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When a racial group's collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.
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; the impact of their prejudice on whites is temporary and contextual.
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.
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism Paperback – June 26, 2018
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—The New Yorker
“[T]houghtful, instructive, and comprehensive . . . This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; DiAngelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“White Fragility is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism.”
—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
“A valuable guide . . . While especially helpful for those new to the critical analysis of whiteness, this work also offers a useful refresher to anyone committed to the ongoing process of self-assessment and anti-oppression work.”
“A penetrating new book.”
“A vital, necessary, and beautiful book, a bracing call to white folk everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is and to seize the opportunity to make things better now.”
—Michael Eric Dyson
“As a woman of color, I find hope in this book because of its potential to disrupt the patterns and relationships that have emerged out of long-standing colonial principles and beliefs. White Fragility is an essential tool toward authentic dialogue and action. May it be so!”
—Shakti Butler, president of World Trust and director of Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible
“A rare and incisive examination of the system of white body supremacy that binds us all as Americans. . . . With authenticity and clarity, she provides the antidote to white fragility and a road map for developing white racial stamina and humility. White Fragility loosens the bonds of white supremacy and binds us back together as human beings.”
—Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands and Rock the Boat
“As powerful forces of white racism again swell, DiAngelo invites white progressives to have a courageous conversation about their culture of complicity. . . . White Fragility provides important antiracist understanding and essential strategies for well-intentioned white people who truly endeavor to be a part of the solution.”
—Glenn E. Singleton, author of Courageous Conversations About Race
“Robin DiAngelo demonstrates an all-too-rare ability to enter the racial conversation with complexity, nuance, and deep respect. Her writing establishes her mastery in accessing the imaginal, metaphoric mind where the possibility for transformation resides. With an unwavering conviction that change is possible, her message is clear: the incentive for white engagement in racial justice work is ultimately self-liberation.”
—Leticia Nieto, coauthor of Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment
“White fragility is the secret ingredient that makes racial conversations so difficult and achieving racial equity even harder. But by exposing it and showing us all—including white folks—how it operates and how it hurts us, individually and collectively, Robin DiAngelo has performed an invaluable service. An indispensable volume for understanding one of the most important (and yet rarely appreciated) barriers to achieving racial justice.”
—Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
“Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility brings language to the emotional structures that make true discussions about racial attitudes difficult. With clarity and compassion, DiAngelo allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people.’ In doing so, she moves our national discussions forward with new ‘rules of engagement.’ This is a necessary book for all people invested in societal change through productive social and intimate relationships.”
“White Fragility is a must-read for all educators because racism and racial disparities in access and opportunity continue to be an urgent issue in our schools. As educators, we need to summon up the courage and together act deliberately and honestly to develop the skills we need to engage in conversations about bias, race, and racism—especially our own.”
—Val Brown, professional development facilitator and founder of #ClearTheAir
About the Author
- Publisher : Beacon Press; Reprint edition (June 26, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0807047414
- ISBN-13 : 978-0807047415
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.57 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Merely being non-racist isn’t good enough, because you end up as a bystander when a bully is beating up on a victim; both covering your eyes and ears and refusing to acknowledge what the victim (of racism) is telling you is happening to them.
If you haven’t been a victim you cannot fully understand being a victim. If you haven’t experienced the pervasiveness and constancy of negative bias both coming from other groups and even influencing your own view of yourself – then you will never completely comprehend. So in one respect a white person cannot truly say, “I get it.”
Neither can you ever do enough to win a gold star and say you’ve done “enough” as long as racism exists.
It’s like the Talmudic maxim: “you will never finish perfecting the world, but you are never free to stop trying.”
If the book stopped there, it would be fine. Perhaps even excellent.
But I give this book one star because it makes the problem worse.
This book is like a bad date where the other person is accusing you of all of your failures, and when you try to make up, to do better, to understand more, to be fully engaged as an ally, you are continually pushed away.
And then you are told to “breathe” and calm down. Surely you are getting upset and proving the thesis!
Except that’s not what’s happening.
Yes, whites don’t see racism because they aren’t a target of it. If you aren’t a racist, then you don’t hang around racists. And if you aren’t black then you don’t have it hurled in your face. 99% of the problem is created by 1% of whites who other whites don’t see.
The same would be true for misogyny. 99% of rapes are caused by 1% of perps, and the 99% of innocent men don’t see it because the perps aren’t harassing them.
So men need to listen without being defensive. Whites need to listen without being defensive. It’s wrong to say, “But I’m not doing it” as if that will make it go away.
