Publisher: Beacon Press
Release Date: June 26, 2018
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.
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, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.
Instead of reviewing this book in the traditional sense, I’m going to talk about what I learned. I like to think I’m open minded and more educated than most, but there’s always room for improvement. Never stop learning. I wish to be a true ally, but first that requires a whole lot of introspection and education.
What resonated with me the most was notion that is white people are raised without the concept of race. Society is structured around and for white people, so that we are afforded the luxury of never having to think about our race. For white people, race is usually not regarded as part of our identity as it is for people of colour. I’m embarrassed to say that this notion has never even crossed my mind.
“I was raised in a society that taught me that there was no loss in the absence of people of color – that their absence was good and desirable thing to be sought and maintained – while simultaneously denying that fact. This attitude has shaped every aspect of myself-identity; my interests and investments, what I care about or don’t care about, what I see or don’t see, what I am drawn to and what I am repelled by, what I can take for granted, and where I can go, how others response to me, and what I can ignore. Most of would not choose not be socialized into racism and white supremacy. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that choice.”
Another concept that resonated with me the most was how the connotations for racist is a good/bad dichotomy. We view racists as ignorant, bigoted, and prejudiced while not racist is viewed as progressive, educated, and open-minded. By seeing racist in such a stark dichotomy, being called out for a racist remark is viewed by white people as an attack on their character. Thus, the situation devolves from a moment of potential learning to a hostile defence. By learning to be open to criticism and accepting the very white world we grew up in, we can capitalize on these teachable moments to see how we have hurt people of colour.
“[…] stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them. We do have them, and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing.”
“I believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out; now I am aware of and can change that assumption.”
Overall, White Fragility is a must read. We white people must accept how we built a society to empower ourselves at the expense of others and actively work to dismantle our assumptions, prejudices, and racist tendencies without people of colour doing the work for us. It’s time to be held accountable.
Have you read White Fragility? What did you think?