Part 2: A Worldview Analysis – White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo 2018)
The Worldview of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Welcome to Part 2 Worldview Analysis of Robin DiAngelo’s book ‘White Fragility”. I recommend reading Part 1 before reading the next section. Click here to read PART 1.
In this section, I will analyze the underlying worldview of the book “White Fragility” and the author Robin DiAngelo. Then, I will compare and contrast it with the Biblical Worldview. First, I think it is wise to understand what we mean when we say, “worldview.”
Note: I have developed a glossary of terms used in this paper on my website. Visit the page here…
Weltanschauung is German for ‘Worldview’. It is a comprehensive view or personal philosophy of human life and the universe (dictionary.com).
“A Weltanschauung (worldview) is a comprehensive conception or theory of the world and the place of humanity within it. It is an intellectual construct that provides both a unified method of analysis for and a set of solutions to the problems of existence. The concept of a Weltanschauung has played an important role in the development of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and nineteenth – and twentieth-century hermeneutics.” (encyclopedia.com)
Essentially, our Worldview is the lens through which we view, interpret and engage reality. It shapes what we believe about the world around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, our worldview informs us and drives our thinking and actions. Worldview’s can be shared causing unity among people. Conversely, worldviews can clash causing conflict.
Every worldview provides answers to the seven questions below. The question is, which worldview offers the best answers?
1. Where did I come from? (origin)
2. What is the nature of reality?
3. Does my life have meaning (meaning)?
4. Who am I (identity)?
5. How do I know right from wrong? (morality)
6. What is wrong with the world and how do we fix it?
7. What happens to me when I die? (destiny)
Worldview truth tests – Correspondence and Coherence
Once we have established the answers to the seven questions above, we must apply two tests for truth. The first is correspondence. Do the answers correspond to reality? The second test for truth is the coherence test. When all seven answers are put together, is there coherence? In other words, do they make sense together?
Finally, all truth claims must demonstrate logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential relevance. Truth is logical, measurable and applicable to daily life. Is a worldview livable?
Background – Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory Intersectionality
“The Revolution won’t happen with guns, rather it will happen incrementally, year by year, generation by generation. We will gradually infiltrate their educational institutions and their political offices, transforming them slowly into Marxist entities as we move towards universal egalitarianism.”
In order to understand Robin DiAngelo, we must understand some history, her language (the words she uses) and her worldview.
It is clear from the book that DiAngelo holds to a worldview called Critical Theory (also referred to as ‘Cultural Marxism’). Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory Intersectionality (CRTI) are rooted in Marxism – which is a materialistic worldview. Moving forward, I will be using the abbreviation of “CRTI”.
Karl Marx viewed the world through economics (only matter and energy exist). The struggle was between the Bourgeoisie (elites / owners / oppressors) vs Proletariat (poor / workers / oppressed). His theory was devoted to creating conditions for a revolution where the Proletariat would rise up and take power from the Bourgeoisie establishing equality in outcomes (a utopian state).
When Marxist revolutions failed to materialize in the west, Antonio Gramsci (Italian Marxist) theorized that the Cultural Hegemony (dominant cultural power) hindered it (1). Gramsci came to the conclusion that the ‘revolution’ from Marx’s theoretical framework would not materialize in wealthy, stable and capitalist societies. According to historian Dr. Glenn Sunshine, Gramsci surmised that, “The problem was ideology not economics – the problem was worldview.” The hegemony elites controlled and oppressed the lower classes ideologically through the institutions (academia, education systems and universities, the church, politics, judiciary, civil service, media, entertainment, the family and marriage). Gramsci’s vision was to create a counter-hegemony to overthrow the dominant oppressive power structure. Then, the conditions would be set up for a Marxist revolution.
Gramci’s vision of a “war of position” for socialists and communists, is to subvert western culture from the inside.
