This article originally appeared on MindingTheCampus.org and is republished with permission.

Minute 14 for Robin DiAngelo

What happens when a non-psychologist sets up a small and shoddy human psychological experiment in a university almost two decades ago—an experiment in which the eight subjects are repeatedly lied to, in which she brings in hand-picked collaborators to commit a deception scripted by critical racialist ideology, and all while she sits and watches the project careen out of control but does nothing to stop the debacle?

If you’re Robin DiAngelo, you scrape together the rubble of your failed experiment, write a sloppy dissertation rife with metaphysical jargon and riddled with spelling errors, and serve it up as the centerpiece for your Ph.D. that you variously describe as in the field of “education,” in “curriculum and instruction,” in “critical discourse analysis,” or in “whiteness studies,” depending on the audience.

And based on this, you announce the discovery of something you call “White Fragility,” so that you can collect millions of dollars from gullible folks who prefer their prejudice served up in a way not seen since wily medieval alchemists duped supposedly savvy aristocrats to believe they could transmute lead into gold.

Yes, that Robin DiAngelo, she of the bestselling racial-flagellant manual White Fragility, which has quickly become part of the diversity industry canon.

Today, DiAngelo is likely America’s best-known diversity demagogue, one of the many folks who travel the land armed with motley credentials and lots of hubris to “train” people in “anti-racism.”

Her particular shtick is quite possibly the sweetest of the current crop. Some have even called what DiAngelo does a “grift.”1 A “grift” is universally defined as a petty or small-scale swindle, one that is perpetrated by a streetwise conman. In the 1973 film “The Sting,” the Robert Redford character Johnny Hooker was a grifter. In running his small-scale con, he stumbled into a world of big-time organized crime, and he scored his chance to run a Big Con.

Some consider DiAngelo a kind of Johnny Hooker of the diversity industry. Like Hooker, DiAngelo takes her shot at the bigtime to goose some life into her 2018 social fantasy White Fragility.

As this is written, her book sits atop the New York Times bestseller list, and White Fragility is being discussed on college campuses nationwide. She’s in-demand, and for some reason, administrators are more than willing to pay her $12,000 speaking fee.

DiAngelo often describes herself as a “sociologist,” and so you might assume that she is a researcher with a significant body of original research on which she grounds her newly popular notion of “White Fragility.”

This is not the case. Far from it, in fact.

DiAngelo has an undistinguished track record of publishing her opinions in what are sometimes called cargo cult journals. Without exception, hers are introspective journalistic pieces that reiterate what other opinion writers have said, that recite the catechism of critical racialism, and which share her personal experiences as a diversity jongleur on the front lines of “multicultural education” and “anti-racist training.”2

DiAngelo has no original research record to speak of, unless we count her substantively disastrous human subject psychology experiment, which is described in her 2004 dissertation: “Whiteness in Racial Dialogue: A Discourse Analysis.” This is where she first used the term “white fragility,” which she apparently lifted from a person by the name of David G. Allen, who served on her committee.

In point of fact, the entire foundation of DiAngelo’s “theory” of “White Fragility” is constructed from the fruits of this human subject experiment gone awry 17 years ago.

For Robin DiAngelo’s fans, it makes not one whit of difference that she could be a creation of P. T. Barnum’s “humbugs, delusions, impositions, quackeries, deceits, and deceivers,” and surely no better than a Melanesian weather doctor casting chicken bones in the dust and intoning about mana and the impending yam harvest. But for normal people, hers is a fascinating and cautionary tale of how a provincial striver can cobble together a dramatic career ascent out of academic fakery and pseudoscience to ride the madness of the crowd to riches and fame. In crafting her diversity narrative, she succeeds by combining the fakery of critical racialist ideology with the general tendency for soft minds to express guilt and to confess to most anything.

This piece provides the backstory to one of the greatest social fantasies of critical racialism perpetrated in the 21st century by one of the country’s least likely racialist antiheroes, and yet currently America’s hottest diversity jongleur.

