White Fragility

White Fragility

Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

eBook - 2018
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The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. In this "vital, necessary, and beautiful book" (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and "allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to 'bad people' (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Publisher: 2018
ISBN: 9780807047422
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, how these reactions maintain racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

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Nov 16, 2020

I was very open-minded when I decided to read this book--better getting the book from the library and glad I did because it is not worth the money to buy it. Repetitive and very hard to read. Author doesn't make a good argument about racism and now it is very easy to call everything racist that it has lost its meaning.

👤"Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence."
As Voltaire said, "This animal is very vicious. When attacked, it defends itself."

Oct 29, 2020

A month or two ago, I received a newsletter from my high school alumni association that had a personal column from the president of the association. She told how she was planning to go to my high school with the white kids in her neighborhood and was disappointed to find that she was assigned to a different, nearly all-Black high school. Her mother was a housekeeper for a family solidly in the assigned neighborhood for the school I attended, so she persuaded the family to allow her to use that address as her own. She was then assigned to my high school. This was in 1953, and I am sure there is nobody who misunderstands what this was all about. But the effect it had on me was to wonder who this association president was, because I knew there were very few Black students in my graduating class. My old yearbook showed that roughly 10% of my class was Black, so how could I have not known that? There was only one Black student in any of my classes and I knew he had a sister in the school and I was aware of one other Black student with whom I sometimes rode a bus to afterschool activities. Again, this is a situation that very few will fail to understand. All of this primed me for reading White Fragility.
White fragility is not about weakness, it is largely a method of deflection from even suggestions of racism. The author is careful in her definition of racism and of its attributes and her discussion of race spends time on the origins of racial identity and on the way social ideals have been generated. On page 113 she offers that white fragility “…may be conceptualized as the sociology of dominance; an outcome of white people’s socialization into white supremacy and a means to protect, maintain, and reproduce white supremacy.”
One question she asks nagged at me; when is the first time I saw a Black person? As a rather introverted person, it is sometimes hard for me recognize that other people come into my orbit, so I could not answer. When I tell you that I know when my younger brother first did so, you will understand another reason for my inability to remember. His first exposure was as a two-year-old to the then first-run movie Song of the South. Returning to my high school experience mentioned above, I am reasonably sure that high school is the first time in my education that there were any Black students in any school I attended.
White Fragility is written for a white audience and it certainly hit its mark in me. The author’s analysis of the reaction of a mother in the grocery store whose child points to a Black man helped me understand her thesis and I could think of several ways to use that in fighting racism. This book was valuable to me and helped me to better understand the underlying structure of racism. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
P.S. October 31 – after posting my comment, I read through numerous other comments about this book. Some of the negative comments were probably from people to whom they believe the author’s theory does not apply, because they “are not racist.” But one comment stated that one should read books by POC (the commenter’s term) and that reading this book by a white author is supporting white supremacy. I read Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison years ago, Manning Marable and Ta-Nehisi Coates more recently, and I don’t know how many in between. They gave me photographs of myself, each through his own filter. In those writings, I could see myself from the outside. But in WF, the writer got inside my own head. It was like viewing myself in a mirror.
Each of us is searching and we find different paths to understanding and change. I have been involved in activist groups that ultimately accomplished very little because of the need to be “pure.” Read any magazine on the Left to see how we love to fight among ourselves about movement orthodoxy. In the words of Rodney King, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

Oct 14, 2020

I would recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about racism in America. In response to critiques saying "why not read a book written by a POC instead", I would suggest that you do both. Having read numerous books by POC, I can say that this one brings a unique perspective to the discussion and is valuable in addition to the others.

Oct 13, 2020

Why not read a book written by a Black author?
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo OR
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Supporting Robin DiAngelo's work over that of POC is a vote for white supremacy.

Oct 08, 2020

This book just reveals that the author is racist and wants to convince people that all white are inherently racist even if they say they are not. Makes no sense, no studies support her statements. It is mostly an anecdotal that she wants to generalize. Not worth reading at all. I had checked it out to understand the reason behind "white fragility", but it just confirmed that it is a made up term with not evidence, yet it is being taught to people as the truth.

Oct 07, 2020

To quote the author, "When I say that only whites can be racist, I mean that in the United States, only whites have the collective social and institutional power and privilege over people of color. People of color do not have this power and privilege over white people." In a further quote, the author states that "people of color may also hold prejudices and discriminate against white people, but they lack the social and institutional power that transforms their prejudice and discrimination into racism."

My take away from this book was that, in the author's view, all whites are inherently racist, the good whites (progressives) can at least work to understand their racism and work to be better people and no person of color is capable of being racist, even the most vile of Anti-Semites (e.g. Louis Farrakhan). In my view, her entire book is a load of crap.

Oct 01, 2020

I had to struggle to read this after seeing her early statement to the effect that "race and gender are social constructs, rather than biologic facts. Knowing that her arguments come from such a scientifically flawed perspective it's difficult to give her much credence. That said, she does make the point that whites cannot possibly have a visceral understanding of what blacks experience in our society. She could have covered that in about one or two pages.

Hillsboro_JeanineM Sep 11, 2020

If you have not thought about race and Racism, then this book will be helpful but if you have already been thinking, reading and discussing race and Racism it is not a must read but it was still valuable to me to read. I did find questions about when did I become aware of Race and how I identified; did have POC classmates; did I have POC teachers - thought provoking. I remember seeing a film on sharing water fountains with POC when I was in kindergarten or first grade; thought of POC classmates from elementary school, busing in my sophomore year of high school; and my sole POC teacher, Mr. Hurt, who really challenged us to meet the kids that were being bused in. For these reflections, the book made it a worthwhile read.

IndyPL_JosephL Sep 10, 2020

Through her workshops and now this book, Robin DiAngelo offers an important talking point in the larger movement of antiracism and how White people can work toward talking about it.

While many of her points can be boiled down to the unsurprising fact that people will get offended if you call out their racism, she frames it from the belief that we need to move past the idea that "being racist" makes you a "bad person" and our knee-jerk reaction to take offence and defend out moral superiority. This is, understandably, a difficult position to take considering the history of racist power and the harm it's caused. Nevertheless, it is a belief that fits well into the larger narrative that acknowledges that a person can be both racist and antiracist.

Once we've moved past both of these moral and defensive roadblocks, she argues, we can finally join the discussion of racism, acknowledge our racist beliefs, and move toward the goal of becoming more antiracist--both as individuals and as a society.

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Aug 19, 2020

This books explores how white fragility (defensive reactions whites display when their racial views- positions and advantages are questioned or challenged) develops,how it protects racial inequality and what can be done to change these biases. It also shows how society from the very beginning have help to develop these biases and how the hurt both individually and collectively.


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JCLChrisK Nov 06, 2019

This book is intended for us, for white progressives who so often—despite our conscious intentions—make life so difficult for people of color. I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.

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