The theory of white fragility is one of the most influential ideas to emerge in recent years on the topics of race, racism, and racial inequality. White fragility is defined as an unwillingness on the part of white people to engage in the difficult conversations necessary to address racial inequality. This “fragility” allegedly undermines the fight against racial inequality.
Despite its wide acclaim and rapid acceptance, the theory of white fragility has received no serious and sustained scrutiny. This book argues that the theory is flawed on numerous fronts. The theory functions as a divisive rhetorical device to shut down debate. It relies on the flawed premise of implicit bias. It posits a faulty way of understanding racism. It has serious methodological problems. It conflates objectivity and neutrality. It exploits narrative at the expense of facts. It distorts many of the ideas upon which the theory relies.
This book also offers a more constructive way to think about Whiteness, white privilege, and “white fragility,” pointing us to a more promising vision for addressing racial inequality.
Dr. Elana Yaron Fishbein recently launched “No Left Turn” to combat leftist indoctrination in K-12 public schools. In June, she removed her two children from an elementary school in the Lower Merion School District because she didn’t want them exposed to “cultural proficiency” curriculum, which, according to Dr. Fishbein, used resources designed to “inoculate Caucasian children with feelings of guilt for the color of their skin and the ‘sins’ of their forefathers.”
Why would any Burlington parent put up with such belligerent behavior, let alone want policies presented in such a manner in their schools?
Last week, a school board meeting in the Burlington Area School District in Wisconsin was shut down by Black Lives Matter protesters. Organized by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism, the meeting abruptly ended Monday night with shouting, arguments, and school board members exiting the building with police protection.
The issue at hand was a proposal that BASD adopt an anti-racism policy and curriculum, which advocates have demanded but others in the community have opposed and the school board has not adopted. Such polices have been internally discussed since March. The demands have been made after numerous allegations of racism in Burlington schools, with critics saying the school district has done little to discourage such behavior.
A mother of a former student who attended Burlington schools insisted BASD refused to acknowledge racism in their schools, and cared nothing for black and brown children.
Although the mother insisted the Burlington Area School District has remained silent about racial issues, and that the educators in the room have made it clear that they don’t care about black and brown children, BASD documents show otherwise.
In July of 2020, the Burlington Area School District issued a public letter directly responding to several accusations of racism made by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism.
One accusation was that the school district had “inequitable hiring practices.” The activist group stated that “the district refused to hire a qualified black assistant principal for Burlington High School and instead, hired a white person with less experience.”
BASD respectfully responded to this accusation by stating:
The goal of BASD’s collaborative hiring process is to identify the very best candidate for the position and make a recommendation to hire to the school board. BHS’s vacant assistant principal position received 69 applications. Sixteen applicants were interviewed in the first round by four BHS staff and administrators. Five applicants participated in the final round of interviews with fourteen staff on the final interview team.
The Burlington Area School District sent a letter to families and staff (Seeking Solidarity) on June 3, 2020, after the BHS assistant principal hire. We continue to be committed to equitable hiring practices and hiring a diverse workforce.
The second accusation of so-called racism by the Coalition revolved around student suspensions. The Coalition claimed that “the suspension rates were 25 times higher for 39 black students in the entire district than 2,505 white students.”
A look at the actual numbers showed a completely different picture, however. According to actual data from the 2018-2019 school year (which is the most recent available), 4 of the district’s 43 black students were suspended (9%), while 54 of the districts 2,523 students were suspended (2%).
BASD wrote in response, “This data confirms that in the 2018-2019 school year, the suspensions of black students compared to their white counterparts were 4.45 times greater, not 25 times. We recognize that this is an area where we can explore a more restorative approach to student discipline.”
A third accusation made by the Coalition was that “black kids we’re being called the n-word on a daily basis and Mexican kids we’re being called beaners and wetbacks. . . . Also, white students were regularly displaying Confederate flags on their person, lockers and vehicles.”
