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.
Before I go into my review for this book, I just want to point out that I am a white female and I will review this from the perspective of a white person because that is who this book is intended for. I don't want to cause any offense, I'm just reflecting my thoughts and what I learnt from reading this book.
When I started reading this, I had already read 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race (WINLTTWPAR)' (you can find the review on this blog also), so I was really interested to see what I would find different considering this book is actually written by a white person. I found WINLTTWPAR hugely informative and eye opening and I wanted to continue that education as much as possible.
The first thing I will say about this book is how unapologetically honest and blunt it is and I am hugely thankful for that. I learnt a lot about myself and how I have a long way to go to really understand the role I can play in combating racism. As I said, I learnt a huge amount from reading WINLTTWPAR and I think having read this afterwards was a great way to reaffirm what I learnt from reading Eddo-Lodge’s amazing book.
I know a lot of people might think that a white person has no right to write about racism and I do appreciate that. There is so much we will never understand and it’s insulting to think that we will ever truly understand but I guess at least this is something and it’s a small step in the right direction. I’m not saying that this book should be taken as gospel and it’s far from perfect, but I think some of the points DiAngelo makes in this book are really valid. And maybe this is a sign of how broken the system truly is; it takes a white person calling out other white people to really hammer home things that people of other races have been shouting for years.
One element that DiAngelo repeats a lot in the book is 'The way we are taught to define racism makes it virtually impossible for white people to understand it.' I found this really eye opening and it is such a fundamental explanation that explains so much. We assume only white supremacists and bad people can be racist, whereas this could not be further from the truth. Take colour blindness as an example, by insisting that we don't see colour and that everyone is equal, we are failing to acknowledge that racism actually exists and we are taking away from the unthinkable cruelties and challenges coloured people have had to endure for centuries. Just because slavery was abolished and segregation is illegal, doesn't mean that racism no longer exists.
One thing that was missing that is really well addressed in WINLTTWPAR is the historical context around racism. I guess this book is aimed at white people and centres around whiteness so maybe DiAngelo felt adding in some historical context wouldn't make sense. For me as a reader, I found reading more around the history through books like The Warmth of Other Suns hugely beneficial as it really paints a terrifying picture of what racism was and is like for so many people.
This book really taught me that I have a long way to go. I intend to work on myself to help push this change and challenge myself to hold white people accountable to their actions and understand their role in bringing down a system that causes so much inequality and injustice to so many people around the world.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
“I don’t see race; I don’t see you as black.” My co-trainer’s response was, “Then how will you see racism?”
NA - I feel like this is the type of book that can't be rated