When She Was Just Another Workshopper

Who is this “academic” and “educator” DiAngelo?

Before she attended the University of Washington to acquire the ultimate academic credential, DiAngelo was one of many small-time jongleurs who milked the diversity scene in the 1990s, sometimes contracting for herself and at other times partnering. She signed on early to the diversity enthusiasm and conducted the now ubiquitous “workshop” in places as diverse as the Seattle police department, Seattle city schools, and the National Coalition Building Institute.

On entry to graduate school at the University of Washington in 2000, she taught courses in the School of Social Work and teachers college. You can guess the topics that serve as markers for a narrowly educated and professionalized ideologue: “Multicultural Education,” “Cultural Diversity and Social Work,” “Intergroup Dialogue Facilitation.” That sort of thing.

At UW, she was also engaged in small-time human subject experimentation to reap an academic credential—a Ph.D. in, well . . . whatever is convenient that she says it is today.

DiAngelo progressed to the point where she would conduct her own research that she would later chronicle in a dissertation. This research was a human subject experiment. Its purported results would serve as the basis for the notoriety and riches to come almost two decades after she used the term “white fragility” the first time in her dissertation.

In 2003, DiAngelo indeed piloted the techniques that have given her cachet in 2020—tautology and circular reasoning, intellectual parochialism, thought reform, and outright academic fakery. But in point of fact, this project she conducted 17 years ago likely should have barred her from receiving the credential that she bruits so prominently today.

DiAngelo was clearly in over her head as she tampered with the psyches of a group of eight unsuspecting “white people” through an experiment grounded in the well-worn psychological techniques of thought reform in a racialist workshop format. This type of cavalier treatment and occasional outright abuse of human subjects in a workshop format is a hallmark of those engaged in critical racialist ideology in its thought reform version, both on and off the university campus.  It is this ideology that animates DiAngelo and many other jongleurs like her, and so it is worth a moment to learn something about it.

The “Dialogue” of Thought Reform

One of the first characteristics to learn about critical racialist ideology is that its propagation is largely performative and is publicly presented in theatrical productions called workshops, caucuses, dialogues, or conversations, particularly on university campuses as part of what is euphemistically called the “co-curriculum.”3

The “co-curriculum” is the vehicle by which superstition and pseudoscience gain access to university campuses outside the purview of faculty, who would vet and block these types of programs as clear-cut charlatanry. This aspect of the racialist “workshop” goes largely unremarked in much of the mainstream discourse about the academy, and yet it is a ubiquitous activity in the university, an important component of the “co-curriculum.” In her experiment-cum-workshop, DiAngelo used a critical racialist technique called “intergroup dialogue.”

The primary point to understand with the critical racialist “dialogue” technique is that it does not constitute a “dialogue” in the generally accepted sense of a conversation between two or more persons that may or may not include an exchange of ideas and opinions. Euphemistic tropes such as “difficult dialogue,” “intergroup dialogue,” or “courageous conversations” mean something significantly different in the critical racialist lexicon. These “dialogues” consist of discussions guided by “facilitators” trained in the tenets of racialist doctrine; their task is to ensure that participants understand their scripted roles and adopt and perform those roles as they journey to “critical consciousness,” which is shorthand for acceptance of the conspiracist worldview of critical racialism.

This is the only discourse permitted in the “dialogue,” and facilitators are trained to ensure that this happens. Indeed, facilitators are cadre-trained to the role of what psychologist Irving Janis called the “mindguard.”4 The self-regarding workshop facilitator is a familiar bit-player in both the university and, increasingly, in the larger corporate world. While generalizations always admit of exceptions, here we emphasize the rank-and-file workshops to be found nationwide, which are similar enough in staffing, form, and content to permit us to draw a number of conclusions. Almost without exception, the personnel who run “diversity” workshops are either poorly credentialed, inadequately credentialed, or credentialed not at all in the fields for which they claim expertise. In DiAngelo’s experiment, the facilitators were both 23 years old and just-graduated from college.