What began with Marx was modified by Gramsci then adapted as Critical Theory. Today, Critical Theory is a bonafide worldview that competes with Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Secularism, New Ageism, etc. The application (praxis) of Critical Theory is to identify the systematic power structures in society (power dynamics) between oppressed groups and their oppressors with the goal of dismantling oppressive structures. The critical theorist is in a constant state of critique, dividing people into oppressed identity groups determined by gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, etc. and dismantling oppressive institutions and structures – thus, liberating the oppressed group. In other words, it is in a constant process of revolution against the cultural and economic hegemony. Critical Theory has been hybridized into Critical Race Theory Intersectionality. There are other variants (like Critical Pedagogy and Queer Theory) that I will not go into here but suffice to say, they all lead back to Marx (oppressors and oppressed). They are the fuel of the ubiquitous ‘Social Justice’ movement (see also Social Justice commentary).
It’s important to note that Max Horkheimer coined the term “Critical Theory” and wanted to distinguish it as a radical, emancipatory form of Marxian theory (2). If after reading this the notion of ‘religion’ comes to mind, you’re beginning to see the power of Critical Theory as a competing worldview.
Why does this matter?
In DiAngelo’s view, there exists only two types of people, oppressors and the oppressed. All social interactions and institutions revolve around power dynamics in a zero-sum game (a winner and a loser). In other words, there is a fixed amount of material resources in the world. The dominant group obtains resources at the expense of the weaker groups. In order to keep power and control resources, the dominant group oppresses the weaker groups. That is the basic idea of power dynamics. In addition, the dominant group also exercises oppression through hegemonic power (recall Gramsci). Culture (language, law, business, customs, art, education, science, etc) is dictated by the hegemony. To Max Horkheimer, the objective of Critical Theory is “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.” The existing power structures must be confronted and overthrown in order to ‘liberate’ oppressed people groups.
This brings us back to Gramci’s subversion of western institutions. We’re not just dealing with a book, we’re dealing with a worldview. CRTI has committed linguistic larceny of Christian words and concepts like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression, etc. Therefore, the worldview deals in a slight of hand with words. (visit the ‘Old Words – New Definitions’ section of the Definitions and Links page)
A Worldview in Action
“Critical Race scholar Zeus Leonardo states, “For white racial hegemony to saturate everyday life, it has to be secured by a process of domination, or those acts, decisions, and policies that white subjects perpetrate on people of color.”” (DiAngelo, 2018, p. 118)
DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” is committed to CRTI and when taken to its logical conclusion, it creates a type of caste system. By design, it divides all people into opposing groups that are constantly competing for greater levels of victim status. Moral authority is determined by the number of oppressed groups one identifies with, while moral responsibility is not expected among oppressed groups. In this worldview, certain ethnicities and identity groups have no moral responsibility at all. Essentially, they can behave however they wish without any moral or judicial consequence.
Additionally, DiAngelo constantly reminds her white readers that white people really don’t have anything to contribute to conversations about race and racism. By default, ethnic minority identity groups have hidden knowledge of truth regarding racism that is only accessible to that group. Dr. Voddie Bauchman calls this “ethnic gnosticism.”
Adherents to CRTI also claim that actual knowledge is impossible – truth and knowledge are rooted in one’s individual experience and identity group experience. Truth, epistemology and metaphysics (the nature of reality) are culturally generated and socially constructed. In other words, there is no objective truth to be found in the domain of human existence.
Now the logical inconsistency of DiAngelo’s worldview comes into focus. The claim that truth and knowledge are subjective (rooted in experience) is either objectively true for everyone everywhere or it is not. The truth claim that all truth is subjective collapses and self-refutes. Logic wins! Game over! Right? Wrong.
The CRTI worldview maintains that logic, reason, science as well as the Christian worldview and the nuclear family are tools that white people use to retain hegemonic power in order to continuously oppress black people and other intersectional groups. This is where I think DiAngelo borrows a tactic from Queer Theory that states that is politically actionable to make reality as confusing as possible if it furthers the cause of defeating systemic oppression.
Finally, DiAngelo puts every white person into one of two opposing camps. Either you enlist in her ‘antiracist’ activist group or you are a racist who supports the American system of white supremacy. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
DiAngelo claims to be an ‘antiracist.’ What does it mean to be an ‘antiracist’?
