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White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for…
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White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About… (edition 2018)

by Robin DiAngelo (Author), Michael Eric Dyson (Foreword)

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1,505668,551 (4.08)40
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.… (more)
Member:revmattmonroe
Title:White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Authors:Robin DiAngelo (Author)
Other authors:Michael Eric Dyson (Foreword)
Info:Beacon Press (2018), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages
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White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

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The reflections of a white woman who often leads seminars and workshops regarding white supremacy, racism, and diversity, particularly involving "white fragility," the means by which white people relieve the awkwardness, discomfort, and tension regarding their privileged role in society.

How *this* became the "textbook" about issues of white supremacy and racism is a bit baffling, because the author did not write this book to introduce people to the premises she describes. The work seems to be directed primarily toward people of color and those who would recognize the legacy of white supremacy in America.

To that end she succeeds well. She stays in her lane and does not presume to speak for people of color; she sticks to statistics, stories from people of color, and liberally quotes from many other scholars and researchers regarding the subjects discussed. She admits her own complicity and how she has had to work to make sure she does not manifest white fragility.

The work itself is overall pretty bloodless, concise, and analytic. She explains why it is difficult for white people to talk about racism and white supremacy: the system has been designed for their advantage and comfort to the point where it is their "normal." She describes the heritage of white supremacy and racism in America both before and since the Civil Rights Movement. She describes how white people, even while ignorant of race issues, are yet profoundly shaped by the issues of race in America. She then approaches the issue of racism, and does well to show the fallacy of thinking of racism as bad actions done by malevolent people, and instead to see racism as a system established to benefit one group of people at the expense of other people, and to see how we have all participated in that system to some degree or another, however consciously or unconsciously. As long as the good/bad binary is in place, white people will want to see themselves as good people, and thus as impossible that they are racist, and in the process perversely justifying or rationalizing thoughts, words, and behaviors that do indeed reflect white supremacy. She addresses the various contexts and situations which serve as racial triggers for white people, and then describes how white fragility is the reaction, giving plenty of examples, describing "the script" of how it goes down, explicitly calling out white women's tears. This is the heart of the matter: white people, however consciously, privilege and prioritize their own comfort and self-image and seem to fall apart any time their words or behaviors about or toward people of color are challenged or explained in terms of how they look to people of color. The work concludes with wisdom about the way forward: recognizing one's limitations, accepting the reality of prejudice while working to reduce it, to not center oneself but to be willing to receive feedback and to truly hear the experiences of others.

While I get why conservatives hate on this book (racism as systemic, challenging the premise that it's all and only about personal responsibility, etc.), I did not find it that particularly earth-shattering or provocative. You can find similar things in the wide range of books written on the subject recently, and she doesn't say anything that wasn't already out in the open with WEB DuBois, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, etc. I get the concern about the lack of an atonement mechanism, but white supremacy/racism is very much like sin - a current reality that we will most likely never "solve" or "cure" but only can do better at identifying, confessing, and repenting. Likewise, everything she says about how white people ought to relate toward people of color, in my estimation, can be reduced to the word "humility"; the strategy of white fragility, however conscious or unconscious, is an unwillingness to be empathetic, to privilege and prioritize one's own comfort and power over the condition of others, and an utter unwillingness to love one's neighbor as oneself. After all, is not the one manifesting white fragility looking to be loved and understood by others? And yet s/he will not truly do so for the one who is the other if it comes at his or her personal expense.

So, sure, white people ain't gonna like this. But they need to be exposed to something of the sort: if not this, then something like it. ( )
  deusvitae | Sep 8, 2020 |
Racial conversations are difficult at best and usually impossible to be open and honest with ourselves let alone others. It is even more difficult when the people who have the power act as if they are the victims. This book helps white people look at their racism and helps them become a better person ( )
  foof2you | Sep 7, 2020 |
Racism ( )
  Rosareads | Sep 5, 2020 |
Read this book! Then re-read it! Then pass it on! It's that important! I kept typing down quotes (see below) and taking pictures of entire pages and sending them to friends and family! I think I've inspired three more people to read this! My copy was a loaner (thanks Jeremy!), so I can't pass mine on. But if I had money, I'd try to put this book in the hands of everyone I know! Tremendously important work in here!

"..., the US economy was based on the abduction and enslavement of African people, the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people, and the annexation of Mexican lands."