If such workshops actually encouraged universally appreciated values, such as equality under law, mutual tolerance for opinion differences, and morally correct behavior toward each other, a majority of people would likely support them. And this is the impression, I wager, that most folks develop of such activities. Who could be against “anti-racism training” or “diversity” or “learning about race” or having “courageous conversations?” But this is far from what occurs in such events that carry these euphemistic labels.

Undergirding and permeating all such “diversity” events—without exception—is the racialist ideology of critical race theory and critical pedagogy, both of which have been confected by second-rate academics and their fellow travelers on the workshop circuit.

These workshops offer material that is sourced from the critical racialist ideology that originates in critical discourse communities in the university. Too often, the material in these workshops is brought in from sketchy outside non-academic operations.5 Investigation into the academic backgrounds of a random sample of workshop facilitators, education “counselors,” and quasi-academics reveals a cohort of substandard practitioners of racialist ideology, who use their narrow educational brief—often a master’s level degree in “counseling”—to extend themselves into fields for which they are often unqualified, primarily into the field of psychology.

This lack of credentials and the amateurish coercive character of these workshops is a telltale feature of the workshop phenomenon, not an exception; detailed after-action accounts are published in cargo cult journals along with discussions of coercive tactics designed to increase the didactic effectiveness of critical racialist ideology. The most egregious aspect of these workshops is the content, which is informed by a particular brand of critical racialist ideology that is unsupported by vetted mainstream scholarship.

Workshops grounded in critical racialist ideology are invariably performative. In this sense, they are scripted affairs of psychological manipulation designed to identify villains and victims in a larger ongoing ahistorical drama, and to confront the villains in a well-practiced theatrical performance.

Critical racialist ideology leans heavily on the notion of “systemic racism” that confers something called “privilege” on favored racial group(s). Workshops informed by this ideology are constructed to confront people who have been identified as “privileged.” This confrontation consists of an accusation that the subject is complicit in “racism”—the accusation is framed as a “difficult dialogue” or “courageous conversation.” Workshop facilitators expect a range of responses to their charges of complicity in the “racist” system. In this case, when the facilitators confront “white people” with alleged complicity in a structurally racist system from which they benefit in the form of “unearned privileges,” the people challenged respond in particular and predictable ways.

Racialist workshop facilitators proceed on this assumption, attack certain participants, and then invariably observe the behavior that their theory “predicts.” Critical racialist ideology interprets these reactions as “resistance” to what is being “taught.” Oddly, this “resistance” also constitutes evidence for the actual material presented in the workshop. In this way, a primitive circularity of argument provides faux “evidence” of the central contentions of the “diversity” event. Self-contained tautological systems such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, and astrology have always worked in this same pseudoscientific way. In the workshops themselves, people do not respond well to this, just as most people do not respond well to perceived false accusations. Because it is expected, this “resistance” becomes evidence of the critical racialist ideology, by virtue of its “successful predictions.” This fallacious process has become known in the vernacular as Kafka-trapping, which derives from Franz Kafka’s classic work The Trial—required reading for anyone who would understand the thrust of critical racialism today.

It is likely that no better example of performative pseudoscience exists than the contemporary theatrics of the critical racialist workshop.

Performative Pseudoscience

Steeped in racialist ideology, facilitators in these workshops catalog the reactions of “white people” to their accusations and believe themselves to be engaged in a kind of psychological exercise of enlightenment. They are, however, engaged in an entirely different activity, one which is strikingly familiar to anyone acquainted with the behavior modification techniques of Maoist China.