But it’s also wrong to say that the non-harassing men or the non-harassing whites are guilty BECAUSE of their innocence.
No, they aren’t being bad. They are being clueless. And instead of being accused they need to be engaged.
Especially when they WANT to listen and be helpful.
In short, if someone wants to be your friend – let them.
This book doesn’t invite engagement and doesn’t let the non-involved to become involved in affirmatively fighting racism. It turns a lot of would be allies away.
Ultimately, it’s self defeating.
We need more people aware of racism. We need more people fighting racism. We need the majority engaged in helping the minority, rather than being turned away.
I’d give this book five stars if it were half as long. But it’s the flawed existentialism that makes this book a hindrance to people who should be friends, and would be friends, if they were allowed to be.
Ironically, the subject is timely and through reading other sources of information on institutionalized racism, I have noticed many examples of this. The articles were well written and effective in that I was not made to feel that anything I did or said was automatically suspect and therefore invalid. A state of paralysis is not one from which change can occur.
Top reviews from other countries
Does she make any attempt to actually understand what people who have objected to 'conversations about race' are actually thinking and feeling....of course not because they are white so must all be thinking and feeling the same thing. After all, 'socialisation' is everything. Obviously everyone grows up and watches exactly the same films, listens to exactly the same music, has exactly the same interactions with teachers, different ethnic groups- and reacts in exactly the same way to all of these things- and its all because they are white that this happens. Jesus.
I would want to give the author the following advice: stop addressing people by their group identification, stop making assumptions about people that are unfounded and take responsibility to provide proper evidence for your assertions that consider critically different possible interpretations. If you do that, PEOPLE WILL STOP BEING ANGRY AT YOUR SEMINARS AND PRESENTATIONS. And they will actually listen. People get angry when you demean them, try to mislead them, make unfounded assumptions about them and do not listen to their perspective or give them the respect of feeling the need to justify properly your objections to their viewpoint. The vast majority of people, regardless of race, are happy to have conversations about it- if it is respectful and evidence based. Period.
White people in the UK & USA are advantaged and often fail to notice this privilege. People can be very nice, kind and good people who would never consciously discriminate or take an unearnt reward in life. When it is pointed out that they may be practising racism or, at least passively benefiting from it, some may respond with anger or hurt.
This book explains and gives examples of all the above.
It then suggests that rather than being "fragile" white people should pause, reflect and examine the life led and its nuances and how they can work towards challenging discrimination and help work towards a fair and just world in which rewards are given for merit and effort not skin colour.
If that interests you then this is a beautifully written book but if you are unshakably convinced (and a bit angry) that "white privilege" is nonsense and that there's no such thing as racism then steer clear.
Please, please, overcome your defensiveness and give this book a chance. You have nothing to lose and you will not be sorry.
I was thinking "What can I do to honor George Floyd, his family and black people in general that I can do from home.
I decided that the very least I could do was buy this book and read it.
To be honest the title triggered feelings of defensiveness and eye rolling. Deep inside of me was a part of me that did NOT want to read this book. I decided that this reaction signalled that I needed to read it. "If people can be out marching and putting their bodies in danger to protest police violence against black people...the very least I can do is read this book with the title that triggers so much anxious avoidance in me."
So I did! And I'm so glad I did. The book discusses the feelings of fear, defensiveness, shame, guilt and anger that white people experience when discussion of racism comes up. It explains where these feelings come from and labels them as being a kind of psychological "syndrome," known as "White Fragility."
It also explains Racism/White Supremacism as a culture we have all grown up within and how our emotional reactions help strengthen that culture vs challenging it and creating something new.
I saw much of myself in the examples given but also, for the 1st time a way of responding to and taking responsibility for these emotional reactions instead of demanding black people stop everything to take care of my feelings.
It gave me words to use, questions to ask myself, ways to understand how my behavior is being perceived and recieved by black people. It gave me examples of ways to own my own racist thoughts or behaviour and ask for forgiveness, attempt to make amends even if the person chooses (as is their right) not to forgive my Racism.
For the 1st time in my life, I feel like I have a bit of a framework and basic etiquette to use to navigate my racist reactions in a way that both empowers me to feel more confident in my diversity skills while also attempting to create more honest and intimate relations with black people.
I can see this book being used in Anti-Racism workshops with white people. Reading a chapter, journalling about our reactions and finding ways to become less "fragile," and more capable of listening to and engaging in respectful discussions of race.
I really mean it. Every single white person should read this book. You wont regret it!