AuthorTopic: The Epistemological Problem of White Fragility Theory  (Read 451 times)

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The Epistemological Problem of White Fragility Theory
« on: June 16, 2020, 10:51:10 AM »
One flaw in the theory of white fragility is that it relies crucially on the paradigm of implicit bias. Papers like this one, which provides a reanalysis of an influential study on implicit bias and finds “a pattern of behavior consistent with a pro-Black behavioral bias, rather than the anti-Black bias suggested in the original study,” show that the science is far from conclusive on the validity of implicit bias as a cause of systemic discrimination. Robin DiAngelo, the sociologist responsible for bringing the notion of white fragility into mainstream progressive discourse, may be mistaken in her belief that the implicit biases of white people are a central force in perpetuating institutional racism in America. If so, white fragility survives only as a rhetorical device to invalidate heterodox opinions at a stroke, in the same way critics of capitalism dismiss critiques of communism as bourgeois.

However, DiAngelo’s theory is worse than that. Not only is her central premise of implicit bias dubious, but so is the research methodology that underlies her manifold claims about the implications of white racial illiteracy and white fragility. Di Angelo’s thesis confuses objectivity with neutrality; dismissing objectivity as an ideological obstacle to knowledge (“there is no objective, neutral reality”); relies on anecdotal observations; suffers from a complete absence of rigorous hypothesis testing and quantitative measurement; and blithely ignores the principle of falsifiability, which distinguishes science from pseudoscience.

Finally, her thesis is, as stated in her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, “unapologetically rooted in identity politics” and this is motivated by a subversive campaign that seeks the “decolonization” of modern universities and an interrogation of whiteness as manifested in the “presumed neutrality” of Western Enlightenment epistemology, which, she claims, privileges “particular forms of knowledge over others”—written over oral, history over memory and rationalism over wisdom—to the detriment of anyone who is not white.

In short, DiAngelo relinquishes any concern with objective measurement, despite the fact that she is “quite comfortable generalizing” about white people because “social life is patterned and predictable in measurable ways.”

DiAngelo contends that the “racialized” position of white people in American society rests on social, political, economic and cultural dominance. Ensconced in privilege, white people exhibit white fragility when aroused by any challenge to their privilege. In white fragility, there is the root of implicit bias. To dismantle racism, it is necessary to dismantle the ideological foundations of society itself, which entails a tenacious and ongoing effort to dissect the implicit biases of people who hold the keys to power, i.e. white people. Her work is methodically devoted to discerning and exposing as many examples as she can find of implicit bias, and explaining how these implicit biases underlie and perpetuate the institutional construct of racism.

Di Angelo has extracted her thesis primarily from an exhaustive reading of scholarship in her profession; a selective, one-dimensional, and sometimes egregiously inaccurate reading of history that leads one to surmise that progressive icon Howard Zinn is her favorite historian (in chapter 2, she writes that the US economy at the time of the nation’s formation was based in part on the annexation of Mexican lands, when, in fact, the Texas and New Mexico territories came into the possession of the United States after the Mexican War of the 1840s, and were part of a negotiated purchase following a war that started when Mexico fired the first shot). She also bases her work on her clinical experience with inter-group and intra-group dialogues on racism in formal settings—focus groups, case studies, workshops, seminars and talks—in which she has served as a mediator, facilitator or speaker. In these settings, she has frequently encountered resistance and defensiveness from white people, after confronting them on their racial biases. In her seminal paper, she describes this resistance as white fragility, a condition in which “even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”

DiAngelo posits that white fragility stems from a misunderstanding of what racism is and how it works. Racism, according to DiAngelo, is inextricably tied to the powerful grip that white people have on the levers of institutional control, a grip that will remain ironclad until white people learn to let go of their biases and allow DiAngelo and her ilk to explain to them how everything they say and do is racist, i.e. functions as a scaffold of socialization on which white supremacy survives, against the gravitational pull of social justice activists who seek to bring about its collapse.

DiAngelo’s work offers a synthesis of ideas inherited (implicitly) from Rousseau, Marx, Freud and Foucault (among others), as applied to contemporary scholarship in Whiteness Studies. Her view of how white fragility is integral to institutional racism seems innocuous, even intuitive, when one considers the data showing wide discrepancies between whites and blacks in unemployment rates, earnings and measures such as wealth, poverty, educational attainment and homeownership. Moreover, white males largely hold sway in terms of leadership and influence in politics, Silicon Valley, business, university faculties and the media. When the odds are heavily slanted in favor of white people, and white males in particular, it seems straightforward to suggest that conditioned prejudices, to which we all succumb, affect social outcomes in ways that benefit white people at the expense of people of color. Ending racism is not about eradicating overt prejudice, but about deconstructing the unconscious biases of white people, who hold the cards and thus necessarily retard progress in the eradication of racial inequality.

