A kafkatrap is a nightmarish rhetorical trick in which an accused person may either admit his guilt, or deny the charge and in so doing prove his guilt. Robin DiAngelo's bestselling book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism (2018) is one big kafkatrap, chock-full of condescending statements, unproven assumptions, unsubstantiated claims, self-defeating assertions, guilt-by-association fallacies, and logical contradictions.
The author, a racial sensitivity trainer, argues that all white people covertly participate in racism but typically respond in a defensive, "fragile" way when confronted with their racism. A white woman, DiAngelo admits that she grew up with certain racist assumptions, and with broad-brush projection she assumes this is true of every other white person. A white person denying his racism is actually proving his racism, and his fragility! Kafkatrap.
DiAngelo employs psychological manipulation and selective history to cast the words and actions of white people in the worst possible light. At the same time, she portrays all black people as helpless and disempowered, waiting to be rescued by woke white people. John McWhorter, a man with very different experiences and political views than me, came away with the exact same impression in his excoriating review. "One of America's favorite advice books of the moment is actually a racist tract...a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children."
Actual racism has been a real problem in our world, but this book offers no helpful solutions. Like most contemporary sociologists, DiAngelo openly embraces identity politics and operates within an intersectional framework (linking anti-racism with feminism and LGBT+ rights). She also employs the modern redefinition of racism: prejudice plus power (thus, only whites can be racist in America). White supremacy is presented as a mostly hidden, even invisible, agenda that is deviously perpetuated by most white people with power. This is, quite simply, a conspiracy theory. One of the wildest examples the author provides is Christian missionary activity, which (apparently) is part of the global distribution of white supremacy. A pernicious result of this kind of thinking is that when everything is called oppression, actual oppression is more likely to be overlooked.
DiAngelo's trademark claim is that a white person can never be fully free of racism. She does not even claim this for herself. She says she is on a continuum from more-racist to less-racist, but does not think it is possible to fully "arrive." One must continually ask not if, but how, their racism is manifesting. "On some level," the author reminds us, "race is always at play." Her solution? A bewildering flowchart of prescribed actions and phrases that may decrease one's odds of an accidental microaggression.
This book, and others like it, are in fact the scriptures of a new religion. McWhorter observes that "DiAngelo is less a coach than a proselytizer.... White Fragility is the prayer book for what can only be described as a cult." Whiteness is the original sin, wokeness is conversion, continual confession and learning is required for sanctification, and "anti-racism" (i.e. progressive intersectional politics) is the good "work" to which all are called. Sadly, this new religion lacks a redeeming Savior. In His place is a tedious, exhausting legalism.
Want to be truly antiracist? Here's the Biblical alternative:
- Read God's Word.
- Repent of your sins and believe in the gospel of Jesus.
- Walk in the Spirit.
- Fully engage in worship and service at a Bible-preaching church, ideally one that includes lots of people from a different background than yours.
- Open yourself up to honest feedback from mature Christian friends who can help you see your blind spots.
- Be aware of historic injustices, and of the ways our culture influences us to see people differently than God wants us to see them.
- "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
- Support policies that are in line with Biblical wisdom, that dignify and empower people rather than keeping them in a dependent state.
- Speak out against actual injustice (Biblically defined) whenever God provides the opportunity.
- Don't trade eternal priorities for temporal goals. Never forget that the gospel is what people need most.