like values, even if it is conservative parents sending their children to an inter-racial Muslim school where no other conservative alternative exists. The same values drive committed neo-Marxists to avoid a conservative Christian school.

The same dynamic drives the white flight “racism” DiAngelo also condemns. She notes that “when a formerly white neighborhood reaches 7 percent black … white housing demand tends to disappear.” Yet there is every evidence she knows that values, not color, drive the differences she describes. Her error shows when she mentions that Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants were not treated as white in the past. Despite being Caucasian, she says they all became assimilated by “speaking English, eating ‘American’ foods, discarding customs that set them apart.” She continues, “poor and working-class people were not always perceived as white.”

Clearly even DiAngelo sees that whiteness is not about the immutability of race, of color, or of the shape of one’s eyes but falls within the realm of consciously chosen values and culture. The examples of advanced racism she offers reduce to cultural differences in a mostly color-blind society where people are judged by their values, not by the color of their skin. DiAngelo’s likely fear of values leads her to misclassify their hierarchical nature as white superiority, despite values being endemic to every race. She appropriates an integral human responsibility, illegitimately weaponizing it as white supremacy.

She further asserts that systemic racism arises when the unfounded prejudices of a racial majority come to be backed by legal authority and institutional control against a minority. She says, “Discrimination is action based on prejudice. These actions include ignoring, exclusion, threats, ridicule, slander, and violence.” What she ignores is that all these nominated actions are actionable in law. Anti-discrimination legislation exists precisely to ensure these institutional actions meet the full force of law.

The political Left currently appears to have carefully assembled an institutional infrastructure for systemic leftist control, using their concocted, projected structures of “systemic racism” as a template. Big Tech and educational institutions have eliminated conservative free speech, corporates have mobilized to cancel livelihoods even for the sin of attending conservative rallies, politicians have enacted the penalization and even criminalization of political difference, and a unified U.S. media complex is using psychological intimidation techniques on the masses to ensure politically correct right-think. It’s an institutional full-court press, with Hollywood as their cheerleaders.

Yet if all this progressive neo-fascism were faithfully and rigorously litigated against free speech protections and existing anti-discrimination legislations, thus providing safe harbor to conservatives — and skeptics of critical race theory more broadly — on every front, the Left’s systemic institutional edifice will have been dismantled. Likewise their fiction of systemic racism — protections have long existed to dismantle it wherever it exists. All DiAngelo can cite in her book are carping examples of expressed individual frustrations over differences in cultural values.

As the Biden administration places systemic racism and white supremacy front and center, conservatives must expose the fatal assumptions of White Fragility, as well as the ideological underpinnings of such attacks. They flow from the absurdly radical notion of equality of outcome, which has only been rigorously implemented in the failed communisms of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

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