"Discrimination is action based on prejudice. These actions include ignoring, exclusion, threats, ridicule, slander, and violence."

"Racism is a system." "...racism - ... - occurs when a racial group's prejudice is backed by legal authority and institutional control."

“For most whites, however, racism is like murder: the concept exists, but someone has to commit it in order for it to happen.”
- Omowale Akintunde

“the trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. ...it is blackness with ambition, drive, with purpose...”
- Carol Anderson ( )
1 vote Stahl-Ricco | Sep 2, 2020 |
i chose this as sort of my primer to delve more deeply into other books and resources on antiracism. i was hesitant to start with a white woman, as i want to be centering people of color, but i had heard enough to make me think this would be a good place to start. and i hate knowing that hearing some of these things from a white person might make it easier to hear. i hope that's not true for me, but i can't say for sure that it isn't.

this was less of an intro than i expected, but still a good place for me to begin. i mean, she basically starts by saying that she's not going to prove racism exists, she takes it as a given. this is fine, i don't need to be convinced. (i do wonder if that's true for all of her readers, though.) i actually appreciate starting from a place of understanding this already, so we could get right into it.

there's a lot here that reinforces stuff that i'd already been thinking, which is nice; it makes me feel like i'm on the right track. (not that i'm done. that i'm starting out facing in the right direction.) for me, personally, right now, the things in this book that i think impacted me the most are:

- in talking to other white people that have so frustrated me in the past, i now see that we are defining racism differently. her good/bad binary and seeing racism only as overt intentional acts of terror against people of color helps me understand people's reactions to being called out. it gives me something to think about, to better be able to point out to white people when we are being problematic. and also to understand if and when i respond with defensiveness if i'm called out. that i am responding to this dynamic, and can take a breath and set it aside, and then incorporate the feedback, because this binary is not the reality of what racism is.

- but wholly for me, though: her quote toward the end, about already knowing what to do, and not already doing it, i think will be life changing. i am always talking about wishing i knew more people of color. sure, i live in a white city, but i need to seek out more diverse people. i was waiting and waiting for her to tell me what to do, and when she said that i obviously already knew...well i didn't think i did, but that's because i apparently had never given it much thought at all. she's totally right about this. and now i don't have the excuse of not knowing what to do if i don't do something about it.

- also, for me: what she said about how white people can live their whole life without knowing people of color, and not feel that loss - that really hit. i do feel that loss, actually, but i've done nothing about it. and i don't think about it; the loss, i mean. it's easy for me to let that go, and it shouldn't be. i think this book has a lot of useful information in it, but for me, that's the part that i will really carry away with me. hopefully it's the part that will change me, and change the way i'm living my life, as well.

"'It's been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we're protesting America.'" - Beyonce Knowles

"The identities of those sitting at the tables of power in this country have remained remarkably similar: white, male, middle-and upper-class, able-bodied. Acknowledging this fact may be dismissed as political correctness, but it is still a fact. The decisions made at those tables affect the lives of those not at the tables. Exclusion by those at the table doesn't depend on willful intent; we don't have to intend to exclude for the results of our actions to be exclusion."

"The racial status quo is comfortable for white people, and we will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable."

"Jefferson suggested that there were natural differences between the races and asked scientists to find them. If science could prove that black people were naturally and inherently inferior..., there would be no contradiction between our professed ideals and our actual practices. There were, of course, enormous economic interests in justifying enslavement and colonization. Race science was driven by these social and economic interests, which came to establish cultural norms and legal rulings that legitimized racism and the privileged status of those defined as white. ... In less than a century, Jefferson's suggestion of racial difference became commonly accepted scientific 'fact.'"

"In a society that grants fewer opportunities to those not seen as white, economic and racial forces are inseparable. However, poor and working-class whites were eventually granted full entry into whiteness as a way to exploit labor. If poor whites were focused on feeling superior to those below them in status, they were less focused on those above. The poor and working classes, if united across race, could be a powerful force. But racial divisions have served to keep them from organizing against the owning class who profits from their labor."

"Individual whites may be 'against' racism, but they still benefit from a system that privileges whites as a group."

"Being perceived as white carries more than a mere racial classification; it is a social and institutional status and identity imbued with legal, political, economic, and social rights and privileges that are denied to others."

