White Fragility & The White Nationalist Manifesto:
Spencer J. Quinn
A Comparative Analysis
“Parallelomania” is a term used in the study of history and religion. It entails ascribing a significant relationship between two works of scripture, myth, or literature simply because they parallel each other in some way. These parallels can be trivial or taken out of context, or a scholar can proclaim that such works share a common source or a causal link without any direct evidence. In either case, coincidence and other factors are ruled out. A great example is insisting there was a worldwide pre-historic flood because several ancient cultures had flood myths.
In keeping with the spirit of parallelomania, I will now proclaim that Robin DiAngelo and Greg Johnson occupy opposite sides of the same coin. Yes, the Doyen of Racial Diversity and the Sage of Race Realism together forever. Why? Because their works do indeed parallel each other in instructive ways. I predict that when future scholars chronicle the history of the white race, they will point to these two works as notable influencers of the great twenty-first century awakening of white racial identity.
At first blush, it would seem that DiAngelo and Johnson want opposite things. It’s true that one wants white subservience to non-whites, and the other separation from non-whites. But to achieve these end goals both DiAngelo and Johnson share crucial — and almost identical — intermediate goals, albeit in completely different directions. They also address a similar audience (supposedly “non-racist” whites) and assume a similar psychological starting point. This will become readily apparent during a comparative analysis of DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Johnson’s The White Nationalist Manifesto, both published in 2018.
Both works seek to abolish the prevalent idea that identity politics is a necessarily evil. In so doing, they promote greater racial awareness among whites. DiAngelo states near the end of White Fragility that achieving her goal “requires me to be more racially aware, to be better educated about racism, and to continually challenge racial certitude and arrogance.” Take this quote out of context, and I am sure Greg Johnson would agree. Why shouldn’t whites be better educated on the anti-white weapon that is “racism?” Why shouldn’t they challenge the certitude and arrogance of racial egalitarians? DiAngelo also praises identity politics at the beginning of her work, crediting that “any gains we have made thus far have come through identity politics.” She also avers that whites must “push against our conditioning, and grapple with how and why racial group memberships matter.”
How is this much different than when Johnson states in his manifesto that “one of the highest priorities of the White Nationalist movement is to destroy the taboo against white identity politics”? How is prioritizing racial group memberships any different from Johnson’s call for universal ethnonationalism for all races and peoples? Racial group membership certainly does matter for both authors.
As a leading critical race theorist, DiAngelo wishes to make the notions of individualism and color-blindness secondary to her approved form of white identity. Johnson wishes to do the same. Compare:
Thus, according to both DiAngelo and Johnson, white people need to be less individualistic and less colorblind.
Another one of DiAngelo’s bugbears is meritocracy, which she sees as a ploy to defend white privilege and entitlement. If a black person points to inequality as proof of systemic racism, the fragile white will get defensive and claim that racism has nothing to do with it. Blacks are underrepresented here and there because of honest meritocracy. And that’s a good thing!
DiAngelo is having none of that, of course. Since absolute egalitarianism is her starting point, she will view all meritocracy claims as “white solidarity” in the face of anti-racist encroachment upon white privilege in a white supremacist society. Such solidarity she calls “the sociology of dominance.” Still, I don’t think she is against meritocracy per se. I’m sure if two black candidates had to compete for an affirmative action sinecure, she’d prefer that the least unqualified candidate win out.
Johnson, for his part, focuses little on meritocracy in his manifesto, but when he does, he is appropriately meritocratic:
White Nationalism is also elitist, because it turns out that the best way to represent the interests of the whole body politic is through an elitist movement. We need to attract the best of our people to fight for all of them.
Note how he says “the best of our people.” This implies that White Nationalist movements must be populated with white people — even if certain non-whites might be more qualified to fill certain roles. Like DiAngelo, Johnson is not against meritocratic arrangements; he simply urges whites to place their own racial considerations first wherever possible. Where they diverge, as with everything else, comes after this intermediate state of racial awareness has been achieved.
There’s an unexpected twist on all this parallelomania, however. Although Johnson and DiAngelo parallel each other by deploring white skittishness over racial matters, they do so from opposite corners, so to speak. Johnson, for the most part, addresses conservative whites while DiAngelo addresses progressive whites. And you know what? She does a pretty good job of it. She gets the narcissism and cowardice of progressive white psychology just right. And good for her:
I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define white progressives as white people who think they are not racist, or are less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” [sic] White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived.
Not much more to add to that, is there? Perhaps this, more than anything else in White Fragility, is an indication of the book’s appeal.
While the parallels between White Fragility and The White Nationalist Manifesto are interesting and instructive (not to mention surprising for many, I’m sure), the differences between these works are profound. So the parallelomania ends here.