Ideological attacks on captive audiences to achieve behavior modification are nothing new. This is called “thought reform,” a form of coercive psychological human experiment in behavior modification used with various levels of intensity across a range of situations, some of them called “educational.” Robert Lifton, the world’s expert on thought reform of this type describes it this way: “There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed.”6 This is the undercurrent of every racialist “dialogue,” “workshop,” “caucus,” and “courageous conversation,” and was clearly present in DiAngelo’s “dialogue” experiment.

DiAngelo set up her human experiment utilizing an “intergroup dialogue” template, one she actually taught at UW. The idea of “Intergroup Dialogue” originated at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the 1980s, and it emerged in the 2000s as a distinct program of thought reform that relies upon proven techniques of group therapy. As is the case with most of the racialist thought reform programs, this one carries a neutral, anodyne description that is clarified by the final two words, which communicates a powerful and seductive agenda.

Intergroup dialogue is a face-to-face, interactive, and facilitated learning experience that brings together twelve to eighteen students from two or more social identity groups over a sustained period to explore commonalities and difference, examine the nature and consequences of systems of power and privilege, and find ways to work together to promote social justice.7

Anything that facilitators offer from the menu of critical racialism, of course, becomes de facto a promotion of this “social justice.”

Intergroup Dialogue employs a “conveyer belt” approach in its application, and the purpose is to inculcate into human subjects the worldview of critical racialism. This conveyer belt moves participants along to “critical consciousness,” a state of full acceptance of the ideology.

Theorists suggest that the process of understanding one’s social identities in relation to systems of oppression such as racism and sexism generally moves from unawareness to exploration to awareness of the impact of social group membership on the self and finally toward internalizing and integrating this awareness.8

The “conveyer belt” metaphor is used often within the critical racialist literature to describe the process to move the target subjects along in a stage-by-stage process, none of which is revealed to the victims.9 This is a common metaphor in the thought reform literature.10

This workshop template informed DiAngelo’s experimental construct. Afterward, she employed something called critical discourse analysis (CDA) to evaluate these faux “dialogues,” and to generate her conclusions. More on this CDA in a moment.

Let’s review the specifics of this human subject experiment to gain an idea of DiAngelo’s mindset and method, the near-malfeasance that bears scrutiny, and the almost nonexistent basis for DiAngelo’s grand idea that is enriching her even now.

 Human Subject Experimentation: The Setup

DiAngelo wanted to discover how “whiteness is manifested” among white preservice teachers. Or, at least this is the purpose she claims in her write-up. Says DiAngelo initially:

The purpose of this study was to describe and analyize [sic] the discourses used by White preservice teachers in a dialogue about race with people of color.

That’s no misprint—she misspells the word “analyze” just 10 words into her first major academic work. As if to say “yes, I really meant it,” she misspells it again the same way on page 22. For academics—would-be academics—this is no small thing, and these types of errors riddle the piece, leeching away credibility vowel-by-consonant-by-vowel.

The experiment itself, however, seems simple enough. Even elegant.

It consisted of a series of four “conversations about race,” each lasting two hours. The discussants were eight white preservice teachers and five “persons of color.” The white subjects self-selected into the experiment in answer to an ad. All of the white subjects were apparently students in the UW teacher education program. What about the “persons of color?”  They arrived via a different selection process.

The “persons of color” were selected by DiAngelo herself from other departments, such as the “School of Social Work.” DiAngelo also selected the facilitators: two fresh college graduates—both 23—who were trained in “leading racial dialogues.” DiAngelo herself was the one who had trained them in the techniques of “intergroup dialogue.” The sessions were filmed, and DiAngelo watched as an observer present in the room.

This seems reasonably simple and straightforward. But it was not.

What DiAngelo presented as “dialogues on race” among participants “from a range of racial backgrounds” was actually an ideological set-up of the racialist workshop variety. In the vernacular, it would be called an ambush.

The eight unsuspecting white participants self-selected into the study, while the five “persons of color” were selected by a different method known only to DiAngelo, while the two facilitators were trained in the precepts of critical racialist ideology, a pillar of “intergroup dialogues.” Even non-psychologists can sense something amiss here already. The participants certainly did, almost immediately.

