White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism
Author: Robin DiAngelo
Read if: you’ve ever asked yourself “what’s the big deal about race?”
Synopsis: Sociologist Robin DiAngelo writes an introduction to how white people fit into race and racism. A white woman herself, she uses this perspective to talk about the ways in which we (white people/white-passing people) commonly consider ourselves to be outside of the racial conversation, and how this racial illiteracy perpetuates racism.
DiAngelo breaks down the main counterproductive behaviors when conversations regarding race are dominated by emotion, fear, and denial. Based on information and anecdotes gathered through her experience as an anti-racist educator, “White Fragility” is a real wake-up call for those of us who have been grossly uneducated in matters of race and raised by a racist society.
Overall: 3/5 stars. Concise, necessary, and powerful. A great start to further education.
Non-Spoiler Review: As someone whose career focuses on health, I knew surprisingly little about race. This book was the necessary introduction to how I (a white-passing person) fit into race and racism. Many of us are taught that we lie outside of race, or that it only affects POC. DiAngelo does an amazing job at breaking down this myth and stating why it is important that we all become well-versed in how race impacts us, and how we impact race.
Both the book and the general writing structure are short, concise, and powerful. It is a call for white people to reflect on feelings of “innocence,” denial, and “white solidarity.” In other words, how do we deflect and absolve ourselves of responsibility when we have done something racist or hurtful. It shows the importance of validity. Whose perspective to we validate? Whose voices matter? And, more importantly, asks whose voices should matter? Whose experiences should we validate?
DiAngelo describes white fragility as a form of bullying. It places the fear of being called racist above recognizing the impact of our actions. In my experience, white fragility is so ubiquitous that it is what I immediately default to. Based on DiAngelo’s words, I am not alone. Breaking this habit requires being open to feedback and embracing the discomfort that comes with it. What’s important is not being perfect, but rather, being open to improvement.
I highly recommend this as an introduction to race and racism. It should be required reading for all.
- Whose experiences are often validated? Why do we validate these experiences more often than others?
- When is it inappropriate to express sadness and frustration? When can your experience overshadow someone else’s?
- How challenging (or perhaps relieving?) was this book? Or, what feelings and reactions did you have?
Buy the physical book here
Get the audiobook here
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Read this piece about it in The New Yorker
Thank you for reading!