Clear as the data are on outcomes, however, the hows and whys have long remained a contentious source of debate. While DiAngelo and her ilk may be inclined to attribute this contentiousness to white fragility, even black scholars such as Thomas Sowell and Glenn Loury do not invariably toe the party line on structural definitions of racism. Moreover, the scholarship on racial inequalities is so vast as to make one suspect that a consensus on cause and effect has never been—nor can ever be—reached.

Consider a 2004 Quarterly Journal of Economics paper by Steve Levitt and Roland G. Fryer Jr., two John Bates Clarke medal-winning economists. They document a conspicuous uptrend in parents giving distinctively black names to black children since the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. They also conclude that distinctively black names are strong predictors of socioeconomic status, but do not have a causal impact on adult life outcomes, a result they are able to reconcile with findings from audit studies that “repeatedly have found that resumes with traditional names are substantially more likely to lead to job interviews than are identical resumes with distinctively minority-sounding names.”

DiAngelo might be inclined to argue—not unreasonably given research on resume callbacks—that white people, who presumably constitute the majority of recruiters, implicitly use black names as a signal to identify supposedly unqualified candidates, leading to socioeconomic outcomes that sustain racial inequality and racial segregation. Indeed, in her book, Is Everyone Really Equal: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, she explicitly argues this point by citing research on resume callbacks and concluding that the human resource workers who screened these resumes “were likely not aware they were discriminating, and would probably have vigorously (and sincerely) denied any suggestion to the contrary.” This may be true, but if the Levitt-Fryer findings are any indication, it does not necessarily follow that implicit bias per se contributes to poor life outcomes for black job candidates who have black names. DiAngelo (and in this case, her co-author), however, simply invokes this research as an example of socialization that explains how systemic disparities remain in place.

Levitt and Fryer scrupulously examine a nuanced dataset, use indexing and plots to illustrate trends in the data, develop equations to quantify relationships between black names and socioeconomic status, employ regression techniques to conduct an empirical test of their model and then interpret the results ex post (as opposed to performing an ex ante imposition of theory on the data) by analyzing the consistency of observed trends and suggesting four alternative models that might explain those trends. They also test hypotheses as to the correlation between distinctively black names and adult life outcomes, explaining the challenges of their estimation techniques and the caveats associated with their conclusions. Finally, they place their paper within an emerging literature on how black culture relates to socioeconomic outcomes, without offering sweeping generalizations about the role of black culture in socioeconomic outcomes. Most impressively, they exhibit restraint in interpreting their results, and use rigorous techniques to analyze a vast dataset. Levitt and Fryer convey results that are insightful and suggestive, but by no means definitive, and indicate that a great deal more work must be done.

DiAngelo, by contrast, is sure that she has found the answers, and is not shy about telling us what she believes has caused these outcomes and keeps them in place. She does call attention to many alleged aspects of white racial illiteracy that are worthy of study, but with an aura of omniscience and ideological rectitude that converts her concerns not into hypotheses to be examined and tested, but into doctrines that must be inculcated.

That is 1/4 of the article...I want to get to the comments

Rozz says:   
June 6, 2020 at 5:48 pm

In the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd — there is an understandable tendency to try to simplify issues to one-dimensional statements.

First off: just because the book, “White Fragility” is flawed doesn’t mean that systemic racisms does not exist. The bridge between left-leaning books, theories and rhetoric on race has nothing to do whatsoever about the real issues involved.

So let’s just acknowledge right off that the United States police system and yes, the prison system and justice system is way-way overdue for massive levels of reform. Accountability is woefully absent in too many cases and it had been difficult to prosecute police over the common citizen. Any power imbalance creates fertile ground for the abuse of power. There is a long and shameful list of those who have been harmed, hassled or even murdered and the disturbing video of George Floyd’s murder seems to be the tipping point where any right-thinking person would say, “enough is enough”.

There is plenty of scientific literature and statistics that backs up the fact that institutional racism does indeed exist. And yes – something needs to be done about this in a real, responsive and responsible way.


