White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
Download readers' guides at beacon.org/whitefragility.
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|Listening Length||6 hours and 21 minutes|
|Author||Dr. Robin DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson - foreword|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 26, 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #2,041 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#3 in Racism & Discrimination Studies
#9 in Discrimination & Racism
#11 in Anthropology (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2021
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Top reviews from the United States
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The information in the book was shocking and it explained confusing situations I have been in when interacting with white people. I went on vacation with some friends and at the beach some guys dressed in suits walked towards the beach. This men looked Indian or Pakistan and obviously wearing a suit is odd at a beach. My white friend in the group commented “They must be terrorists looking for the next target” and then turned to me laughing. I was confused because they were not even Arabs and the comment was racist and why was he laughing and expecting me to laugh as well? After reading the book now I understand this situations are called white solidarity where one person makes a racist joke and the others laugh with him without objection. I guess he assumed I will react the same way his white friends do. I also now understand that most white people think racist jokes don’t make them racist and that’s why they still make them.
The author starts this book by uncovering a key component of white privilege and therefore fragility: the rarity of needing to view ourselves racially. I am not an impartial, unbiased observer of racial tensions. I am a white person in the midst of a racist society whose structures of power are oriented toward providing advantages to people like myself to the detriment of others. These can be hard pills to swallow as is clear by the vast swaths of humanity who regurgitate them along with their reflexive claims of having black friends or being a good person who doesn’t see race. I’m starting to feel the lumps in my throat from all the hard pills I’ve been swallowing recently, but it feels like my responsibility to at least try to digest these ideas. As she concludes her first chapter, Diangelo writes, “The racial status quo is comfortable for white people, and we will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable.”
As the book continues, the author clarifies important definitions for terms like discrimination, prejudice, and racism. A crucial aspect of her definition of racism is the idea of power. Racism isn’t just a pre-judgmental stereotype or negative action along racial lines, but collective prejudice “backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control.” An unbalanced societal power dynamic is required to fuel this systemic racism and it is therefore linked to white supremacy in America. Diangelo supports the somewhat controversial claim, “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.” She then continues to build on ideas from the first chapter as she reiterates that whiteness needs to be acknowledged not as a neutral or normal racial state, but a racial identity on equal ground with all others. One’s whiteness, additionally, automatically associates one with the locus of institutional power and structural advantage. Advantages unavailable to people of color in America.
Diangelo then takes some time to trace the ever-mutating history of racism in America, focusing primarily on the evolution and institutional insidiousness of racism post-1960’s. Here she focuses on notions such as color blindness and unconscious perpetuation of racist ideas and structures. Moving on, Diangelo talks of the racial experience of white people who “don’t carry the psychic weight of race.” White people enjoy freedom of access and movement, a collective cultural agreement to eschew racial discomfort, an idealized nostalgia for the good ol’ days, and the ability to view racism as something that happens to people of color rather than something for which white people are responsible.
The book then explores the dangers of viewing racism as a binary disposition. This seems a bit redundant, but the author takes time to address popular apologetics such as “I was raised to see everyone as equal,” or, “focusing on race is what divides us.” In another somewhat repetitive chapter, Diangelo then explores “anti-blackness.” She seems to focus on overt examples of white self-elevation and oppression of black people where her argument may have been advanced further by examining the institualization of anti-black policies in our society.
The next two chapters explore triggers of white fragility and are summarized well in a concluding paragraph: “White equilibrium is a cocoon of racial comfort, centrality, superiority, entitlement, racial apathy, and obliviousness, all rooted in an identity of being good people free of racism. Challenging this cocoon throws off our racial balance. Because being racially off balance is so rare, we have not had to build the capacity to sustain the discomfort. Thus, whites find these challenges unbearable and want them to stop.”
Diangelo goes on to give examples of white fragility in her experience leading diversity training groups. A particularly helpful insight was the trend of white people to make conversations on racial discomfort about their own hurt, suffering, or feelings of being misunderstood. This, she argues, is just another example of white fragility and white privilege. Additionally, white fragility requires that race be addressed in ways that are palatable to white sensibilities. In contrast, the author offers this alternative: “How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant--it is the feedback I want and need.” I particularly appreciated this practical point of racial engagement. I need to listen to and believe people of color’s experience of racism at this time of social crisis (and, of course, on an ongoing basis). “The method of delivery cannot be used to delegitimize what is being illuminated or as an excuse for disengagement.”
In concluding, the author offers some practical pointers for how people can responsibly engage in conversations of race. She notes that, when asked about what white people can do, she challenges them to examine how they have come this far without knowing how to address racism. Maybe it’s a lack of education or exposure or isolation from diversity. She urges that white people take the initiative to examine their privilege and fragility and treat addressing racism as we would a terminal diagnosis of a little-known disease. Research, read, seek out others with experience, do your homework. While her advice and strategies are helpful, I think Diangelo misses a key component which, to be fair, may simply lie outside the scope of her work. Namely, if racism is a systemic issue with white people as the primary benefactors, shouldn’t there be a weight of responsibility for anti-racist white people to actively pursue shifting the power dynamics within these systems? Shouldn’t we move beyond examining assumptions and learning to communicate by taking action for social reform? It seems if one follows her argument to its conclusion, the political ramifications of racism cannot be ignored and white political inaction is tantamount to actively sustaining our unbalanced societal structures. So, I walk away from this book more open to introspection, more careful in examining my positions of privilege due to my racial identity, more eager to accept feedback, and more motivated to be an ally who is active in my pursuit of change for the sake of justice rather than settling back into my comfortable white cocoon of the status quo.
I found this book to be a helpful nudge for white people like myself to engage in racial conversations. It does seem to pull some punches and is repetitive at times, but it nonetheless advocates for movement toward justice and equality and is therefore a worthwhile read.
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.