In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo explains that white people are insulated from racial stress because we live in a society that caters to white people as the norm. This builds our expectations for racial comfort, causing defensiveness and hostility when we are confronted with the reality of racism. DiAngelo examines topics like white racial socialization, how white fragility contributes to racism, white solidarity, how white people can develop stamina for productive conversations about race, and ways white people can take action for racial justice.
Published in 2018, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo examines the reasons why white people tend to get defensive when talking about racism. DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the discomfort and defensiveness white people exhibit when their ideas about race are challenged. In this powerful book, she delves into how white fragility upholds white supremacy and what we can do to engage more constructively in conversations about race.
The book opens with DiAngelo laying the groundwork for her concept of white fragility. She explains how living in a racist society shapes white perspectives and gives white people unearned advantages. This builds powerful expectations for racial comfort, causing white people to respond poorly to racial stress. Defensiveness, anger, guilt, and silence are some common forms of white fragility.
DiAngelo then delves into how our internalized worldviews are shaped by racism in society. She explains common racist ideologies like individualism, universalism, and objectivity, which help uphold white supremacy. DiAngelo also breaks down dynamics like white solidarity and how white people insulate one another from challenges to racism. She explains how white people who don’t act in openly racist ways still benefit from and perpetuate institutional racism.
A large portion of the book focuses on building stamina for constructive dialogue about race. DiAngelo explains skills like how to sit with the discomfort of realizing one’s complicity with racism. She stresses the need to build our capacities for self-awareness, cultural humility, and nuanced racial analysis. Reflection questions at the end of each chapter help readers grapple with applying these concepts.
DiAngelo concludes with insight on how white people can move forward in the work of racial justice. She emphasizes that this work requires lifelong commitment, not a quick solution. White fragility will likely arise continually. DiAngelo leaves readers with resources for further learning and encourages them to find diverse communities supporting anti-racism.
Who Should Read This Book
This book is an essential read for any white person who wants to engage more constructively in anti-racism work. People of color may also appreciate DiAngelo’s analysis of white racial socialization. However, the onus for change lies primarily with white people.
- Racism shapes the worldviews and self-perceptions of white people in unseen ways. This leads to defensiveness and hostility when white expectations for racial comfort are challenged.
- Common ideologies like individualism and belief in objectivity uphold the racist status quo and prevent recognition of systemic injustice.
- Interrupting racism requires building stamina to sit with discomfort, engaging in ongoing self-reflection, and committing to a lifelong process of change.
About the Author
Robin DiAngelo earned her PhD in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has extensive experience leading anti-racism trainings and works as an Affiliate Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington. Her research and writing examine whiteness, white fragility, and critical discourse analysis.