Do I feel this means that all “white people” should be shamed for the sake of simplifying race issues? No… because it rests on the same scare tactics and circular arguments that fans of Ayn Rand employs: where she asserts that everyone is selfish or acts selfishly and anyone who claims otherwise is either, “lying or evil”. I never believed in such circular unfalsifiable claims when randroids came out of the woodwork to inform anyone on the college campuses where I was finishing my Physics degree that anyone who denounced the theory must be inherently evil or a liar. Thus – the author of, “white fragility” relies on the same circular argument and ad hominem attacks: if you are white and do not confess you are a racist — then you prove you are a racist… and the “evidence” of white fragility is simply the normal cognitive dissonance that anyone experiences from being falsely accused.

I have friends who are close to me who are going cross-eyed in a well-meaning but misguided way — trying to consume all of the recommended book list from fellow “allies” all at once and in a nearly conversion-therapy surreal conversation — I’ve had a close friend of mine try to get me to swallow the premise of “White Fragility” — because after all, it’s obvious it’s true, right?

No – it’s not

Here is what is true:

George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer

There is a long list of other black people who were murdered by police or harmed by police

Police officers need to be held accountable for their actions

Police need to be held accountable by the law just as any other citizen is — without special treatment or any sort of immunity

Absolute power corrupts absolutely and when police have too-often been above-the-law — the result often creates a power imbalance that allows for the abuse of power

It’s not a, “few bad apples” — we have a bad orchard and need massive reforms

Most of all: we need to VOTE
Protests are all very fine — but at the end of the day, we need to vote and protect our right to vote

So with all that being said — I still feel that it’s laughable that some of my liberal friends are going cross-eyed to swallow the premise of, “White Fragility”, hook, line and sinker — as if railroading all rational thought and simplifying all this to just a case of translating “whiteness” to “wokeness” will somehow fix this entire mess…

Well meaning librarians and ladies from the local book club going cross-eyed in trying to confess that they too are racist — despite never having uttered a racist thing in their well-meaning lives — is not going to help the cause of Black Lives Matter. The good people of #BLM does not want everyone else to assume that no one else matters — they just want black lives to matter — they want equality and justice and for the abuse of power and police brutality to stop. That doesn’t require every man woman and child who appears white to confess they are a sinner in some kind of bizarre modern-day conversion therapy — but directed at, “White people”. And seriously — books like this addresses the wrong audience anyway! I think any of the ladies and retired librarian in my local book club would be scared out of their minds if they were to meet a REAL racist and if they realized who they were being railroaded to equate themselves to by the virtue of the color of their skin — it would give them pause for thought or nightmares or both… you can’t paint everyone with the same brush in order to address racial inequalities. Sure – it simplifies things greatly to make such statements that, “all _____ are _____” — but such sweeping “all, never and always” statements only need ONE counter example to disprove them… yes, people are racist — nearly everyone has witnessed racism in one form or another — or if you hadn’t ‘till the murder of George Floyd — then you have now (unless you live under a rock)! But the book, “White Fragility” makes the assertion that, “ALL white people are racist” — and that’s a very different assertion. Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proofs and the author of, “White Fragility” does not offer those proofs for her, “all” statement to hold true. Yes – racism, abuse of power and police brutality exists and needs to be addressed and the issue is very urgent. But I don’t feel the cause will be helped by such authors as the author of, “White Fragility” who will sacrifice long-term peace and real, pragmatic solutions to the short-term battering ram of ad hominem attacks on anyone who does not accept her circular logic.

Oh – and here’s another article I stumbled on that I found well-thought out:

I don’t know what the bias is of that publication or this one. Probably I should look into it… but the simple matter is that statements that boil down to, “ALL ____ are ____” is not going to be helpful for making progress for real social change.

    Anonymous says:   
    June 10, 2020 at 9:54 am

    Rozz, I welcome your bold voice here calling out the monstrous and evident -to-all-with-eyes-that-see problems that the BLM movement continues to fight to gain recognition of. Your arguments are grounded on the evidence before us. But can I ask, respectfully, if you have read DiAngelo’s book? I ask because your critique seems to rely on representations of her book that are found here (and it won’t take you long to discern the leaning here that you mentioned) rather than on its actual content – the structure of her arguments, the determinant power of culture (which is a contested issue for me), the field of implicit cognition from which implicit bias emerged, etc. You’re obviously an empiricist. Hard to be a physicist otherwise! In that light, I might recommend you giving the book a chance to speak for itself. Your powers of observation will no doubt find areas or points of disagreement. But I strongly suspect you’ll not find it quite the circular argument you suggest it is here. You may, as I do, find it troubling but well thought out, and backed up by years of the author’s work and the vast multidisciplinary field of implicit cognition.
    Anonymous says:   
    June 10, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Didn’t mean to reply anonymously Rozz, the server keeps timing out while connecting to Facebook to login. Brett O’Bannon.