After a thorough investigation, BASD found these accusation were not credible. The district wrote in their letter:
The BASD has no evidence to support the assertion about these behaviors having merit. That said, we fully recognize that there are past and present student-to-student microaggressions that may or may not be intended as racist but inflict harm to others and communicate hostility and negativity. We know this can be hurtful and will continue to do all we can to ensure that every student and staff member feels welcome and valued in our schools and within the Burlington community.
As a part of BASD’s public response to the Coalition, Superintendent Stephen T. Plank wrote a personal response, stating in part:
I write to you today representing the BASD as an educator, school leader and member of the greater Burlington community. . . . I, too, wish to be an ally in the efforts to put an end to the racism that causes anguish in our community and our country. I see the BASD as partners in making change happen in our community. The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism has brought forth four desired outcomes, in short, to: update curriculum, require diversity and inclusion training, increase the number of educators of color in our district, and encourage other districts to follow our lead are acknowledged. The BASD has been pursuing action around your four points and more to take an aggressive stance toward eliminating racism in the Burlington area community.
Yet according to the Coalition, black lives don’t matter, and BASD has done nothing to end racism in the schools.
But there is a clear irony underlying the Coalition’s actions. One of the components contained in their anti-racism policy proposal involves ending student harassment and bullying. But when one takes a look at how the members of the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism acted during Monday’s school board meeting, it’s clear they failed to model the very behaviors they claimed to want in the school; the protesters were belligerent and disrespectful, bullying and harassing the school board members, insisting that their anti-racist curriculum should have superseded the scheduled agenda, creating chaos to the point where the police were needed to retain order (see video above).
The behavior of the Coalition says everything you need to know about their so-called anti-racism curriculum. As the saying goes, “Rules for thee, but not for me.” As evidenced by their blatant disregard for those around them, it becomes clear these so-called concerned community members care little for creating an environment free from bullying and harassment. Why would any parent put up with such behavior, let alone want their policies in the district?
And while some of the Coalition’s anti-racism curriculum has merit — like their efforts to bring about diversity and inclusion, and to protect victims of harassment — the core of the policy centers around the principals of anti-racism, which are extremely polarizing and divisive.
An anti-racist approach to equity involves stereotyping entire groups of people — branding all whites as inherently racist, privileged, and suffering from anti-blackness, while labeling all people of color as oppressed victims who have no control over their own lives; the empowerment of people of color depends on the dismantling of whiteness and so-called white supremacy culture.
Anti-racism is a zero-sum approach, which in effect is more about indoctrinating students and community members into adopting the ideology of identity politics, and transforming our youth into partisan activists.
And ironically, where has such activism gotten the Coalition? The disruption of the school board meeting kept their own agenda from being considered, and according to the Journal Times, the Burlington Area School District’s communications director, Julie Thomas, said she did not know when the items from Monday’s agenda may be taken up again.
In the end, the infantile temper tantrum put on by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism got them tossed out of the meeting and into the parking lot, where in all honesty, they should remain until they can learn to conduct themselves in a manner that actually models the behaviors they claim to support.
Kendi’s attempts to label any inquiry into voter fraud as “racist” is just a tactic to silence advocates of voter integrity, and to marginalize those who disagree with him.
According to Ibram X. Kendi, who recently equated the interracial adoption of African children by white parents with colonialism, and in college, wrote an article suggesting whites have used the AIDS virus to control the black population, insists using the term “legal vote” is racist.
“The misinformation of widespread voter fraud — or ‘illegal voting’ — in Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Phoenix where Black and Brown voters predominate is baked into the term ‘legal vote.’ No matter what GOP propaganda says, there’s nothing wrong with those voters and votes,” Kendi wrote on twitter. “What makes a term racist is rarely the term’s literal meaning, and almost always the historical and political context in which the term is being used.”
In other words, Kendi wants to redefine the term according to his own personal politics.
The fact that a coalition of 39 House Republicans just sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr, asking the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of potential voter fraud, doesn’t seem to matter to him.