Antiracism is “the practice of dismantling a system marked by white supremacy and anti-black racism through deliberate action.” (Stay Woke, p. 53). Claiming not to be a racist is not sufficient. To qualify as an antiracist, one must be a committed activist in dismantling any and all oppressive racist structures and institutions in America. If you are white and hope to join the upper echelons of the antiracist movement, you must constantly confess your ‘white privilege’ and promote the ideology.
“The ‘antiracism’ program offered by Critical Race Theory offers no neutrality. Everyone is either an ‘antiracist’ or they are ‘racists’ by default. ‘Antiracism’ comes directly from the academic scholarship of Critical Race Theory. In Critical Race Theory, ‘racism’ means ‘systemic racism’, which is said to be ‘the ordinary state of affairs’ in the United States. It (antiracism) is described as a ‘lifelong commitment to an ongoing process’ that includes social activism to end what it calls ‘racism’.”
– Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay
Summary of “White Fragility” Worldview
In the worldview of CRTI, everything is seen through the lens of race and power dynamics. Primary human identity is racial group identity. Secondary human identity is intersectional group identity (gender, sex, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability, physical appearance, etc.)
CRTI claims that the main problem in the world is white oppression of ethnic minorities and intersectional identity groups (victims). The solution is for the oppressed groups to confront and dismantle the oppressive institutions of white supremacy in order to bring about a revolution that liberates the oppressed groups. The end-state envisioned by CRTI is total equality of life outcomes (a Marxist utopian state).
DiAngelo’s role and that of her book, “White Fragility” is religious exercise and application of the Critical Theory worldview. The book’s coercive ideas, discursive form, and linguistic trickery can successfully convince some readers that they are racist when they are not. The circular and unfalsifiable arguments DiAngelo employs trap people into believing that white supremacy is implicit among all white people and ubiquitous yet invisible.
CRTI claims racism is the original sin from which there is no actual lasting salvation. Anything emerging from ‘white people’ is inherently evil. Salvation is found in unending self-flagellation and constant works-based religious practices by white people – whose sin was being born white. For them, absolution is situational and ongoing as the white antiracist earns social credits with peers through self-abasement and activism on behalf of the ideology (becoming ‘woke’). (See also ‘virtue signaling‘)
At the end of the day, “White Fragility” has very little to do with race relations and everything to do with resurrecting a Marxist agenda and worldview. The ideas in this book destroy trust and relationships among people of good will because it completely misdiagnoses the core problem with the world. Therefore its solution completely misses the mark. It pits people against each other in a battle for power in a zero-sum game. DiAngelo creates more problems than she can solve.
According to antiracists, black people must somehow apprehend “power” from white people (in a zero-sum game). They are unable to create, work or strive for resources for themselves. This is a flat-out denial of individual agency of black people. It strips human dignity from an entire ethnic group. Does this correspond with reality?
While black communities have real struggles, we also see black image-bearers like Oprah Winfrey (worth $2.6 billion and owns her own media network), Barack Obama (twice elected popular President of a supposedly ‘white supremacist’ country), LeBron James (is an influential professional athlete worth hundreds of millions), Dr. Ben Carson (one of the best neurosurgeons in the world and presidential candidate), Condoleezza Rice (first female African-American Secretary of State and the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor), Colin Powell (Four Star General first African-American Secretary of State and head of the NSA) and Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court Justice). DiAngelo has very little to say about these extraordinary people but would argue that all of these people are ‘outliers’ that reinforce the status quo of white privilege and white dominance.
“To say that whiteness is a location of structural advantage is to recognize that to be white is to be in a privileged position within society and its institutions—to be seen as an insider and to be granted the benefits of belonging. This position automatically bestows unearned advantages. Whites control all major institutions of society and set the policies and practices that others must live by. Although rare individual people of color may be inside the circles of power—Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Marco Rubio, Barack Obama—they support the status quo and do not challenge racism in any way significant enough to be threatening. Their positions of power do not mean these public figures don’t experience racism (Obama endured insults and resistance previously unheard-of), but the status quo remains intact.” (DiAngelo 2018, p. 65-66)
Dangers for the well-meaning Christian
The Christian who intentionally or unintentionally adopts or borrows language or even the smallest idea from Critical Theory must understand that he or she is importing a foreign artifact that undermines the Bible and Christian worldview. In today’s postmodern culture in America, words like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression have dual meanings. CRTI has hijacked language in order to push an ideology. Well-meaning Christians should use discernment and ask questions. We’re using the same words but different dictionaries. Always ask, “what do you mean by that?” to get clarification.