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Brett O'Bannon says:   
February 18, 2020 at 6:06 am

@Charles from “Report of The Sentencing Project
to the United Nations
Human Rights Committee
Regarding Racial Disparities in the United
States Criminal Justice System

“First, defendants
convicted of the homicide of a white victim are substantially more likely to face the
death penalty than those convicted of killing nonwhite victims. White people constitute
half of murder victims in the United States each year,
70 but 77% of persons executed
since 1976 were convicted of killing white victims.71 Comparatively, black people also
constitute half of murder victims,72 but only 13% of persons executed since 1976 were
convicted of killing black victims.73 A 1990 Government Accountability Office survey
of 28 separate studies found that in 82% of the studies, the race of the victim was
shown to influence the likelihood of a defendant receiving the death penalty, with those
convicted of murdering white victims more likely to be sentenced to death than those
convicted of murdering black victims even when the cases were controlled for crime specific variables.

Second, black defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death regardless of the race
of their victims. An extensive 1998 study of Philadelphia death penalty cases found that
black defendants were 38% more likely to be sentenced to death, even when the
researches controlled for the severity of the homicide.75 The GAO confirmed that 75%
of the 28 studies it surveyed in 1990 found that black defendants were more likely to
receive the death penalty than white defendants.76
When these two factors are taken together, the impact of race on capital sentencing is
staggering. Since 1976, the United States has executed thirteen times more black
defendants with white victims than white defendants with black victims” (pages 14-15).
Brett O'Bannon says:   
February 18, 2020 at 5:56 am

Well done, anonymous — ad absurdo at its finest. Ok, this is my last response to anonymous comments – but you’re exactly why I would never dream of wasting months of work on an article in echo chamber like this. When I told Robin I intended to respond this “review” I told her I wished neither to dialogue with the deaf, nor preach to the converted. Aero comment threads invariably reveal publishing my rejoinder here would be a waste of the first sort. THere are plenty of magazines or journals that would constitute a waste of the latter sort. As for “everyone having to wait until it comes out”… first, not intending to dialogue with the deaf, I don’t expect you to wait a single day — I did not write it for you, nor any other immovable ideologue. And second, seeing how Pluckrose and company have demonstrated their willingness to violate any and all norms of academic integrity to pursue their aims, my stance is wholly legitimate, and a reason not to ignore the lesson of Sun Tzu ““Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night…”.. if you want any further response from me, identify yourself. Otherwise, post away into an abyss.

    Anonymous says:   
    February 22, 2020 at 8:10 am

    I called you out for unsubstantiated claims and ad-hominem attacks.
    You responded by calling me an “immovable ideologue”.
    Thanks for making my case. A true example of “the processes by which real intellectual progress and understanding proceeds”.

Lo says:   
February 15, 2020 at 6:44 am

I haven’t read the work you are referring to but your response to it seems like a beautiful example of what white fragility (and masculine for that matter) sounds like! This piece will have done more to support her work than a rave review ever could! Thanks for the high school level stats lesson – perhaps you shouldn’t use big words like ‘epistemology’ until you actually understand them. Reading your fellow white male commenters fawning over the chance to say something racist under the guise of academia is vomit inducing – let me ask you what you hate more, just women or black people generally? There are multiple epistemological stances to allow for a sophisticated study of a range of phenomena – how you measure the multiplication of white blood cells is going to be different to how you study why police officers murder unarmed black people. You utter knob.

    Brett O'Bannon says:   
    February 16, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    (And thanks to @Russ Kamp whose comment below about not finding in Robin’s book the claim Church asserts she makes sparked the impulse to offer this comment)

    Oh good sir, you have, sadly, merely glossed with a cotton glove the thick protective coating that prevents the merest scratching of the surface of Mr. Church’s seemingly limitless bad faith.

    When I first read this “review” of DiAngelo’s book, I knew neither Church nor DiAngleo, and I was apparently the last person on the planet to learn of her book White Fragility, now in its 76th week, I believe, on the NYT bestsellers list. I have now come know Dr. DiAngelo a bit since I first made her aware of this ‘review.’ She said she tends not to read critics like Church, these bad-faith opponents of work they do not sufficiently understand and thus cannot hope to offer informed, constructive reviews. She rationally spends her limited time engaging with those educated on the subject, and who have actual experience doing research and who are thus positioned to offer the kind of critical feedback that identifies points that might need to be better addressed, claims that perhaps need to be sharpened, and the like. In short, the processes by which real intellectual progress and understanding proceeds.