"Mills [Charles W Mills, in his book The Racial Contract] describes white supremacy as 'the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today.' He notes that although white supremacy has shaped Western political thought for hundreds of years, it is never named. In this way, white supremacy is rendered invisible while other political systems - socialism, capitalism, fascism - are identified and studied. In fact, much of white supremacy's power is drawn from its invisibility, the taken-for-granted aspects that underwrite all other political and social contracts."

"Today we have a cultural norm that insists we hide our racism from people of color and deny it among ourselves, but not that we actually challenge it. In fact, we are socially penalized for challenging racism."

"The most profound message of racial segregation may be that the absence of people of color from our lives is no real loss. Not one person who loved me, guided me, or taught me ever conveyed that segregation deprived me of anything of value. I could live my entire life without a friend or loved one of color and not see that as a diminishment of my life. ...we are taught that we lose nothing of value through racial segregation."

"Within this paradigm, to suggest that I am racist is to deliver a deep moral blow - a kind of character assassination. Having received this blow, I must defend my character, and that is where all my energy will go - to deflecting the charge, rather than reflecting on my behavior. In this way, the good/bad binary makes it nearly impossible to talk to white people about racism, what it is, how it shapes all of us, and the inevitable ways that we are conditioned to participate in it. If we cannot discuss these dynamics or see ourselves within them, we cannot stop participating in racism. The good/bad binary made it effectively impossible for the average white person to understand - much less interrupt - racism."

"Although individual racist acts do occur, these acts are part of a larger system of interlocking dynamics. The focus on individual incidences masks the personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical, and structural analysis that is necessary to challenge this larger system. The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic."

"If racism is not a topic of discussion between a white person and a person of color who are friends, this absence of conversation may indicate a lack of cross-racial trust."

"As professor of social work Rich Vodde states, 'If privilege is defined as a legitimization of one's entitlement to resources, it can also be defined as permission to escape or avoid any challenges to this entitlement.'"

"It would be revolutionary [a quote from a person of color] if we could receive, reflect, and work to change the [racist] behavior. On the one hand, the man's response points to how difficult and fragile we are. But on the other hand, it indicates how simple it can be to take responsibility for our racism."

"If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead 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 and can change that assumption."

"When white people ask me what to do about racism and white fragility, the first thing I ask is, 'What enabled you to be a full, educated, professional adult and not know what to do about racism?' It is a sincere question. How have we managed not to know, when the information is all around us? When people of color have been telling us for years? If we take that question seriously and map out all the ways we have come to not know what to do, we will have our guide before us. For example, if my answer is that I was not educated about racism, I know that I will have to get educated. If my answer is that I don't know people of color, I will need to build relationships. If it is because there are no people of color in my environment, I will need to get out of my comfort zone and change my environment; addressing racism is not without effort."

"Since my learning will never be finished, neither will the need to hold me accountable."

"To continue producing racial inequality, the system only needs white people to be really nice and carry on, smile at people of color, be friendly across race, and go to lunch together on occasion. I am not saying that you shouldn't be nice. I suppose it's better than being mean. But niceness is not courageous. Niceness will not get racism on the table and will not keep it on the table when everyone wants it off. In fact, bringing racism to white people's attention is often seen as not nice, and being perceived as not nice triggers white fragility." ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | Aug 30, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
CHOTINER: So you consider yourself a racist right now?

DiANGELO: Yes. I will always have a racist worldview and biases. The way I look at it is I’m really clear that I do less harm than I used to. I perpetrate that racism less often. I’m not defensive at all when I realize—whether myself or it’s been brought to my attention—that I’ve just perpetrated a piece of it. I have really good repair skills. None of those are small things because they mean I do less harm.
added by elenchus | editSlate.com, Isaac Chotiner (Aug 2, 2018)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin DiAngeloprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dyson, Michael EricForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landon, AmyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roe, LouisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tatusian, AlexDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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These ceremonials in honor of white supremacy, performed from babyhood, slip from the conscious mind down deep into muscles . . . and become difficult to tear out. - Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream (1949)
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I am a white American raised in the United States. I have a white frame of reference and a white worldview, and I move through the world with a white experience. My experience is not a universal human experience.
[Foreword] One metaphor for race, and racism, won't do.
[Author's Note] The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal.
I am a white woman.
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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.

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