The Battle to Keep ‘White Fragility’ Out of Okaloosa County Schools

by Christopher Paslay

The debate over the use of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility in a high school English classroom is heating up in the Okaloosa County School District. 

As Reported in the Northwest Florida Daily News:

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.

As Jennie McKeon reported for WUWF:

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.

BLM, Goodyear, and the Censoring of Free Speech

by Christopher Paslay

Either ban all political slogans or provide an honest forum open to all perspectives.   

There’s an old saying that used to govern corporate H.R. departments and most social gatherings: Don’t talk about religion or politics.  Religion and politics — while extremely important and necessary — can be quite polarizing, and have the tendency to hurt feelings and damage friendships, and alienate employees and customers.

This hasn’t stopped corporate America (as well as schools and sports) from pumping-in politics by the boat-load, embedding partisan messaging and agendas in their products, services, and curriculum for all to see.  

Recently the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company went down this slippery slope.  A leaked slide from an employee training course at the Goodyear Topeka plant revealed a discriminatory policy that allowed Black Lives Matter shirts and apparel to be worn by employees, but not Blue Lives Matter (5 Dallas officers were shot and killed at a BLM protest in 2016) or All Lives Matter clothing.  After Goodyear’s stock took a nosedive overnight, dropping more than 4%, the company scrambled to explain it was all simply a misunderstanding, that the slide was not representative of the national office, and that their policies do not allow for political speech in the workspace.

Goodyear issued a clarification, which said in part:    

To be clear on our longstanding corporate policy, Goodyear has zero tolerance for any forms of harassment or discrimination. To enable a work environment free of those, we ask that associates refrain from workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues.

Goodyear’s response lays bare the obvious political games America’s corporations (as well as schools and sports) are playing with semantics.  What are “racial justice” and “equity issues” if not political?  This obfuscating language is simply a way to deem some forms of political speech more legitimate than others, and is a tactic that’s being employed by many across America. While you may agree with the goal of equity and justice for all, you may choose to express this by believing All Lives Matter.  

But this is not acceptable according to the gradians of today’s woke culture, a network of openly partisan gatekeepers who get to define terms and language (the way Robin DiAngelo has redefined “whiteness” to mean inherent racism), and who not only control which politics are deemed acceptable, but what even qualifies as “politics” at all; the political agenda underlying BLM is so deep, partisan, and well-funded, it’s ludicrous to suggest this organization/slogan is not political.  

Mascaraing under the guise of “equity” and “racial justice” is the latest tactic to silence opposing political points of view while keeping other political agendas front and center.  Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, was forced to correct her syllabus after informing her students that they could not submit work that opposes Black Lives Matter, abortion, and other social issues.  Although the university said in a statement that the syllabus “was inconsistent with the university’s standards and its commitment to the First Amendment rights of students,” the fact that Clark felt she could openly censor free speech in such a manner is a cause for concern.

Earlier this summer Starbucks, in an effort to keep their image clean and stay out of the muck of political controversy, issued a policy that barred employees from engaging in political speech at work.  The company explicitly stated that BLM attire was prohibited under its dress code policy, which did not allow for any kind of political expression to be worn, because it could incite violence, controversy, or unrest. Interestingly, this policy only lasted several days before the political might of BLM forced Starbucks to reverse its decision and announce its support of Black Lives Matter; all other forms of political expression, such as All Lives MatterBlue Lives Matter, or Unborn Lives Matter, are still banned.   

The NBA is perhaps the highest profile supporter of BLM, and one of the biggest censors of free speech it doesn’t agree with.  The league has not only painted Black Lives Matter on their Orlando court, but also allows for players to wear the name of the activist organization on the backs of their jerseys as well, along with over a dozen approved so-called “social justice” slogans; these slogans all fall within the narrow window of perceived equity and racial justice, and the phrases All Lives MatterBlue Lives Matter, and Unborn Lives Matter are prohibited.

The phrase Free Hong Kong is also banned.  In an effort to bring awareness to the human rights atrocities being committed by the Chinese government against Hong Kong protesters in October of 2019 (such as police clubbing demonstrators and shooting teenage protesters), Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy demonstrators.  The tweet tarnished the NBA’s extremely lucrative relationship with China, so Morey became an instant outcast.

Lebron James, at an effort at damage control, stated that Morey was “misinformed” or “not really educated,” suggesting that the clubbing and shooting of Hong Kong protesters by the Chinese police (and the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has arbitrarily detained between 1 million and 3 million Uighurs in so-called “reeducation centers” and forced them to undergo psychological indoctrination programs), was some kind of misunderstanding.  Incredibly, when NBA fans tried to side with Hong Kong protesters and design “Free Hong Kong” NBA jerseys on-line, the NBA first blocked — then completely disabled — the personalized apparel option on its website. 