    She and I are together, however, in the belief that we must respond to those who seek, as Church, Pluckrose and their lot clearly do, to silence those who are engaged in the production of knowledge they find discomfiting.

    But I have now read just about every peer reviewed article Robin has published, I have read her book now, twice, I’ve read her doctoral dissertation, and have familiarized myself with her practice work in anti-racism, what we used to call “diversity training.” I have also, for my sins I am sure, now read no fewer than twenty of Church’s essays, reviews, polemics, and, well frankly I don’t know how to categorize his written expression of discomfort with what he felt was the indecency of the placement of a baby changing table in the mens room located in the luxury Delta Sky360 Club at Washington Nationals Park.

    I have learned a great deal this past year exploring the interdisciplinary scholarship on which Robin’s book is grounded. And I have also learned much about Mr. Church. He is obviously a bright and articulate person, even if he traffics most heavily in a sarcasm that betrays his deep-seeded resentments. And he is a committed partisan for his cause. So though upon first reading this review (NB: teaching undergraduate research methods at the time, it was “Epistemological shortcomings” in the title that caught my eye) of a book he is so utterly dismissive of (btw, he’s now written by last count seven reviews of a book he is utterly dismissive of — yes, he’s dismissing the hell out of this thing!), I assumed he was simply staggeringly ignorant of seemingly any development in the philosophy of science since his patron saint Karl Popper published Conjectures and Refutations back in 1963. But I know now that this is not entirely true.

    It’s much worse than that, actually.

    I now know, and will provide the evidence of these claims, that it is an ugly bad faith that motivates his channeling of the late Sir Karl with disparaging, often ludicrous, comments about modern qualitative research, his referencing of Popper’s falsification criterion of demarcation, and his myriad other statements of an epistemological sort that are truly world class in their absurdity, none of which do I care to identify here for my discussion of them will appear in peer-reviewed published form. And, frankly, knowing more now about the ways he and Pluckrose et. al. wage their wars on objectionable ideas, one that is unrestrained by any known moral or ethical code, I don’t wish to give him or his echo chamber fellows advanced warning about the content of my rejoinder to his critique of White Fragility and the larger the corpus of Mr. Church’s work.

    I will note, though, that none of his some 80+ essays posted on his website — NOT A SINGLE ONE — has he dared to submit to peer review. But they are chuck full of the kinds of misrepresentations you uncovered, riddled with out of context quoting that facilitates a facile dismissal of his opponents’ ideas, hungrily consumed by his slathering audience, or imputes a meaning to concepts or theoretical notions never intended by the original authors, or that do profound injustice to highly complex ideas through the rhetorically effective use of ad absurdo (appeal to ridicule to have an opponent’s ideas dismissed as ridiculous), and a frequent reliance on the tried and true employment of a fallacious reductio ad absurdum device.

    And I do so look forward to giving Mr. Church the opportunity to answer for the extraordinary depths I will show he has been willing to plumb in order to advance in bad faith his ideologically driven agenda in ways that not only involve frequent, flagrant violations of, or departures from, the letter of Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism, but more importantly, that show him to be at war with the very values that drove Karl Popper to what was an unapologetically methodological monism — Sir Karl’s aspiration for an open society that requires free thinking and intellectual humility. Church, clothed in Popperian dress, betrays all that was responsible for the good that Popper contributed to the world. That Church can scarcely conceive of having a rational, honest, and open exchange with those who now seek to move us beyond and forward from where Popper brought us, a place for which Popper is rightly remembered as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th Century, is the great, and ultimately the most revolting, of Church’s ironies.

    Church represents precisely the sorts of ideologues that the young Karl Popper encountered on both the left and right, and which were the forces that drove his life-long open society aspirations, and his commitment to intellectual humility. Oh yes, Karl Popper would recognize in Mr. Church those dangerous ideologues of his youth who sought legitimacy through dangerous, liberty-threatening discourses that dehumanized their opponents — and which today still often lead to the kinds of violence scholars daring to speak their truth to power are often threatened with.

    And it is a dead certainty that Sir Karl would have denounced Jonathan Church as more than just a charlatan, but as an existential threat to an open society, the virtues of which should by now be well beyond debate.
    Anonymous says:   
    February 16, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Dear Brett,
    I am truly amazed.

    In my 7 years in academia, I never encountered an essay of so many words, which conveyed so little information. Not even from 1st-year students. Incredible!

    The use of so many claims combined with so little substantiation is truly staggering! The closest we got to a substantiated argument was “none of which do I care to identify here for my discussion of them will appear in peer-reviewed published form”. Who could ever deny the logic? Church must feel devastated.