The letter read in part:
Dear Attorney General Barr,
While each state runs its own election process, the United States Department of Justice is ultimately responsible for the integrity of federal elections. The American people must have the utmost confidence that the outcome of the presidential election is legitimate.
With widespread reports of irregularities, particularly in the vote counting process, it is time for you to use the resources of the Department to ensure that the process is conducted in a manner that is fully consistent with state and federal law. And, it is also important that the process be completely transparent, so that the American people will have full confidence in the result.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Voting Section’s responsibility to ensure that the right to vote is sacred. This not only means access to the ballot box, but it also means ensuring that no one’s vote is devalued by any means of voter fraud.
This doesn’t seem to matter to Kendi. Neither does the fact in Nevada, there are over 3,600 possible cases of voter fraud— specifically, residents voting in Nevada who no longer live there.
To Kendi, calling for voter integrity and transparency is somehow racist, because Kendi’s race-obsessed worldview does not allow him to see past skin color to the actual substance of an issue.
In it, Church criticizes the flaws in Kendi’s reasoning, including his belief in Mono-Causality and the Origins of Racist Ideas:
Skeptics are racists, it would appear, because they disagree with Kendi—not because they have legitimate concerns about whether Kendi is correct that causality only goes one way, or that policies are not the sole cause of inequality, or that counterexamples may diminish the force of his claims,” Church writes. “Logic, facts, and scholarship have little to do with it.”
Still, from Ibram Kendi’s perspective, racial disparities are the sole result of racism. Period. Students of color are disproportionately suspended because of racist educational policies, not because their experiences or backgrounds differ in any way from those of their white counterparts. According to Kendi, all students arrive at school at the exact same place.
(I wonder what Kendi would say if we used the same logic for the 2020 election: the late breaking disparity of votes for Biden IS the evidence of the fraud itself. Period. No other scenario is needed.)
Kendi’s attempts to label any inquiry into voter fraud as “racist” is just a tactic to silence advocates of voter integrity, and to marginalize those who disagree with him. According to Kendi, you are either racist, or antiracist, there is no neutrality.
To this I say to Kendi: You are either for voter fraud, or against it. There is no in-between. And as evidenced by your attempt to racialize the term “legal vote,” it seems clear you fully embrace the latter.
Donald Trump has effectively gotten Critical Race Theory out of government training, and given a second term, will fight to remove this toxic and polarizing ideology from our children’s schools. Thanks for watching.
A book called “White Fragility” has been removed from the reading list at Choctawhatchee High School at the direction of the Okaloosa County School District.
The book, whose full title reads “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism,” was not included on this year’s approved reading list for the Choctaw English Department, a statement from the School District said.
“More importantly, the Florida Department of Education has established standards for each course in the public-school setting that define what students should be taught in that course,” the statement said. “It is not apparent that this material aligned with the standards for the course.”
The book’s removal, which was prompted by a complaint from a parent, quickly sparked a response from social justice advocates. The Niceville chapter of Black Lives Matter soon got involved, and launched a petition to keep the book in the high school which has now received over 1,300 signatures.
According to the change.org petition, an English teacher at Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach was planning a lesson on racism — past and present — using excerpts from the 2018 book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, a white academic with experience in diversity training.
When a parent made a complaint, the Okaloosa County School District backed the parent.
However, when Niceville parent Misti Schneidewind heard about the incident, she contacted her daughter, Hannah, who started the petition Wednesday.
When she was home from Northeastern University during the summer, Hannah was part of the students that helped facilitate four Black Lives Matter billboards around the city. Hannah said the petition may not do much but raise awareness, but that’s OK with her.
“Many people in our community are so uncomfortable with this topic,” said Hannah. “But it’s not just something you can shut down and ignore.”
But those familiar with the book White Fragility know it’s more than simply a conversation about race, diversity, or multiculturalism; White Fragility is a polarizing and divisive book, which teaches that all whites are racist by default, suffer from white supremacy and anti-blackness, and labels all who challenge or disagree with this dogma as “fragile.” It is all about indoctrination through identity politics, and provides no real means for discussion, collaboration, or critical thinking.