The polarizing, agenda-driven BLM movement still has a home on NBA courts and player jerseys, however.  But this kind of selective political censorship doesn’t sit well with everyone. Former NFL all-pro defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who is African American, said he thought the NBA painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court was a bad idea.  He stated on the FOX Sports 1 show:

There’s a problem with when you start to go down this road of the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and how much social space is allowed for those who don’t support in that same space, and that’s where I wonder where this is going to go in terms of identity politics. We know what identity politics does: it divides and it polarizes.

Wiley also highlighted concerns over Black Lives Matter’s mission statement, whose goal is to “dismantle the patriarchy” and “disrupt the Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” Wiley explained many people have not taken time to read or understand BLM saying, “I don’t know how many people really look into the mission statement of Black Lives Matter, but I did, and when you look at it, there’s a couple things that jump out to me.”  

According to The Federalist:  

Wiley went on to explain why BLM is detrimental to Black families and personal success. He said that growing up, he observed friends who didn’t have intact family structures and they “found themselves outside of their dreams and goals and aspirations.” Wiley cited data backing up his observations about children raised in a single-parent home: “[They] are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 6 times more likely to be in poverty, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, 32 times more likely to run away from home.” 

These facts brought up by Wiley don’t seem to concern the NBA, or the NEA, for that matter; the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in America, has officially embraced the BLM movement, promoting BLM’s goals and mission statements in official BLM curriculum.

The ultimate issue, however, is not the agenda of BLM, but the limiting of free speech.  Either ban all political slogans or provide an honest forum open to all perspectives.  Doing otherwise is dishonest and un-American, and a violation of the First Amendment.   

Replacing Anti-Racism with Mutual Accountability (Creating Win-Win Solutions)

Baylor University sociology professor Dr. George Alan Yancey

by Christopher Paslay

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.”

Yancey writes in his article: 

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. 

Fundamental Flaws of White Fragility with Jonathan Church

Writer and economist Jonathan Church examines some fundamental flaws of Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility theory, and how it’s a Kafka trap that falls prey to logical fallacies. His book critiquing Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility theory will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in January of 2021. Jonathan’s articles about whiteness studies and other topics have appeared in Quillette, Areo, Arc Digital, The Agonist Journal, Merion West, The Good Men Project, New Discourses, and The Federalist, among others. Thanks for watching!

My Interview with Ron Jolly on NewsTalk 580 WTCM

Above is the audio of my 8/13/20 interview with Northern Michigan’s Ron Jolly, who invited me on his radio program after reading my article in American Thinker titled, “Speaking Out Against Robin DiAngelo’s Toxic White Fragility.”  Ron has been covering Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility on his show for several weeks, and has voiced his concern over the divisive nature of the underlying tenets, as well as the polarizing qualities of modern anti-racism.  

More importantly, Ron has brought attention to the recent letter sent home to parents by newly appointed Leland Public Schools Superintendent Stephanie Long, who states that it’s the job of white parents and students to “question and examine our beliefs, implicit biases, and intentional or unintentional roles in perpetuating white privilege.” 

Long also writes in the letter, “we need to examine the disparity in our experiences and the underlying reasons that have created the privilege we who are white enjoy.” She also encourages parents and students to join a Black Lives Matter Chapter, and engage in anti-racism work; she has also placed White Fragility on her school district’s recommended reading list. 

The above radio interview is 23 minutes long.  I apologize in advance for the sound quality in the beginning of the segment.  My cellphone reception made parts of the conversation a bit hard to hear.  Thanks for listening!

Is Anti-Racism Training Condemning Black Children to Poverty?

Branding America’s schools as oppressive institutions steeped in “white supremacy” is great for identity politics, but is it elevating children of color out of poverty and helping them succeed? This video explores how the approaches of Ibram Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, and Glenn Singleton — three anti-racist educators — place identity politics over academic skills, and how doing so may be hurting the very children they intend to serve. The video references an article from the New York Times Magazine by Daniel Bergner titled, “‘White Fragility’ Is Everywhere. But Does Antiracism Training Work?” Thanks for watching.

Seattle’s Reeducation Training For White People

Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights recently developed a training for its 10,000 city employees with a breakout session for whites titled “Internalized Racial Superiority for White People.” Christopher F. Rufo, the director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty and a contributing editor for City Journal, recently obtained new documents from this training. This video analyzes these documents, and the training as a whole. Thanks for watching.

Is the Anti-Racism Training Industry Condemning Black Children to Poverty?

by Christopher Paslay

Branding America’s schools as oppressive institutions steeped in ‘white supremacy’ is great for identity politics, but is it elevating children of color out of poverty and helping them succeed?

Ibram X. Kendi, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, believes that the racial achievement gap in the United States is a myth. The very idea itself is racist, he argues, insisting the supposed gap is simply the result of poorly designed, culturally biased standardized tests. As Jonathan Chait writes in The Intelligencer

It does not matter to [Kendi] how many different kinds of measures of academic performance show [the achievement gap] to be true. Nor does he seem receptive to the possibility that the achievement gap reflects environmental factors (mainly worse schools, but also access to nutrition, health care, outside learning, and so on) rather than any innate differences.

To Kendi, all racial disparities are the result of only one thing: racism. Hence, the racial achievement gap in America isn’t really a gap at all, but merely the result of racist thinking.