First of all, Johnson appears to respect the reader’s time. His arguments are succinct and logical, with little overlap across the 138 pages of his manifesto. DiAngelo’s White Fragility, on the other hand, rambles tediously and repeats itself often. It is a 154-page book which felt like 200 pages because it probably should have been a 30-page pamphlet. That’s about how little original material it contains. It may be even less than that, given how much of it appears to be a rehash of her 2012 work What Does It Mean to be White? (reviewed entertainingly by Beau Albrecht here and here).
Secondly, Johnson defends against counter-arguments. He understands that others might exploit weaknesses in his position and undermine his thesis. This is why he takes pains to make his arguments airtight; this makes refuting them difficult to do. As such, he initiates most of his arguments from positions of impeccable strength when it comes to evidence: for example, ecology, genetics, and psychometrics. From this he establishes race realism; from race realism, racial differences; from racial differences, ethnonationalism; and from ethnonationalism (believe it or not), racial diversity:
Ethnonationalism presupposes that racial and cultural diversity are goods worth preserving. It also presupposes that this is a universal principle. To say that racial and cultural diversity are universally valuable means, first, that if a principle is objectively true, it is true for all peoples. Second, it implies that every nation ought to perpetuate itself through time and, if necessary, force other nations to respect its vital interests. Beyond that, it also implies that each nation should respect the vital interests of other nations not simply because they are willing to fight to assert themselves, but because we value the differences of others and respect their right to differ as a matter of principle.
Note the morality and universality in Johnson’s outlook, two aspects which are completely absent in White Fragility. In contrast, DiAngelo indulges black bids for power at every turn and exhibits a callous disregard for both the collective and individual interests of white people. In Robin DiAngelo’s world, people can never achieve objectivity. It is impossible:
As explained above, no one can be taught to treat people equitably, because humans cannot be 100 percent objective. For example, I could lecture you for hours that it is not nice to judge, that no one likes to be judged — “You wouldn’t want to be judged, would you?” — and so on. At the end of the lecture, you would still continue to judge, because it is impossible not to.
It’s one thing to say that despite objectivity being unattainable, I will strive to be as objective as possible. It’s something else entirely to use this unattainability as an excuse to be downright subjective. White Fragility is, if anything, an exercise in subjective, circular reasoning designed to lend an academic imprimatur to the ultimate conquest of black over white. In the absence of objectivity, everything must be political. So while Johnson uses formal logic and evidence to link his worldview to truth, DiAngelo uses circular reasoning and assertions to subsume her worldview to power.
DiAngelo’s logic must be circular because, unlike Johnson’s, it is bereft of tangible evidence. She declares that “under the skin, there is no true biological race.” Having ruled out genetics, she then proceeds by attesting that the all-encompassing, ever-present system of racism is responsible for unequal and unjust treatment of blacks. But when challenged by fragile, colorblind whites who say that there may be other reasons for this unequal — and not necessarily unjust — treatment, she accuses them of reinforcing the all-encompassing, ever-present system of racism. The only way out of this infinite loop is for white people to submit to blacks.
Consider color-blind ideology from the perspective of a person of color. An example I often share occurred when I was co-leading a workshop with an African American man. A white participant said to him, “I don’t see race; I don’t see you as black.” My co-trainer’s response was, “Then how will you see racism?”
Question, thou art begged.
When it comes to fatal flaws, White Fragility does not limit itself to circular reasoning. Leftist tropes such as counterfactual race romanticism, hypocritical double standards, and the pernicious villainization of whites (and only whites) pop up everywhere. Nothing terribly interesting or surprising. DiAngelo also approvingly quotes a black filmmaker who describes racism as “a systemic, societal, institutional, omnipresent, and epistemologically embedded phenomenon that pervades every vestige of our reality.”
If we’re talking about an invisible medium pervading the universe, we might as well bring back luminiferous aether. If racism is everywhere, then it might as well be nowhere — sort of like the same number being added to the equations on either side of the equal sign. That Miss DiAngelo doesn’t realize this should make any educated person question not only her intelligence, but her gullibility for being played by blacks who are clearly using her to enhance their power at the expense of white people.
Instead of pointing to the unfalsifiable racism-in-the-aether theory as the wellspring of black discontent in America, there is a more economical explanation: Blacks experience discontent because their physical comfort of being near whites chafes against their psychological discomfort of being inferior to whites.
That’s it. You don’t need to blame whites as inveterately evil racists to get to the heart of the matter. Nor do we need to blame blacks for being who they naturally are. Instead, we can follow Occam’s Razor to the truth and then arrive at a solution.
A solution which, by the way, has already been worked out in The White Nationalist Manifesto.
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