Theologian Darrell Harrison puts it another way, “We (Christians) are not to take the world’s ungodly philosophies and worldviews and couch them within the biblical Christian worldview. We are not to adopt them or any part of them because one part taints the whole.”
Final Thoughts for Christians
First, DiAngelo is not a Christian – she is promoting a fundamentally anti-Christian worldview and ideology. As followers of Christ with a Christian worldview and vision for life, we must think deeply in this cultural moment and understand the times. Second, we must pray for wisdom and discernment. We must pray for those brothers and sisters being led astray by false doctrines. Third, we must spend more time in our Bibles. One hour per week on Sundays is not enough to engage with competing worldviews.
Questions Christians must ask themselves:
- Does the book, “White Fragility” draw the Christian closer to Christ and His Word?
- Does the book have the fragrance of Christ?
- Does it embody beauty, goodness and truth?
- Does DiAngelo’s worldview answer the seven worldview questions adequately, corresponding to reality?
- What is the purpose of the book?
- Are her ideas, diagnosis of the human problem and her solutions logically consistent and coherent?
- Is this worldview livable?
- Can you build your life on it?
Consider the Bible. God created the world and everything in it. God is the moral law giver and he implanted it on the hearts of humans by common grace. He infused and embedded rich meaning throughout the created order. He brought about the universe through his Word. He gave us the gift of language. God created all humans in His own likeness and image. God declares that there is but one race – the human race.
Regarding the category of ‘race’, it’s worth noting that the Bible does not divide people into ‘races’, instead the Bible speaks of nations (ethnos), tribes, tongues and peoples. He created unity in diversity. ‘Nations’ is translated from ‘ethnos’ – where we derive the word ‘ethnicities’. THAT is the language of the Bible. The concept of ’Race’ is rooted in Darwin’s Theory of Human Evolution and is ethnically prejudice full title: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life“). It’s also worth noting that scientists have proven that the concept of ‘race’ is not grounded in genetics (3).
“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
– Malcolm Muggeridge
The Bible properly diagnoses the human problem and offers a comprehensive solution (Problem: Sin – Solution: the Gospel).
As image-bearers, we implicitly know good from evil, right from wrong – we know God exists. The Bible states that ’Sin’ is the problem with the world. And our thoughts, words and actions evidence this as true (corresponds to reality of evil we see in the world and in ourselves). God also provides the only solution to our problem. That solution is His only son, Jesus Christ (Gospel). He is the one who saves by grace through faith. He died for all nations and all sin. We just need to repent and trust Him… He opens the gates to the Father’s Kingdom. And until these bodies wear out, we live in the joy of our Salvation. We express our love for Him by sharing the hope we have in our hearts and serving Him – redeeming and restoring our culture in our time. Then, our Father will whisper, “time to come home my child; well done…. I am making all things new.”
By all means read the DiAngelo’s book in order to understand her worldview, confusion and frustration it causes. But, practice discernment. By no means import her ideas, words or practices into your beautiful, good and true Christian worldview.
“And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…”
Worldview Charts (1 of 2)
DEFINITIONS AND LINKS - WHITE FRAGILITY (DiAngelo 2018)
- Critical Theory and Racism – Dr. Glenn Sunshine
- Queer theory
- New Discourses – Critical Race Theory
- A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory – Tim Keller
- Where Are We in This Cultural Moment? A Perspective from History
- Worldview One – Resource Page
- Just Thinking Podcast – EP # 102 Black Lives Matter?
- The Hamilton Corner – The BLM Connection to Witchcraft
- Immanentizing the Eschaton – P. Andrew Sandlin