Wednesday, June 24, 2020

White Fragility: Why it is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism Book Review

We live in interesting times. We are living through history, of course. A pandemic, politicization of germs, and protest marches, to name a few. Some movies and books are being released for free rental by Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and others. I just watched Just Mercy and The Hate U Give. Excellent movies! The local library has released more copies of books about racism. It was easy to get the Kindle version of White Fragility. Because they won't accept any book returns, I hesitate to participate in a curbside pick-up at the library. Supposedly they won't be charging fines but I've never had a book out for several months before now.

White Fragility: Why it is so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism is a highly-rated and popular book at this time. The author, Robin DiAngelo, has years of experience as a diversity trainer. She asserts the society of the United States is based on white supremacy. She says all humans have prejudice. She states American life is shaped by segregation, and racism-free upbringing is not possible. Whites benefit while people of color suffer. Whites could not be “superior” unless there were others. 

DiAngelo thinks whites are “fragile” as they have not had to deal with issues of race. When told of their racist statements or actions, white people take it to mean they aren’t being nice or good. Most whites will say they are not racist. They get upset or defensive, instead of listening to the reasons their statements or actions were hurtful and learning from the situations. Yes, whites face barriers, but not racism barriers, and benefit from unearned advantages.

The author argues she thinks white progressives cause most of the daily damage to people of color. She argues reverse discrimination is not possible in our social system. She feels white people think they have nothing to ever learn about race. She says there is no color-blindness. American individualism, romanticism about the good old days, and the desire to be comfortable with the way things are helped form systemic discrimination. 

This book would be helpful for diversity training leaders, people unfamiliar with white privilege, those wanting more insight about racial relations, and for people who would like to work on recognizing their own microaggressions. There are checklists to consult for discussion, thinking, and learning. Clear analogies are made to further explain the points she makes. 

“The failure to acknowledge white supremacy protects it from examination and holds it in place,” according to DiAngelo.

Review by Carolyn Wilhelm

Carolyn Wilhelm is the author of The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has an MS in Gifted Education, an MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12, and has completed the KHT Montessori 12 month program. She makes mostly free resources for teachers and parents. Her children's books are available on Amazon. 


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