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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

"A stirring call to conscience and consciousness in white brothers and sisters."

DiAngelo spells it all out (or at least as much as she can in one book; she has written other titles as well) for anyone interested in exploring "the unchanging variable" of whiteness in "the equation of race" and how white people might choose to better understand, acknowledge, and name racism, as well as learn to be open to hearing people of color's experiences and feelings surrounding racism as one step in interrupting racism.

The foreword (by Eric Dyson, a Georgetown professor, author, and preacher) and the author's introduction are excellent and set the stage and tone for the rest of the book, which builds logically bit by bit and includes exploring where we are as a society whose separation benefits white people, "the collapse of whiteness into national identity," myriad reasons why we're in this position, and how white people can serve an essential role in shifting racial inequality and injustice.

DiAngelo, a sociologist and facilitator focused on racial and social justice, explains issues essential to the productive understanding of the past and current racial situation, including a basic history lesson of race and power. She draws on specific anecdotes from her extensive experiences with white and Black people in anti-racism workshops and through her facilitation of discussions of race. The issues she explores include the self-perpetuating white institutional power structure; the general and long-term white tendency to not discuss or acknowledge race; the differences between prejudice, discrimination, and racism; and how "white women's tears" derail the productive work of anti-racism.

She dives into how to talk about race and racism with a person of color (and, more importantly, listening without defensiveness), how "the antidote to guilt is action," and that the goal for white people is not perfection, but to always be learning and to build racial stamina: "the ability to talk, listen, and [begin to] repair."

That was a lot of semicolons. But there's much more practical, eye-opening material here; DiAngelo has packed a ton of essential knowledge into a must-read for all white people in the United States. White Fragility is so valuable, specific, and important, it's a book that's worth underlining like crazy while you internalize the lessons and directives DiAngelo lays out.

What did you think?

Have you read or are you reading this or other books on race and anti-racism that you recommend for a better understanding of history, white privilege, institutional power structures, or related issues?

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is wonderfully actionable, and Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey feels valuable so far too.


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