The Okaloosa County School Board agreed to read the book for themselves, and ruled that the book would be granted the opportunity to be considered as part of their English curriculum, as long as the proper procedure was followed.
To watch further commentary on the topic, and to see excerpts of the official Okaloosa County School Board meeting, please click here.
“Nice White Parents” is the New York Times‘ new five-part podcast series about “building a better school system, and what gets in the way.” This video analyzes part #1, titled “The Book of Statuses.”
In 2015, a cohort of proactive parents, many of whom were white, enrolled into the Boerum Hill School for International Studies in Brooklyn, NY. After opening a dual-language French program for the middle school, funds poured in. Soon test scores shot up, as did enrollment and interest in the school. By 2019, the school became successfully integrated, and had an even distribution between white, black, and Latino students. But not all were happy.
Three writers with an interest in Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility theory — an economist (Jonathan Church), a Christian and theoretical chemist (Neil Shenvi), and a Philadelphia public school teacher (Christopher Paslay) — critique DiAngelo’s controversial concept.
A new directive states that Federal agencies must cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund trainings using critical race theory, white privilege, or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist.
The toxic, discriminatory tenets at the center of critical race theory — which serve as the basis for anti-racism, white fragility, white privilege, and so-called white supremacy culture — are being exposed at the highest levels of government. At the urging of Christopher F. Rufo, a contributing editor for City Journal whose investigative reporting has exposed how critical race theory has infiltrated the Federal government, the heads of executive departments and agencies have been directed to identify and terminate all Federal training which teaches all whites are inherently racist.
It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date “training” government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda.
For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press reports, in some cases these training have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.
These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.
The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly, to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President’s directive. In the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory/9 “white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un- American propaganda training sessions.
The President, and his Administration, are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States. The President has a proven track record of standing for those whose voice has long been ignored and who have failed to benefit from all our country has to offer, and he intends to continue to support all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or creed. The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.
This directive from Vought is long overdue. The toxic, divisive policies at the center of critical race theory — which extend to anti-racism, white privilege, white fragility, white supremacy culture, implicit bias, and microaggressions — must no longer be tolerated. Singling people out by their race or culture clearly violates Federal anti-discrimination laws, and has been doing so for some time.
One can only hope state and local governments will use Federal agencies as a guide, and in turn commit to routing out such divisive trainings and discriminatory practices as well.
Everyone must come out of their comfort zone and take responsibility, and roll up their sleeves to do the hard work of finding win-win solutions.
Correction: When this article was originally published on August 18, 2020, I mistakenly tied Baylor University sociology professor George Alan Yancey together with Emory University philosophy professor George Dewey Yancy. The intention was to write solely about George Alan Yancey, whose Mutual Accountability model I very much admire and respect. I have rewritten the article to correct the mix-up. My sincere apologies to both professors.
In a July 16th article on Patheos.com, Baylor University sociology professor George Yancey wrote a very powerful critique of white fragility and anti-racism titled, “Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility,” where he proposed having a true dialogue on race relations, not merely a monologue disguised as a conversation. Named the Mutual Accountability Approach, Yancey suggested using sociological research (Intergroup Contact Theory based in active listening) to unify rather than divide, making solutions win-win rather than win-lose.
Historically speaking, there have been systems in America that have favored one group over another, and the effects of this are still felt today. As Yancey states in his Patheos article, “We need to move from these racialized institutions that work better for majority group members to systems that are fair for everybody.”
However, certain aspects of anti-racism including DiAngelo’s White Fragility — in an effort to level the playing field — actually flip the tables on whites, alienating them from the conversation on race and from giving meaningful input on solutions.
As Professor Yancey writes: “People of color in their zeal to correct racial problems can also go too far and set up unfair conditions for whites. Group interest theory indicates that allowing either group total control of what we are going to do means that this group will create rules that benefit them but put others at a disadvantage.”
