White Fragility: Sin, Redemption and the Gospel
An insufficient doctrine of sin and redemption cannot hope to resolve systemic injustice.
Though published in 2018, Robin DiAngelo’s #1 New York Times bestseller, White Fragility, has returned to the top of the bestseller list in the wake of the recent racial tensions and protests in America. In her book, DiAngelo unpacks the phenomenon of “white fragility,” the inability or unwillingness of white people to talk about race, and argues that it “is not weakness per se… [but] a powerful means of white racial control.” The book’s provocative thesis has prompted its share of critical reviews (p. 2). The book has been critiqued for its circular logic, its lack of empirical grounding, its problematic epistemological assumptions, its “dehumanizing condescension,” and its opportunistic nod to the trillion-dollar (white) wellness and self-help industry.
What has surprisingly been lacking from the growing cottage industry of White Fragility reviews is a theological critique of this flawed but culturally important work.
While it may seem unfair to subject a book by a diversity consultant to a theological critique, there are two reasons a review of this nature is overdue. First, this book has not only graced the NYT bestseller list, it has also appeared on numerous “recommended reading” lists posted by evangelical pastors and leaders. While Christians should read widely to engage culture, they should also think critically and theologically about what they read. Second, its topic—racism and white people’s reluctance to reckon with it—raises unavoidable theological questions. We simply can’t talk about racism without talking about sin and evil—concepts completely absent from DiAngelo’s book. And we can’t talk about white …
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