    Consider yourself a prime candidate for 2020’s Deepak Chopra award. You deserve it.
    But more importantly, understand that your word salad and ad-hominem arguments impress no one.
    Brett O'Bannon says:   
    February 16, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    another stand-taking anonymous poster. Courage of conviction of the slathering denizens of the echo chamber. Listen, if my efforts to offer an affirmation to another commenter who found, as I have, an attribution by Church that is either wholly fabricated or that distorts the meaning of the original author by his various means of misrepresentation, was too hard for you to follow, simply because, as I stated, I will not forewarn him and Pluckrose in this forum of the evidence for my claims of Church’s bad faith and the many ways in which he violates the letter and spirit of his patron saint Karl Popper, then maybe after 7 years in academia you perhaps have grounds for suspecting you chose the wrong career path. it’s not a complicated proposition. He’s a deceptive, manipulative, ideologically driven sophist who represents the very sort of ideologues from left and the right Popper encountered in his youth and which served as his life-long source of inspiration to promote the open, honest, and humble pursuit of knowledge. Church is none of those things. That I have a 12,000 word essay on Church, this forum,and the attacks they launch on the production of knowledge they find discomfiting is the result of realizing that my initial conclusion that the host of utterly ridiculous claims he makes here about science, epistemology and the status of qualitative methodologies was mere ignorance of the many developments in the philosophy of science since Popper published Conjectures and Refutations in 1962 was wrong. It’s far worse than that.

    You seem to have picked a side. Fair enough. I give Church his due for being a committed partisan. But you will find in my published essay little that a self-respecting scholar would wish to associate herself with.

    As we learn from our mistakes our knowledge grows, even though we may never know–that is, know for certain. Since our knowledge can grow, there can be no reason here for despair of reason. And since we can never know for certain, there can be no authority here for any claim to authority, for conceit over our knowledge, or for smugness.
    — Sir Karl Popper 1962
    Brett O'Bannon says:   
    February 16, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    Lo, “your response to it seems like a beautiful example of what white fragility (and masculine for that matter) sounds like!” is spot on. But you’ll find, actually, that it is hard to grasp the full measure of the white fragility Church manifests. Consider that he has now written, by last count, seven – SEVEN – of these sorts of “reviews”, all of a book he is utterly dismissive of. Yes, indeed, he is dismissing the hell out of this thing!
    Anonymous says:   
    February 17, 2020 at 1:43 am

    Dear Brett,

    Thank you for showing your unparalleled logic and communication skills once again. I wrote an essay of 30,000 pages in honor of your wisdom, but since I am about to send it to peer review, everyone will just have to accept that I’m right.

    P.S. mocking charlatans != taking a side.

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Brett O'Bannon says:   
October 15, 2019 at 1:38 pm

From the “About” statement for Aero:
“Our contributors are intellectually, professionally and ideologically diverse and include liberals, conservatives, socialists, libertarians, atheists and religious believers. As much as possible, Areo aims to avoid polarizing tribalistic stances and prioritizes intellectual balance, charity, honesty and rigor.”

Were more disingenuous, bad faith, and patently inconsistent with the evidence that are the polemics paraded as analysis that constitute the corpus of this rag and the singularly tribalistic, ad hominem comments from the choir to which the contributors bravely preach ever written? Humanistic? Balanced? Charitable? Rigorous? In what world, other than the safe, insulated confines of this black hole of seething resentments, would Pluckrose’s fantastical description of Aero not be seen as the quintessence of Orwell’s worst nightmare of linguistic abuse?
Ed Quigley says:   
June 9, 2019 at 12:51 am

An informative and compelling argument, but one not likely to be taught in the academy, where agenda trumps dialog.
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Russ Kamp says:   
March 17, 2019 at 5:34 pm

I have a question about implicit bias. Church says, “in chapter 2, she writes that the US economy at the time of the nation’s formation was based in part on the annexation of Mexican lands, when, in fact…” Searching the book on Amazon finds the part he refers to. However, there is no clear date indicator like “these were all things happening in 1776,” and actually the things listed are not point occurances but happen over long periods of time. Is this an honest mistake or is Church’s overly strict reading here suggesting an implicit bias going against this book? There is certainly an air of condescension throughout. Why?