Like White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo, Kendi is now regarded as a leading scholar and international expert on anti-racism, and has recently accepted a position at Boston University, where he will launch BU’s Center for Anti-Racist Research, and will work across disciplines to “transform how racial research is done.”

For the 37-year-old Kendi, this is quite an accomplishment; the renowned author and scholar from Queens, New York, has come a long way in the past 17 years. Back in 2003, Kendi — who went by his birth name, Ibram Henry Rogers — was writing a column for the student newspaper at Florida A&M University. “I don’t hate whites,” he wrote. “How can you hate a group of people for being who they are?”

As reported in The New Yorker:

He explained that “Europeans” had been “socialized to be aggressive people,” and “raised to be racist.” His theory was that white people were fending off racial extinction, using “psychological brainwashing” and “the aids virus.”

But suggesting whites were brainwashing people of color and using the aids virus to fend off racial extinction was a bit too progressive for 2003 audiences, so an editor demanded that Rogers discontinue his column, and Rogers agreed under protest. After graduating from Florida A&M, Rogers went on to earn a Ph.D. in African-American studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, and eventually reinvented himself with the name Ibram Xolani Kendi.

Now Kendi — a Queens native and Temple educated aids virus conspiracy theorist — will be working across disciplines at Boston University to “transform how racial research is done.” This will most likely entail using Critical Social Justice based in social constructivism, which is the concept that everything (all truth and knowledge) is simply the result of a social construct. In other words, there is no absolute truth or knowledge, rather, these things are humanly produced and constructed by social expectation and coercion and presented as “objective.”

The African-American History Museum’s page on whiteness, which summarized what it called “white culture,” is a case in point:

Under social constructivism, values such as work ethic, rational linear thinking, politeness, self-reliance, and the scientific method are no longer considered universal or objective, but are redefined as “white” — or the byproducts of a racist, Western, white supremacist culture. As Daniel Bergner writes for The New York Times:

Borrowing from feminist scholarship and critical race theory, whiteness studies challenges the very nature of knowledge, asking whether what we define as scientific research and scholarly rigor, and what we venerate as objectivity, can be ways of excluding alternate perspectives and preserving white dominance. DiAngelo likes to ask, paraphrasing the philosopher Lorraine Code: “From whose subjectivity does the ideal of objectivity come?”

Social constructivism is gaining ground, especially in American K-12 schools. Glenn E. Singleton runs an equity workshop for discussing race called Courageous ConversationNew York Times writer Daniel Bergner joined this two-day workshop in September of 2019, documenting his experiences in an article titled, “‘White Fragility’ Is Everywhere. But Does Antiracism Training Work?” Bergner writes:

Singleton . . . talks about white culture in similar ways. There is the myth of meritocracy. And valuing “written communication over other forms,” he told me, is “a hallmark of whiteness,” which leads to the denigration of Black children in school. Another “hallmark” is “scientific, linear thinking. Cause and effect.” He said, “There’s this whole group of people who are named the scientists. That’s where you get into this whole idea that if it’s not codified in scientific thought that it can’t be valid.”

Leslie Chislett, a white former executive with New York City’s Department of Education who filed a lawsuit against the department in 2019 for racial discrimination, disagrees with such beliefs. She was co-director of a drive with the goal of getting a broad slate of Advanced Placement courses into all the city’s public high schools. “The availability of A.P. classes,” she told Bergner of the New York Times, “communicates to kids that it is possible for them to exceed the regular curriculum and can help teachers see that many kids have the potential to succeed at college-level course work. It’s about creating a culture of high expectations.”

Bergner writes: 

Some lessons of the antiracism trainings weren’t easy for Chislett to embrace. Colleagues on her multiracial A.P. for All team accused her, during and outside the workshops, of hindering exercises and refusing to acknowledge her own white supremacy, her own racism. . . . Chislett eventually wound up demoted from the leadership of A.P. for All, and her suit argues that the trainings created a workplace filled with antiwhite distrust and discrimination. . . . 

“It’s absurd,” she said about much of the training she’s been through. “The city has tens of millions invested in A.P. for All, so my team can give kids access to A.P. classes and help them prepare for A.P. exams that will help them get college degrees, and we’re all supposed to think that writing and data are white values? How do all these people not see how inconsistent this is?”

This inconsistency is a valid point. Instructing administrators and teachers to put less value on skills like written communication and linear thinking could negatively affect students of color, especially when it comes to college readiness and competition in the labor market.

But when Times writer Bergner brought up such a point with Singleton, Kendi, and DiAngelo, none of these anti-racist educators could give a meaningful response. They all failed to explain what should replace such things as written communication and linear thinking, and could only offer circular, propagandistic ambiguities in response.

The social and academic consequences of such anti-racist training should be carefully considered before implementing such workshops in America’s schools. Believing that systemic racism is the only explanation for differences in learning — and that the supreme and almost absolute-power of white culture prevents Black kids from succeeding in school — might not be the best course of action to empower students of color and help them succeed.