Imagine that you and I are engaged in conversation. At some point, I accuse you of an “ist” or “ism” (e.g., being a racist who advocates racism).
In defense of your character, you challenge my claim by saying, “No I’m not! I’m the least racist person you’ll ever meet. As a matter of fact, I have more friends who aren’t my race than friends who are.”
Congratulations! You’ve fallen into the snare I’ve set and your attempt at disproving my accusation lends itself to evidence in support of the allegation. You’re now ensnared in a Kafka trap.
Named after novelist Franz Kafka, one source suggests that a “Kafka trap is a fallacy where if someone denies being x it is taken as evidence that the person is x[,] since someone who is x would deny being x.”
In the aforementioned example, you deny being a racist and your denial is taken as evidence that you are a racist, because a racist who doesn’t want to be discovered as practicing racism would deny being racist and even offer proof in the form of suggested friends who aren’t of the same race.
My dad used to refer to this tactic as a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” strategy. With a racially-devised Kafka trap, you’re a racist either way.
Endorse the claim by saying, “Hell yeah, I’m racist,” and you are indeed going to be considered a racist. Deny the claim and your refutation will be used as evidence against you, because a racist would clearly deny the accusation.
It may seem obvious to the reader that use of a Kafka trap is utterly absurd. However, over the past few years I’ve observed many people—especially white individuals accused of being racists—falling prey to Kafka traps set by people who promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI).
Perhaps the reader is aware of author Robin DiAngelo. During the so-called “summer of love” 2020, I encountered many sources which promoted DiAngelo’s book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.
Perhaps you or someone you know has had the misfortune of reading DiAngelo’s drivel. Nonetheless, and for its demonstrative value in illustrating a Kafka trap, I present a passage from the aforementioned book—as I have italicized traps for the reader:
People who claim not to be prejudiced are demonstrating a profound lack of self-awareness. Ironically, they are also demonstrating the power of socialization. We have all been taught in schools, through movies, and from family members, teachers, and clergy, that it is important not to be prejudiced. Unfortunately, the prevailing belief that prejudice is bad causes us to deny its unavoidable reality. Prejudice is foundational to understanding white fragility because suggesting that white people have racial prejudice is perceived as saying that we are bad and should be ashamed. We then feel the need to defend our character rather than explore the inevitable racial prejudices we have absorbed so that we might change them. In this way, our misunderstanding about what prejudice is protects it.
Do you understand the linguistically manipulative devices employed by DiAngelo? The major premise of the aforementioned passage is that white people—not merely some, though it is inferred that all—are racist. Here’s how this logic works:
Major premise: All white people who deny being prejudiced against non-whites are racist.
Minor premise: John Doe is a white person who denies being prejudiced against non-whites.
Conclusion: Therefore, John Does is racist.
Suppose we take the syllogistic exercise a bit further in order to fully expose the Kafka trap inherent in DiAngelo’s work. Still using the author’s rhetorical quagmire, here’s how DiAngelo’s illogical snare is set:
Premise 1: Any white person who defends against claims of racism is ultimately protecting the institution of racism.
Premise 2: Jane Doe is a white person who defends against claims of racism.
Conclusion: Consequently, Jane Doe is ultimately protecting the institution of racism.
Though I have no idea how many people around the globe have fallen for DiAngelo’s asinine claims, I do have an anecdote to share regarding an instance in which a middle-aged woman who self-identified as a lesbian attempted to persuade others and me—a biracial man—to accept DiAngelo’s claims of racism.
My unique EMDR experience
Before I proceed any further, allow me to issue a unique disclaimer. Nothing stated herein is intended to disparage any individual, entity, identity, institution, or psychotherapeutic modality.
What I have to offer in regards to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) relates to a subjective experience and is not intended to serve as objective evidence to dissuade anyone from use of the technique. Any inference otherwise understood is not in alignment with my expressed objective.
Let us move on.
Having learned of EMDR when in graduate school for counseling (2009-2011) and having observed use of the technique when undergoing social work graduate education and training (2012-2014), I ultimately decided to pursue EMDR certification in 2020.
For those who don’t recall the absurdity of that year, white people were bowing to black people, swaths of urban neighborhoods were damaged in the name of social justice, and despite authoritarian lockdown measures by self-styled “experts” and governmental figures it was somehow considered acceptable to protest racism though not COVID-19 response measures.