    PAule says:   
    June 11, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    I’m curious – who is Jonathan Church…?
    Paule says:   
    June 11, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    I’m also curious – from the way he discredits implicit bias theory – from linking ONE study -, I’m seriously questioning the validity of this argument. Has he researched who are the individuals who conducted the research, as well as their sources? Has he ready about the extensive history of colonialism – or is this another myth to be debunked? I’m just asking…
    GeorgeQTyrebyter says:   
    September 28, 2019 at 9:17 am

    He’s the author of this piece. But you are implying that his identity informs his arguments. That’s the current liberal notion. Actually that idea is incorrect. His arguments stand by themselves, and have served as a crushing refutation of Di Angelo’s nonsense.

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Brett O'Bannon says:   
January 6, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Professor Church makes a number of significant criticisms of a work I have to confess I’ve not read – not my field. So I can’t speak to his conclusions in a serious way. But I’m struck by the obvious recurrent theme that finally gets encapsulated in his assertion: “DiAngelo’s critical shortcoming is that she does not formulate her claims into hypotheses that can be tested using statistical techniques.” Well let’s assume for the sake of argument that DiAngelo has done sloppy work as he claims; I, and many other social scientists, some of them leaders in their respective disciplines, would still categorically reject Church’s insistence that only quantitative methods can produce knowledge claims worth considering. This argument reads like it was written at the height of the behavioral revolution. All one needs to do is pick up any graduate level, or undergraduate level for that matter, research methods text — one that does not erroneously equate social science methodologies with quantitative analysis — to see the rich tapestry of methods that are presently employed across the social sciences. So if “the critical shortcoming” of DiAngelo’s work is merely that it does not employ statistical methods, then I, for one, am far from convinced that her work is as useless as this review concludes. For the record, I’m a methodological pluralist. The study of conflict, civil war and mass atrocities, a field I am familiar with, is enriched by the contributions from economists, anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, historians, etc. Most of them do not employ quantitive methods. Among those that do, some have made important contributions to our field. Some less so. And the same can be said for those employing various qualitative methods. Some employ them to great effect, others less so. But the dividing line is not quantitative/qualitative. I would have thought that line had been obliterated a generation or two ago…

    Anonymous says:   
    September 28, 2019 at 9:20 am

    As a statistician, I am highly informed of the multiple methods for examining data. Not only does Di Angelo not do designed experiments, she doesn’t do ANY kind of research WHATSOEVER. And that is the point of Church’s comment. His indictment of her pseudo-scientific nonsense is not due to her not doing this type or that type of research. She doesn’t do ANY research. It’s just her racist beliefs.
    Brett O'Bannon says:   
    September 28, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Well, anonymous — there’s taking a stand — I’m afraid credentials as a statistician, which we’ll have to take on faith since you’re posting anonymously, no more makes you qualified to comment on methods you’re not trained in than mr. Church. Because seriously, when you say as a statistician you’re highly informed of ‘the’ multiple methods for examining data, I’m guessing your idea of epistemological pluralism means “the” multiple methods (got a finite count on those methods do you?) runs from linear, logit, and probit regression to time series analysis, to factor analysis and of course the nonparametric approaches to data. Sound about right? Quick? Who are the originators of, say, critical discourse analysis? Grounded theory? Who are the leading voices in constructivist International Relations research? (either the English School, or in the American canon?) You see, 90% of those of us with actual research degrees (that is. Ph.D.s) are conversant in your limited language. Hell, I can still do the matrix algebra for estimating a regression equation, and I can even still write the actual code for SPSS, which I concede is about as useful as speaking Aramaic. But the Jonathan Church’s of the world? They are blindly ignorant of the explosion in social science methodologies (quantItative, mixed methods, and qualitative (from the fairly positivist methods like Process Tracing to the more interpretive methods like discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, to the post-structuralist methods that you guys all seem to hate with a passion most peculiar for dispassionate searchers of truth, or at least verisimilitude — yep, I’ve read Popper, have you read even King, Keohane and Verba? No? It’s just the most influential social science methods volume of the last 25 years. So without an iota of familiarity with even the basic precepts of these now thriving methodologies, much less actual experience employing them, you guys haven’t the slightest bit of shame in indicting the work of those whose crimes are but adhering to ontological and epistemological orientations that just don’t fit in Sir Karl’s hypothetical-deductive box. DiAngelo doesn’t do any research? Um, have you read her dissertation? No? I have. Read any of her 21 peer-reviewed journal articles? Any of the 3 books? If she doesn’t do ANY kind of research WHATSOEVER, then what is the Harvard Review of Education and the other scholarly outlets publishing them? Just her musings about life? You guys attack, in such singular bad faith, what you know nothing about. And for good measure, you descend to the lowest of ad-hominem attacks and pronounce Robin racist. You, are a piece of work. A true scholar and a gentleman making your alma mater proud.

