by Christopher Paslay
These 10 resources, written by conservatives and liberals alike, provide a toolkit for understanding — and debunking — Robin DiAngelo’s toxic concepts.
Robin DiAngelo, whose white fragility theory has become one of the most influential ideas about racism in America, is a scholar-activist who has openly called for academic “revolution” as a means of de-centering whiteness in America and stopping so-called white supremacy and institutional racism.
As she writes in her seminal paper on white fragility, “Whiteness Studies begin with the premise that racism and white privilege exist in both traditional and modern forms, and rather than work to prove its existence, work to reveal it,” making it clear she’s more interested in forwarding her narrative about the oppressive nature of whiteness than in using the scientific method to prove it. In her Author’s Note to her bestselling book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, DiAngelo admits that it’s “unapologetically rooted in identity politics,” and that we as Americans “have yet to achieve our founding principle, but any gains we have made thus far have come from identity politics.”
DiAngelo’s progressive activism is rooted in ideas that lack sufficient support from social science research, and as a scholar-activist, she tends to put politics over science, making her work more about ideological preferences than rational inquiry. Her work lacks rigorous hypothesis testing and quantitative measurement; makes sweeping generalizations about entire groups of people without backing these assertions with the use of statistical analysis; relies too heavily on anecdotal observations and flawed implicit bias research; and arrogantly presents her theories as settled science rather than hypotheses to be tested and further explored.
Below is a list of 10 resources which thoroughly critique DiAngelo’s theories and the concepts that underpin them.
1. Exploring White Fragility: Debating the Effects of Whiteness Studies on America’s Schools, Rowman & Littlefield Publications, by Christopher Paslay. This book, due out in April of 2021, uses both existing research and anecdotal classroom observations to examine the effects whiteness studies is having on America’s schools. (Click here to pre-order.)
2. The Flaws in White Fragility Theory: A Primer, New Discourses, by Helen Pluckrose and Jonathan Church. The title is self-explanatory: it’s a primer for understanding the major flaws in white fragility theory. Specifically, it analyses DiAngelo’s concept of “whiteness,” “white fragility,” and the shaky underlying concept of “implicit bias.” The article closes by illustrating how DiAngelo has constructed a house of cards full of logical fallacies.
3. White Fragility Theory Is a Bullying Rhetorical Tactic, The Agonist, by Jonathan Church. Robin DiAngelo believes that whites must shut up and listen. This article highlights how she uses white fragility theory to shut down whites — and any and all conversation — when they try to question or offer alternative viewpoints.
4. How ‘White Fragility’ Theory Turns Classrooms Into Race-Charged Power Struggles, The Federalist, by Jonathan Church and Christopher Paslay, (discussed further on the Dan Proft radio show). This article, co-authored by Jonathan Church and myself, highlights the flaws in methodology in white fragility, as well as how the approach can provoke resentment among classroom teachers.
5. Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job, The Cut, by Jesse Singal. This article exposes the fundamental flaws of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), and Harvard’s Project Implicit website, and how the IAT has both validity and reliability issues. Implicit bias, of course, is a concept that heavily underpins DiAngelo’s white fragility theory, as well as most approaches in the schools of whiteness studies and anti-racism.
6. Diversity Training Shouldn’t Be Based On Flawed Implicit Bias Research, Philadelphia Inquirer, by Christopher Paslay. This article highlights the problems with implicit bias research, and how mandatory implicit bias trainings can have unintended negative consequences on education and business, such as hurting teacher/manager morale and provoking resentment among faculty/colleagues.
7. The Theory of White Fragility: Scholarship or Proselytization? , Areo Magazine, by Jonathan Church. This article exposes the cult-like atmosphere surrounding DiAngelo and white fragility trainings, and how the workshops are based more in religious indoctrination than in education and rational inquiry.
8. The Intellectual Fraud of Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility,’ The Logical Liberal, by David Edward Burke. Liberal activist and attorney David Edward Burke’s criticism of DiAngelo’s white fragility proves her questionable use of research and science is not simply a partisan issue. His article exposes how “Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility is snake oil masquerading as insight.”
9. Are Micro-Aggressions Really A Thing ?, The Good Men Project, by Jonathan Church. This article analyzes the scientific legitimacy of “microaggressions,” which like implicit bias, underpins much of whiteness studies, anti-racism, and white fragility theory.
10. Whiteness Studies and the Theory of White Fragility Are Based on a Logical Fallacy, Areo Magazine, (discussed further in an interview and podcast with Benjamin Boyce), by Jonathan Church. This articles exposes DiAngelo’s flawed reasoning and the logical fallacies at the heart of white fragility theory and whiteness studies in general.
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