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.
Jonathan D. Church is an economist, CFA charter holder, and writer who has been published in Areo, Quillette, Arc Digital, The Agonist Journal, Merion West, The Good Men Project, DC Examiner, and other venues.
Chapter 1: “White Fragility” Is a Trap
Transforming Education into Indoctrination
Chapter 2: Behind the Curve on Implicit Bias
The Implicit Bias Paradigm
It Is Not Clear What Implicit Bias Is
It Is Not Clear What the Implicit Association Test (IAT) Measures
IAT Results May Reflect Base Rates Rather than Bias
Implicit Bias Does Not Reliably Predict Behavior
Implicit Bias Training Has Not Been Shown to Work
Implicit Bias Does Not Currently Tell Us Much about Racism
Chapter 3: The Wrong Way to Think About Racism
The “Reification” of Whiteness
Chapter 4: Flawed Methodology
Conflating Objectivity and Neutrality
Why Is Objectivity Distrusted?
The Vital Importance of Objectivity
What Is Objective Measurement?
Chapter 5: Exploiting Narratives at the Expense of Facts
What Can A Jeopardy! Episode Tell Us About White Racial Illiteracy?
The Jackie Robinson Story
U.S. Economic History and the Mexican American War
Chapter 6: Distorting the Enlightenment and Critical Theory
What Does Critical Theory Have to Do with “Social Justice”?
The Critique of Reason
The Eclipse of Reason
Critical Theory Sought to Rescue the Enlightenment, Not Abandon It
Critical Theory Promotes Rational Autonomy
Chapter 7: Running Afoul of Reason and Logic
Correlation and Causation
The Genetic Fallacy
Other Logical Fallacies
Chapter 8: Sermonizing, Not Scholarship
A Case Study: The Significance of “Black” Names
Don’t Ask Questions. Liberate Yourself!
Chapter 9: A Rhetorical Weapon for Activist Bullies
A Case Study: Micro-aggressions
Rhetorical Bullying Tactic
Chapter 10: A Better Way to Think About Whiteness and White Privilege
The Theory of Whiteness and White Privilege
White Privilege: A Concept in Need of Refinement
“Privileges Worth Having” Are Public Goods
Club Goods That Should Be Public Goods
“Privileges Not Worth Having” Are Public Bads
Racial Harms and Efficient Precaution
“Reparations” and The Political Coase Theorem
White Fragility Theory Undermines the Pursuit of Racial Justice
A Case Study: “Preferential” versus “Developmental” Affirmative Action
White Fragility Theory Exacerbates Social Frictions
Jonathan Church displays superhuman patience with Robin DiAngelo’s circular motive-mongering on race relations. In the process, he shows how well the old-saw definition of a fanaticism fits the swelling ranks of DiAngeloite diversity trainers: people who can’t change their minds and won’t change the subject. Identity-politics posturing is a much better bet to deepen than to heal our divisions. What happened to the inclusive vision of Martin Luther King—or Barack Obama?”
With a scalpel and a sledgehammer, Church deftly takes apart White Fragility and pulverizes the rubble. A must read.
Church's meticulous dissection of current concepts of anti-racism, whiteness and white fragility is an essential handbook for anyone trying to get to grips with this strange new theory. Accessible and engaging, Reinventing Racism, provides a thoughtful and charitable critique which will equip the reader with a full and accurate understanding of these ideas which currently have so much influence on society.
Robin DiAngelo’s white fragility theory is light on science and heavy on identity politics, and no one exposes the flaws of this controversial theory better than Jonathan Church. From DiAngelo’s misunderstanding of the Enlightenment to her mangled interpretation of history and facts, Church’s book shows how white fragility is no more than a rhetorical weapon for activist bullies, and runs afoul of reason and logic. As a public schoolteacher interested in racial justice — who believes in holistic healing over polarizing politics — this book has been an invaluable tool in helping me navigate the world of white fragility, and has made it clear there is a much better way to think about racism both in my classroom and in contemporary America.