Why Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility Theory is Poorly Founded

Though I don’t agree with this post. I’m open to discussions. I’m simply copying and pasting my comments to the author. Jess, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you. I have taught in one of the most racist counties in the USA for almost twenty years and I can attest that “white fragility” is indeed a thing. I have witnessed this fragility from my white in-laws and in the beginning of the relationship with my husband, co-workers, friends that have come and gone. The theory may be flawed as you have presented based on the way science is structured, but it doesn’t mean that the entire premise is trash and worth throwing away. Likewise, there are so many things that science just can’t prove or support. Here are some examples:
1. Science doesn’t make moral judgments.
2. Science doesn’t make aesthetic judgments.
3. Science doesn’t tell you how to use scientific knowledge.
4. Science doesn’t draw conclusions about supernatural explanations.
How many people (aside from white nationalists) will openly admit their racist ideologies for a study? How many people are even aware of their own biases and are actively trying to destroy them? That said, what was your purpose for writing this with so little background knowledge and context? You even mention that as an introduction to your post. What’s going on? Here’s what is going on in a little slice of my world. You’re always welcome to visit: https://adaratrosclair.wordpress.com/2020/05/30/am-i-your-beard/

Daring To Jess

I want to preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert or someone that can speak on behalf of white or black people.

I only wish to share what I’ve learnt. As part of the recent wave of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve seen a lot of people recommending Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility in good faith, often without having read it, trusting that it is a well-researched resource. It is not.

All these points come from Jonathan Church’s article in Areo Magazine.

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Photo byUmbertoonUnsplash

1. Robin DiAngelo Claims She Is a Sociologist

She claims that “As a sociologist, I am quite comfortable generalizing” when in fact sociologists are typically wary of generalisations.

Her astonishing claims include making sweeping generalisations, reading only from scholarship in her profession that has led her to making some inaccurate readings of history, and…

View original post 1,171 more words

4 thoughts on “Why Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility Theory is Poorly Founded

  1. I would also be interested to read other comments and discussions. Here is my reply to Monique, copied and pasted:

    Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you in that science doesn’t make aesthetic or moral judgements, although I would argue that it is an important tool for figuring out what methods are best for fixing a problem – but this is outside the scope of this post.

    I can also understand that White Fragility resonates with a lot of people, including myself, and their experiences, and has raised people’s awareness to their implicit biases so that they can start to actively work to unlearn them. This is inextricably tied with DiAngelo’s success as a writer and educator.

    You are also right in that people will likely not openly admit their racist ideologies for a study. However, DiAngelo’s theory is that all white people are implicitly biased, with no exceptions. This is something that would be able to be studied, and has been studied; the science is still hugely inconclusive (I have linked to the review in my post).

    I would also argue that it is misleading for DiAngelo to try and present her theory as a scientific result, instead of openly just basing it on her own experiences. This is what I have the biggest issue with, as a scientist of colour. It is important to be honest and rigorous if you are to present a scientific theory, especially if it is in a social science.

    Further to this, my purpose is to remind people that it is important to listen and understand others’ experiences, but it is also important to think critically about any ‘scientific’ arguments. As I said earlier, I think DiAngelo’s theory would be much better positioned if she openly based it on her experiences rather than as ‘science’.

    I would be interested to read your thoughts on this!

    1. I’d have to read DiAngelo’s book in its entirety to authentically measure her success in substantiating her theory myself. However, I do believe that “empirical evidence” which is based on observations is indeed scientific. So, again I’m still not sure why you criticized her entire theory because she went the “empirical evidence” route (also known as sensory experience — the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior). After all, she noticed patterns in herself and other white people. Other than that, here’s an article I found (originally written in 2015) based on a psychology study that “shows how white people deny the reality of their inherent advantages”. If you need solid “scientific” evidence with surveys and numbers, this is a good place to start: https://psmag.com/news/sure-whites-are-privileged–but-not-me-personally
      Good luck to you.

      1. Thank you very much for sending me some more resources, I have given them a read! I certainly agree with you that sensory experiences are an important part of the “empirical evidence” route – noticing the patterns are very much an important first step to finding out the truth in a scientific manner.

        However, when it comes to social sciences, a great body of statistics is required before any concrete conclusions can be made – people are often complex and difficult to predict, which means that large sweeping generalisations (such as “white people are racist”, which is the claim that I have the most issue with) require an equally large data set. The article you directed me to look at was based on only 150 white participants from the US, which are not representative of all ‘white’ people. Also, in Phillips and Lowry’s findings, they state that White people exposed to the evidence of racial privilege accept that group-level privileges to white people exist – they just confuse privilege with lack of hardships and as a result don’t realise that racial privilege extends to their personal lives. This does not necessarily mean that they are racist, they may just not realise that racial privilege extends to them even though they have hardships.

        A similar study was carried out in the UK with 120 participants that showed similar results – largely with the same results as Phillips and Lowry – but as with Phillips and Lowry, they are also unable to make any concrete conclusions about the causes and can only speculate about the most likely causes. I guess we can only wait and see, and educate people about what privilege means: that you can have hardships and still be privileged.

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