This is where Professor Yancey’s Mutual Accountability Approach comes into play. His solution is that we all have the responsibility to communicate and listen to one another. He states, “We have to work with each other to find win-win solutions instead of relying on win-lose scenarios. I need to hear from whites about the concerns and they have to listen to me about mine. Only then can we work towards fashioning solutions to the racialized problems in our society that can serve all of us well.”
Is there research indicating that working together can help us deal with racial alienation? Empirical work suggests that a theory known as the contact hypothesis may offer us answers. It basically states that under the right conditions intergroup contact produces more tolerance and less prejudice. While I do not want to go into all of the conditions necessary, there is research indicating that when we have an overarching identity with those we are in contact with that we move from seeing them as foreigners to seeing them as part of our group. At that point our biases towards former outgroup members tend to become dramatically reduced. . . .
This very process can bring us together and reduce the racial animosity that never seems to go away in our society. But it will be hard work. We will not easily give up the idea that we can get everything we want or that we are right but those who disagree with us have no clue. But if we can overcome these tendencies and learn how to fashion win-win solutions, then we have a chance to move forward.
This is interesting, as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility Theory — as well as many anti-racist approaches — do not allow for this mutual conversation. Again, most modern anti-racists like DiAngelo call for a monologue, where whites are viewed as “racially illiterate” and are expected to “shut up and listen.”
Yancey says this is a recipe for continued problems. The model may work for a while, but if both groups are not part of solutions, it will perpetuate backlash, resentment, and continue the cycle of inequality.
At the center of Yancey’s mutual accountability approach is active listening — something antiracists do push, but only on whites. Yancey writes:
If you rely merely on accusation, blaming and canceling to compel whites to support you, we will get what we have gotten thus far. Some whites will respond to that. Others will engage in a backlash. Others will simply ignore us. I run into plenty of whites who are not insensitive to the plight of people of color, but have been called racist one time too many and now want nothing to do with anything antiracists or with ideas such as white fragility. Ironically sometimes I run into these whites after they have read some of my work and are willing to work on race relations again because of my work. It is not that I am magical or anything like that. It is that when I write or speak, I do so from having listened to whites and thus have knowledge on how to reach them. . . .
If you are still not convinced that working for win win solutions is the best approach, then let me frame this one final way. Think about the whites who want to figure out how to deal with our racial conflict but are not comfortable with just being told to shut up. They are open to learning about institutional racism but not open to not having a say in how to deal with it. So their choice is an anti-racism program where they have no say in the process or to just ignore racism altogether. My experience is that many of them will try to go the anti-racism route for a while but will be called a racist or be asked to turn a blind eye to a person of color misusing his or her cultural power and eventually gave up. Then that person will still be concerned about racial issues but will not accept a “white fragility” path towards a solution. . . .
Will that person move towards ignoring racial issues? That is a possibility. Most likely though that person will not have a solid way to deal with his or her concern about racial alienation or racism. They will probably be paralyzed not trusting the rhetoric heard by anti-racism activists but wanting to do something. I know because I have met these people and heard their stories. . . .
We need solution that pull us together, not drive us apart. That is the only way we will have sustainable pathways away from the racial alienation poisoning our society. We do not need to engage in more recrimination and name calling. Victories gained by those techniques will face constant challenge and keep our society in turmoil. The way forward is to move forward together. . . .
To summarize, in contrary to the questionable research surrounding White Fragility, research suggests that a common identity and fruitful interracial contact can reduce prejudice. My work indicates that interracial couples and multiracial churches have found ways to solve racial problems with respect and understanding those in other races. Conceptually the mutual accountability approach is more likely to produce unity across racial and ideological groups since it does not force anyone to totally ignore their own group interest – just compromise a bit on them. I choose to head in a direction with empirical support and that is tied to bringing us together. Doing this will be hard. Extremely hard. But why should we be surprised at that? Usually the things worth having are hard.
Amen. Everyone must come out of their comfort zone and take responsibility, and roll up their sleeves to do the hard work of finding win-win solutions.