Through online training, I attended week one of the two-part EMDR therapy basic training. I could speak about my skepticism in relation to the technique, though the current blogpost isn’t the proper forum in which to express my disbelief.
Still, it was during week two of training that my dissention toward the modality peaked, though not merely because I was leery of EMDR as a technique, though because of the trainer’s expressed views. After earning a master’s degree in social work, I’ve remained conscious of nonsense masquerading as knowledge.
Therefore, my bullshit barometer measured a change in pressure when social justice flatulence was detected in PowerPoint slides. Prior to trainees returning from a brief break, the EMDR trainer presented a slide that recommended books by DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi.
For those unfamiliar with the author, Kendi has purportedly stated among other things, “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.” Using this form of logic, one presupposes that observed racial disparities in the National Basketball Association may be the result of racism.
Admittedly, I’m not a devotee of DiAngelo or Kendi’s DEI-appearing ideology. Illogical claims such as theirs have little appeal to me.
Once trainees returned from the break and the trainer discussed the slide, she provided an anecdote of her own perceived racism. Apparently, when she was in a hotel lobby at some point, she mistook a Latina for lodging staff and this was said to be the result of implicit bias.
In “antiracist” fashion, which one images is akin to the struggle sessions of Maoist China; trainees were encouraged to provide our own accounts of racist behavior. However, I paid a total of $1,995.03 for EMDR training, not to be proselytized in regards to a social justice ideology.
Nonetheless, the trainer segued from her lived experience towards the topic of how one may treat racism with EMDR. Distorting the existence of actual trauma, trainees were presented with a slide that advocated “Race/Social Conditions” and “Generational Embodiment” as forms of traumatic experience.
To be clear, this is synonymous with equating trauma one directly experiences in association with being sex-trafficked to the historic trauma of an ancestor hundreds of years ago having been trafficked by racist slave traders.
Undoubtedly, both experiences are considered traumatic. However, if person X has an ancestor who was subject to chattel slavery, it isn’t as though person x can claim that event as a current traumatic stressor, receive a trauma-specific diagnosis, and apply for disability benefits—is it?
Being biracial, I don’t consider my blackness as a disability. Likewise, I wasn’t about to allow a white woman to convince me that I was a racist for my rejection of a Kafka trap.
Thankfully, my time in a social work graduate program taught me how to forego acceptance of overtly racist tropes espoused by self-professed progressives and to simply mock the madness for what it is. It’s truly laughable.
After all, the same EMDR trainer who presented her case for antiracism also proclaimed to have used EMDR to help her dog no longer express fear of squirrels. To date, I patiently await peer-reviewed articles in support the efficaciousness of EMDR treatment with animals.
Given your understanding of a Kafka trap, consider the following example:
Me: You deny racism and therefore you’re a racist!
You: No, I’m not.
Me: That proves it, because racists always deny their racism!
If accused of racism using a circular, unfalsifiable claim such as this, it is my hope that you may now appreciate how a Kafka trap isn’t meant to be proven or disproven. If you choose to humor a person who employs this device, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t refute the claim.
Having used DiAngelo’s rhetoric as an example of Kafka-esque racial allegations, the reader may determine that engagement with people who uncharitably bait others into irrational discussion about DEI and other social justice gibberish may not actually desire to engage in meaningful discussion.
It very well may be that these people wish to manipulate you while gaining power and privilege to the degree whereby they can influence your behavior. Herein, I’ve provided an EMDR anecdote of an individual who—even if perhaps well-intentioned—perceivably attempted to cajole an entire training cohort into antiracist trappings.
I didn’t stumble into that pitfall and you don’t have to either. Despite what some may say—such as, “Now is not the time to give up on DEI”—I suspect the waning days of racist rhetoric and prejudicial treatment towards white people and other affected groups may be in the final stages before collapse.
It is my sincere hope that the Supreme Court will soon reverse the anti-Civil Rights Movement doctrine that is affirmative action. I cherish the thought of a society that can aspire to judge on the basis of character and merit rather than identity and bigotry.
To the reader salivating while preparing a Kafka trap regarding my views expressed herein, you have as much opportunity of convincing me that bilateral taps on your pup’s paws can cure it of a fear response as you may persuade me that doublespeak policy is a moral good for our society.
To the reader who has been duped by Kafka traps and would like to know more about how not to fall for the okie doke of woke trickery, I may be of some service to you. Let’s get you to a path on which you can spot booby-traps from a mile away.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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