From the very beginning of the experiment, the “purpose” of the sessions became an issue. Why? The white participants believed that they would participate in a study described in the advertisement and in the consent form, but what actually transpired in the meetings was something dramatically different. This is because DiAngelo and her collaborators were engaged in an entirely different enterprise than what the subjects were told.

DiAngelo reveals in her dissertation that she and her collaborators were, in fact, enacting a critical racialist thought reform script whereby her “trained facilitators” would lead these unsuspecting subjects into a thicket of ideology on “whiteness.” This led to contention and outright conflict in each of the sessions as the white participants realized something very different was unfolding than what they expected.

To their credit, some of the white participants repeatedly challenged the facilitators on the purpose of the experiment. In answer, they received only “policy readings.” These were repeated readings of the advertisement and consent form rather than an answer to their specific queries. This retreat into policy readings, of course, is the face of bureaucracy, when functionaries either cannot or will not engage with facts on the ground. It is also a red flag that something unsavory is afoot. This was not lost on the targets of the experiment.

Throughout all four of these sessions, the subjects rebelled against the apparent trickery. In the last of the four sessions, in fact, one angry participant walked out, even as facilitators badgered her to stay. This badgering alone was a violation of the participant consent form.

How did DiAngelo interpret all of this after-the-fact, after she deployed her method of critical discourse analysis?

DiAngelo interprets the facts in ways that seem strangely disconnected from the reality of what actually transpired, and there is good reason for this. To compound what some might consider malfeasance, DiAngelo evaluated her “data” from her psychological experiment using a discredited method that was guaranteed to yield her “hypothesized” results: critical discourse analysis. It sounds sort of impressive until you poke around a bit, for DiAngelo is neither a psychologist nor is she a linguist.

Let’s look first at this critical discourse analysis and then at DiAngelo’s extrapolations.

The Progressive Scam of “Critical Discourse Analysis”

When we think of a social scientist utilizing a method to explore a question—or test a hypothesis—we think of a researcher trying to discover something new, to generate new knowledge. To substantiate or to disconfirm the question on the table, with the ultimate result in doubt. “Critical discourse analysis” (CDA) does something quite different.

CDA is one of a handful of “guarantor methodologies” that, as the name suggests, guarantees delivery of the results the researcher desires.11 Critical Discourse Analysis is an ideologically driven version of discourse analysis that is specifically crafted to yield desired ideological results. In this, it is not a real method of inquiry at all, but rather a common heuristic tool that sanctions what one wants to see. It constitutes codified confirmation bias. In other words, anyone who employs CDA knows the “results” beforehand, and these results always confirm progressive notions. It’s no secret that this is CDA’s purpose, which its proponents freely acknowledge; the political agenda of CDA is overt and “unabashedly political and responsive to social injustices.”12

In this CDA enterprise, high spirits, sensitivity, and emotional investment carry the day. Northrop Frye described the style many decades ago, offering the coinage of “kinetic emotion” to capture its fevered tenor.

The further we go in this direction, the more likely the author is to be, or to pretend to be, emotionally involved with his subject, so that what he exhorts us to embrace or avoid is in part a projection from his own emotional life. As this increases, a certain automatism comes into the writing: the verbal expression of infantile-centered hatreds, fears, loves, and objects of adoration. . . . Such writing is a familiar and easily recognized phenomenon: it is tantrum prose, the prose of so much Victorian criticism, of several acres of Carlyle and Ruskin, of clerical denunciations of heresies or secular amusements, of totalitarian propaganda, and in fact of nearly all rhetoric in which we feel that the author’s pen is running away from him, setting up a mechanical for an imaginative impetus. The metaphor of “intoxication” is often employed for the breakdown of rhetorical control.13

