The Expensive, Therapeutic Narcissism Of Social Justice

Diversity, an $8 billion enterprise back in 2003, exploded in the wake of Donald Trump’s election into one of the nation’s fastest-growing industries. Colleges funneled millions of dollars into diversity and inclusion efforts; in 2019, a survey found that 63% of working diversity trainers had been hired within the past three years. And it’s not just corporate strategy that’s up for sale: you can buy diversity in the form of books, movies, merchandise, and $2,500 dinner parties where white women pay to confess their racist complicity. Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility seminars—at which the attendees are overwhelmingly white, female, and highly educated—cost as much as $165 per person. Her keynote speaking fee is $40,000. Whatever is being sold, be it a jade vagina egg or a ticket to an anti-racist workshop, there’s a great deal of money to be made off the guilt, anxiety, and insecurities of financially secure white women.

And like any other luxury lifestyle choice, this one is an ongoing investment. As a marketing strategy, convincing women that social justice is best achieved through endless self-interrogation is brilliant. The savviest brands on offer turn the profitable allure of unattainability into a core part of their ethic. DiAngelo herself talks about anti-racism the way some people would talk about training for a marathon—“I want to build the stamina to handle the discomfort so we don’t retreat in the face of it, because retreating holds the status quo in place”—only in this version, it’s endless preparation for a race that never comes…

…Reading DiAngelo’s book, however, it becomes clear that not knowing is part of the deal. White Fragility explains not only that white progressives are the most dangerous racists of all, but that they always will be, and only through constant and unmitigated navel-gazing can they hope to do less damage. This anti-racist regimen isn’t a solution; it’s an intellectual diet that you’ll be paying for over the rest of your life.

But for those whose activism begins and ends with hashtags and book clubs, the narcissism is undeniable, and arguably even part of the appeal—what Vulture’s Lauren Michelle Jackson calls “a vanity project, where the goal is no longer to learn more about race, power, and capital, but to spring closer to the enlightened order of the antiracist.” (“And yet, were one to actually read many of these books,” Jackson notes, “one might reach the conclusion that there is no anti-racist stasis within reach of a lifetime.”) Self-help social justice doesn’t just offer privileged white women the comfort of a permanent passion project; it fuels the pleasant, ego-driven delusion that nothing is more important to the cause, to any cause, than the innermost minutiae of your own thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.

Kat Rosenfield,Master Cleanse: Why Social Justice Feels Like Self-Help to Privileged Women” (June 28, 2020) (HT: The True Presbyterian Podcast)

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Yes, indeed. And wait to see who gets picked for the VP candidate on the Democratic ticket. Biden is fading quickly in the face of encroaching cognitive degeneration (dementia, senility, who knows, but it’s evident and it’s being kept low key by the party bosses). So those who are vying ferociously to regain the upper hand against Trump’s initiatives will appoint the one who they really want to be in the oval office, expecting Biden to be relieved of his duties when his health issues get the better of him and he is forced to step down.

    For retro-nostalgia consider the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron’s early 70’s protest song, “The Revolution Will not be Televised.”

  2. It looks like Rosenfield is speaking against these ideas in the world because they are narcissistic and targeting women. We can speak a little closer to home and demonstrate these ideas in the church.

    Rosenfield seems to find the ongoing nature of anti-racism difficult: “it’s an intellectual diet that you’ll be paying for over the rest of your life,” and “there is no anti-racist states within reach of a lifetime.”

    This reminds me of John Piper in Bloodlines:
    “Issues of race and ethnic diversity and harmony are not a phase to be achieved but a lifelong quest. Pg 109

    “When I dream about the outcomes of this book, or my ministry in general, I think mainly of breeding this …. never-say-die commitment to a great cause.” Pg 112

    My plea is: never quit. Change. Step back. Get another strategy. Start over. But never quit. Pg 232

    If you have thin skin, or if you have a bigger sense of rights you are owed than mercies you need, or if you have small faith in God’s preserving grace, you will set out on the road of racial harmony and then quit Pg 178

    Let’s do the same thing again. Rosenfield seems to find the cost of anti-racism difficult: “Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility seminars—at which the attendees are overwhelmingly white, female, and highly educated—cost as much as $165 per person. Her keynote speaking fee is $40,000.”

    Here’s Piper in Bloodlines explaining the the appropriate price to pay for diversity:
    “The cost of diversity was the blood and life of the Son of God. This is not an overstatement.

    “The issue of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony in the church is not small, because the price God paid precisely for it was not small. It was infinite.”

    “And if it cost the Father and the Son such a price, should we expect that it will cost us nothing? That it will be easy?

    “To join God in pursuing racial diversity and racial harmony will be costly. But if you love God … you will trust him and seek his help and pursue with your life what cost Jesus his.” Pg 141-142

Comments are closed.