While reading this article it would be important to refer to the first post in this series, which lists DiAngelo’s definitions, including:
“Whiteness rests upon a foundational premise: the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.” (p.25)
White supremacy: DiAngelo seeks to redefine the term white supremacy to show it refers not only to radicalized right wingers but to “the all-encompassing centrality and assumed superiority of people defined and perceived as white and the practices based on this assumption. White supremacy in this context does not refer to individual white people and their individual intentions or actions but to an overarching political, economic, and social system of domination.” (p. 28)
From Dr. Caldwell:
Dr. Robin DiAngelo is characterized by some believers as an unbeliever that Christians cannot learn from. This is evidenced by descriptors of her writings as false, contradictory and harmful. Other characterizations claim the New York Times best-selling author of White Fragility does have a few truths that believers can glean from, such as identifying and naming the harms of white supremacy and acknowledging systemic racism. Criticisms on her writings are centered on a serious lack of empirical evidence, focus on problems instead of redemption, and creating more division than unity. My review will not address all the aforementioned assumptions from her critics. My contribution will focus on sound evidence presented by DiAngelo to counteract false and incomplete narratives surrounding her stance on truth, knowledge, and redemption.
Arthur J. Holmes is credited for proclaiming “All truth is God’s truth.” John Piper offers his rebuttal and pronounces all truth is not God’s truth if it does not make God known and loved and shown. Piper clarifies his message to declare “believers may learn many of God’s truths from unbelievers and see them rightly and thus desire God more and delight in God more because of those truths, so that unbelievers become, unwittingly, the means of our worship” (Piper, 2009).
I affirm that Christians can learn many of God’s truths from DiAngelo. Disciples of Christ can make God known, loved, and seen by speaking truthfully about the enduring harms imposed on people of color by white supremacy. DiAngelo is criticized for lacking empirical evidence to prove white fragility is true and harmful. This judgment is faulty because DiAngelo cites her lived experiences as a professor and diversity consultant, revealing knowledge gained over several years, through careful observation and documentation of patterns of behaviors demonstrated by white people. DiAngelo shares more than a few experiences and observations to educate readers on how white fragility, color-blind and color-celebrant schemes shut down rather than facilitate color-brave conversations, to borrow language from Mellody Hobson’s TED Talk (p. 77-78).
Another central concept misinterpreted by one of DiAngelo’s evaluators is the allegation she does not offer robust evidence to support her claim that white people are more fragile than other people groups. This may perhaps be because of the counterintuitive definition that DiAngelo ascribes to the term white fragility. DiAngelo defines white fragility as a defensive scheme by the dominant group to keep people of color in their place. “In this way, it is a powerful form of white racial control,” (making it a strength not a weakness, as the phrase white fragility suggest), when weaponized by the white majority (p.112). It is not a sign of delicacy, but rather of the dominance.
Second, DiAngelo should not and cannot offer evidence to compare and prove dominant members are more fragile than members from underrepresented groups because underrepresented groups lack equal social and economic power. White people are the only people group who can reap the full benefits derived from the system that is whiteness, and thereby, are the only group that can be described as possessing and maintaining white fragility.
Another incomplete narrative argues that her views are not rooted in truth and are instead false and harmful. DiAngelo contends her writings and work pursues truth to provide accurate and helpful feedback to white Americans on the manifestations of unintentional racism (p.116). She also aims to make visible the inevitable racist assumptions and patterns held by white people conditioned by living in a white supremacist culture (p. 117). Christians can learn from DiAngelo, who speaks truth to power and exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
The Bible teaches us that God made men upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes (Ecclesiastes 7:9). White Fragility and the system of whiteness are man-made schemes that advantages white people and disadvantages black people and racialized ethnic groups. DiAngelo describes whiteness as an identity or status that grants resources such as self-worth, visibility, freedom of movement, sense of belonging, and sense of entitlement (p. 25). DiAngelo describes whiteness as a system, and as someone who agrees racism can be systemic, this system is what needs addressing. As a system, whiteness elevates one people above another and does so in structural ways.
In other words, both white fragility and whiteness are evil systemic schemes that oppose the supremacy of God by claiming to be like God, superior to others, and by falsely representing the perfect impartial judge who does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11).
DiAngelo is right and righteous when she insists on disrupting and demolishing white fragility (p.148). Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth to “refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). White supremacy is in opposition with the supremacy of God and His Word because God made all men as equal image bearers (Genesis 1:27), and from one man he made all the nations (Acts 17:26).
Believers should feel provoked by plots that perpetuate an anti-Kingdom vision. The scripture teaches that God desires a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping before his throne (Matthew 28:18-20; Revelations 7:9). Christians should share a similar passion with DiAngelo, and actively work towards dismantling inequitable structures, to ensure freedom and wholeness for all the oppressed groups Jesus came to proclaim the good news to (Isaiah 61:1-3).
My final critique is centered on the claim DiAngelo teachings renders readers hopeless and creates more division than unity. She supplies several hope-filled strategies, with values we also find in the scriptures, which can help move God’s people towards repentance and reconciliation. Two of her recommendations, listening and reflecting, are aligned with the wisdom taught in James: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1-19).
DiAngelo encourages her peers to listen to the hurts and experiences of members from racialized backgrounds and resist the urge to be defensive and angry, which are salient features of white fragility. DiAngelo advises white colleagues to work to make things right by seeking out someone with a stronger analysis if confusion arises.
Her counsel should actually drive Christ-followers to scriptures, reminding believers to instruct the wise and they will be wiser still, and to ensure victory by seeking many advisors (Proverbs 9:9; 11:14). DiAngelo should move Christian readers to repent and be reconciled by returning to situations and people to confront uncomfortable racist tendencies in the same way that Jesus reminded the crowds who were following him to “first go and be reconciled, and then offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24).
The truths in White Fragility are just that, true. They can help Christians make God known, love and shown to all nations by gaining more depth of insight to heal cross-racial differences.