Linguistics academic H.G. Widdowson, sympathetic to CDA, nonetheless echoes Frye:

The commentary is effective to the extent that it has affective appeal, that it carries conviction, resonates persuasively with the attitudes, emotions, values of the reader. And since it is the avowed pretextual mission of CDA, as an approach, to induce sociopolitical awareness and inspire social action, this kind of commentary is very well suited to its purpose. Promoting the cause of social justice does not depend on being methodical in analysis, nor even on being coherent in argument. The case for CDA is subservient to its cause, and if the case carries conviction that is all that counts.14

And so, by using this method of critical discourse analysis, DiAngelo knew exactly the results of her human experiment before she ever deployed her method to evaluate the transcripts of her workshop-experiment. In the vernacular, it’s a fake methodology to generate fake scholarship, no better than the yam-harvest predictions of our esteemed Melanesian weather doctor, which are always correct, regardless of what happens.

But DiAngelo was not nearly done with her manipulations.

Universalizing the Provincial

She then claimed to universalize these contrived results drawn from her tiny sample of eight self-selecting persons from a college teacher program. From her findings, such as they were, she sought to generalize about “white people” in all of America. This included her social fantasy of “white fragility,” which she derived from this tiny, skewed sample of unwitting subjects.

A person who has facility with any scientific undertaking knows that a project with an n of 8 would not win entry into the typical middle-school science fair, and it surely is an unacceptable sample from which to draw any conclusions whatever, other than about the people involved. Bizarrely, DiAngelo herself acknowledges this in writing: “Less than 10 participants would not have provided a wide enough range of discourses.” Yet she inexplicably includes only eight white subjects; the additional five “persons of color” were simply shills that DiAngelo selected to perform to her script. Says DiAngelo: “The research project itself set up Malena [facilitator] and the participants of color as a platform for White performers.”

So with eight white teachers, DiAngelo generalizes her “white fragility” fantasy for the rest of the nation. And how is it “generalizable?” Well, it looks and sounds just like all of the other critical racialist journalism she’s seen. Let her speak for herself:

My primary measure of generalizability was my ability to tie the discourses documented in this study to the larger body of research in the Whiteness literature. The ways in which the discourses here fit within the literature of Whiteness indicates that this group was not idiosyncratic.

Is this surprising? That DiAngelo believes her fake results to be generalizable because folks like her all say the same things?

DiAngelo here reveals that her use of selection bias, confirmation bias, and the guarantor methodology in her experiment on eight teachers in Seattle 17 years ago yields results sufficient to generalize about millions of anonymous Americans today. What are we to make of this grand pronouncement, other than to conclude that a kind of parochial arrogance afflicts DiAngelo? You can draw your own conclusion about this.

But let’s turn back to that business of a non-psychologist conducting human subject experimentation.

“If It Was Good Enough for Victor Frankenstein . . .”

Again, Robin DiAngelo is not a psychologist, so it is troubling that her human subject experiment passed muster by the University of Washington’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), the federally mandated entity to prevent the abuse of human subjects by researchers.15 My view is that the UW IRB is probably top-notch, so the explanation lies elsewhere. To this day, it’s not clear whether the human subject experiment design that the UW IRB approved was the experiment that DiAngelo actually conducted.

This is in serious doubt, because the subjects of the experiment protested throughout the experiment that what was actually happening was not what they had consented to. Nor was the study described accurately in the consent form that they had signed (a form that carries a code that confirms IRB approval: HS#03-7679-E 01). The UW Human Subjects Division confirms that DiAngelo’s project was given IRB approval, but it is not clear that what transpired in the experiment is what DiAngelo proposed. Considerable discrepancy exists between what the subjects consented to, and what they actually experienced—severe pressure, ridicule, emotional trauma, anger, and psychological stress, the possibility of which appeared nowhere in the study advertisement or the consent forms. DiAngelo also acknowledges serious shortcomings in the structure of her experiment that she was aware of beforehand but did not correct: “[T]here were a few simple safeguards that I knew to put in place but didn’t.”