Andrew Mcguiness says:   
December 29, 2018 at 1:58 pm

I’d like to suggest that DiAngelo use quantitative techniques, ie. statistics …

Jokes aside, I think the author nailed something interesting towards the end. There are some approaches to knowledge which furnish insights but which aren’t susceptible of falsification. They can be valuable (insights are good) but it is nonsenical (and dangerous) to treat those insights as facts that you can reason with, prove something with, or make policy with. I’ve long thought this is true of poststructuralism, and of feminism.
sarahh26 says:   
December 29, 2018 at 3:11 am

Well, people always talk of implicit bias. I’m wondering why people have never considered the fact that someone is perfectly conscious of his prejudice because that’s what he truly believe. However, “polite” society prevents him from voicing his “uncouth” opinion.

    aaa says:   
    May 19, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    That sounds a bit like the economic concept of “preference falsification”.

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TJR says:   
December 22, 2018 at 1:26 pm

DiAngelo seems to have taken the classic “Everybody is disagreeing with me, so I must have hit a nerve” and extended it to book length.
ccscientist says:   
December 21, 2018 at 8:55 pm

“privileges “particular forms of knowledge over others”—written over oral, history over memory and rationalism over wisdom” yeah, she is right, it does favor some forms of knowledge over others because some forms have been proven to be reliable. When you open the door to all forms of knowledge, you get the college student in South africa who declared that witchcraft is as valid as physics. Right.

Of course white people in her workshops resisted being called racists. How does she know that they weren’t resisting because they simply are not racists? She is using circular reasoning. Let’s see how she would react to being called a murderer–might she not resist this characterization?

The whole castle that she and others build of “institutional racism” might very well have applied in 1950, but in the present day it is simply a fantasy. Aside from “implicit bias” which is not supported by subsequent studies, there are no examples of how this oppressive system operates. Let us take white suspicion of young black men–could it be justified? Perhaps there is reason in the crime statistics. As to the inference from income statistics that this is due to racism, I defer to Thomas Sowell.

    srhope1989outlookcom says:   
    December 25, 2018 at 7:38 am

    “Let us take white suspicion of young black men–could it be justified?” No, not really. White suspicion – yours, isn’t it? – is based far less on an understanding of statistics or compassion for those less privileged than it is on looking for reasons to self-justify your racism. I have seen so many people with bad faith telling me the FBI stats on offences supposedly perpetrated by black men. Those stats tell you very little. Do they tell you how over-policed majority-black communities are, thus leading to arrests at a far greater rate? Do they tell you why some black men might feel that white society has no place for them? And do they tell you why you have gottn away with all your own offending behaviour which, if you had black skin, you’d now be living in a cell for?
    ccscientist says:   
    December 25, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    I suppose the car theft rate and murder rate on the south side of chicago are purely made up stats? It does not matter WHY black men commit more crimes (like feeling left out), the question is whether whites might feel unsafe in a black neighborhood and yet not be racist. I suppose that is too complicated for a whites=racist person to grasp.
    sarahh26 says:   
    December 29, 2018 at 3:31 am

    Perhaps, a white person might feel unsafe in a black neighborhood and yet not be racist or at least heavily prejudiced. However, what is the likelihood? It seems to me a black person must always prove that he is a human being, that he had values and morals just like a white person.
    Robert Martin says:   
    January 7, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    srhope1989outlookcom – “I have seen so many people with bad faith telling me the FBI stats on offences supposedly perpetrated by black men.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Pointing out that the black homicide rate is 8-10 times the non-hispanic-white rate is not “bad faith” – it’s reality.

    (And let’s not forget that 90% of those murder victims are other black people.)

    And regarding your “overpolicing” canard – we should also note that victimisation studies (where victims report the details of offenses regardless of whether the police took any action at all) are consistent with the actual crime stats.

    Perhaps we need to start a new field called “black fragility” – ie: the point-blank refusal of black community leaders to take responsibility for behaviour *inside* their own communities. A good starting point would be to acknowledge that it’s not white people who cause black fathers to walk out on their own children.

Charles says:   
January 9, 2019 at 9:20 am

Are you telling me that there are scores of white murderers walking free. Or is the black murder rate 8 times the white/hispanic rate?
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Re: The Epistemological Problem of White Fragility Theory
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2020, 01:33:16 PM »
Essays are not, by their nature, things that are submitted for peer review......they are opinions. And my opinion is far closer to Jonathon Church on this subject than either this author or his commenters, who don't impress me much either.

Neither does the "work" of Robin DiAngelo. Enough said. Thanks for posting.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.


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