DiAngelo sat silent and watched it all crumble in front of her as she took meticulous notes to inform the subsequent dissertation. Her self-exculpatory discourse puts the best face on a failed experiment but does little to hide the disaster and, in fact, carries more than a whiff of “let me scrape together something usable from the ashes of this debacle.” Moreover, her 1,900-word concluding chapter constitutes a mea culpa confession for committing the sin of striving for objectivity in her research.

In retrospect, she believes that she should have abandoned any pretense of objectivity and instead should have incorporated herself into the study as a kind of white racist sinner playing her prescribed role, making her more in-tune with feelings and needs in what Northrop Frye identified earlier as “kinetic emotion.” This confessional should alone disqualify her from ever again being mistaken as committing serious scholarship. But on the upside for DiAngelo, those same 1,900 concluding words constitute a classic “critical white confession” to lift her to Elysian status in today’s pantheon of white flagellants, otherwise known as “white allies” in the vernacular of critical racialism. 

The Big Con of White Fragility

This experiment is the origin of the “White Fragility”that has become popular with a segment of the population eager to confirm their prejudices and to find reason for self-flagellation. It’s DiAngelo’s original sin, and her entire edifice of “White Fragility” is based on these conversations 17 years ago among eight unsuspecting, angry white preservice teachers, as DiAngelo and her collaborators contrived to set up their “whiteness” experiment under less than honest pretenses.

This is the shaky basis for DiAngelo’s claims today to be an academic and educator. The possibility for malfeasance, unintentional perhaps, in this research project is so manifest that it should at least give pause to those salivating over the prospect of plunking down DiAngelo’s $12,000 speaking fee to mouth provincial platitudes.

DiAngelo’s account of her original sin is fascinating, and you can read about this yourself, as her 2004 dissertation is available—for now—from ProQuest as an abject lesson in pseudoscholarship. People may judge for themselves. It likely could be restricted after interested persons begin to discover this trove. In such a case, a copy can be found at this link.

The upshot of all this is that Robin DiAngelo is revealed as little more than a shallow-thinking provincial, modern-day jongleur, who draws a huge paycheck peddling prejudice. But people who get snookered out of significant capital eventually wise up . . . and they usually aren’t happy about it.

It’s minute 14 for Robin DiAngelo, and the clock is ticking. Perhaps it’s time for her to bank those royalties, cash those speaker-fee checks, and fade out of the public consciousness.

Someone should tell her.


1 See Rod Dreher in The American Conservative, June 29, 2020: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/journalism-propaganda-press-robin-diangelo/  Scholar Heather Mac Donald is particularly harsh, calling DiAngelo a “diversity scammer.”  See Heather Mac Donald in The American Mind, April 1, 2019: https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/fake-bigotry-real-money

2 Like wayward troubadours of medieval Europe, today’s critical racialists serve as modern-day jongleurs or the medieval wandering monks called gyrovagi, who travel from discipline to discipline searching for theories to undermine, boundaries to “transgress,” premises to “interrogate,” and invisible assumptions to “demystify.”  “Day after day, walking, begging, sweating, whining, on they go, rather than stay in one place, there to toil, and there abide: humble at their incoming, arrogant and graceless at their outgoing.” See Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (New York: Doubleday, 1955), p. 179.

3 The “co-curriculum” is the raft of seminars and workshops that university administrators sponsor outside of the actual curriculum to avoid the necessity of academic rigor and standards imposed by faculty. It is a kind of simulacrum of the actual curriculum, distorted and bearing the trappings of academia, yet deficient in every aspect that matters—a kind of cargo cult curriculum. This is how superstition and pseudoscience gain purchase in the academy. “[T]he use of terms such as co-curricular and co-curriculum articulates academic bureaucrats’ ambition to claim equal status for the activities they sponsor. The emergence of the co-curricular transcript gives administrative form to the co-curricular bureaucracies’ claims to equal status with the professoriate in higher education.” David Randall, Social Justice Education in America (New York: National Association of Scholars, 2019), p. 154.

4 Irving L. Janis, Groupthink (2e), (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982), p. 174-175.

5 See Shakti Butler’s material at the University of Delaware, sourced from something called Undoing Racism: The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Shakti Butler, University of Delaware Office of Residence Life, Diversity Facilitation Training, August 14 and 15, 2007. See Tema Okun’s “dismantling racism” project based out of Durham, NC. Particularly noteworthy is the provincial provenance of Ms. Okun’s racialist material, which she simply contrived as a “quick and dirty” list in a fit of pique.  See Tema Jon Okun, The Emperor Has No Clothes: Teaching about Race and Racism to People Who Don’t Want to Know, Dissertation: 2010, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, p. 29.

6 The literature on the concepts of thought reform and thought remolding is immense. Major works on these concepts are Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1961), Theodore E. H. Chen, Thought Reform of Chinese Intellectuals (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960), and Hu Ping, The Thought Remolding Campaign of the Chinese Communist Party-State (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012). Particularly on-point is William F. O’Neill and George D. Demos, Education Under Duress: Behavior Modification Through Thought Reform (Los Angeles: LDI Books, 1971).

7 Ximena Zuniga, Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda, Mark Chesler, and Adena Cytron-Walker, “Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education: Meaningful Learning about Social Justice,” ASHE Higher Education Report, Volume 32, Number 4, 2007, p. vii.

8 Ximena Zuniga, Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda, Mark Chesler, and Adena Cytron-Walker, “Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education: Meaningful Learning about Social Justice,” ASHE Higher Education Report, Volume 32, Number 4, 2007, p. xi.

9 Among those who use the “conveyer belt” metaphor are Beverly Tatum and Derald Wing Sue. See: Beverly Daniel Tatum, “Why are all the Black Kids sitting together in the Cafeteria” (New York: Basic Books, 1997, 1999), p. 11. See also:  Derald Wing Sue, “The Challenges of Becoming a White Ally,” The Counseling Psychologist 2017, Vol. 45(5), p. 707.

10 “The Lenient Policy,” Appendix 1 in Edgar Schein, Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-psychological Analysis of the “Brainwashing” of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1961, 1971), p. 287-288.

11 We recognize here several of these guarantor methodologies, including authoethnography, critical discourse analysis, “testimonios,”grounded theory, various forms of qualitative research, narrative, and storytelling (both true and fictional).

12 Katherine Bischoping and Amber Gazco, Analyzing Talk in the Social Sciences: Narrative Conversation and Discourse Strategies (London: Sage, 2016), p. 154. This notion of “social injustice” is rarely identified clearly, and if it is, it usually constitutes a specific state of affairs that the author(s) finds unpleasant or undesirable and whose actual origins the author(s) has no desire to discover. The battle for social justice or against social injustice becomes the reflexive justification and overarching rubric for any action, program, opinion, or activity of the moment, which may or may not have a connection to anything real.

13 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957, 1971), p. 328.

14 H. G. Widdowson, Text, Context, Pretext: Critical Issues in Discourse Analysis (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), p. 163.

15 “IRB approval is not only required for traditional research such as clinical trials, experimental studies with control groups, and biomedical research but also for nontraditional research conducted in the community, classroom, and health promotion programs.” Whitney Boling, Kathryn Berlin, Rhonda N. Rahn, Jody L. Vogelzang, Gayle Walter, “Institutional Review Board Basics for Pedagogy Research,” Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2018, Vol. 4(3), p. 173.

About Stanley K. Ridgley

Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D., IMBA is Associate Clinical Professor at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. He is a former military intelligence officer and has taught in Russia, China, India, Spain, and Colombia.

Photo: Getty Images

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