Posted in Reviews

What I Learned from WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 1

I recently picked up a copy of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo from the library when I saw that they had made it an “always available” title, likely due to the recent surge in people working to educate themselves on the institutionalized racism in the United States and what white people can do to change it.

I am so glad I did.

So much of what was written rang true and made so much sense. I feel like I am far better prepared to be an active ally for change than I ever have been in the past. I’m working on moving from non-racist to anti-racist, and learning why the difference is so important. I learned a lot from this book, and I’m going to have to break this into a few posts because there was just so much.

My goal here is not only to reinforce my own learning, but to help anyone else who might not be able to get a copy, or to whom these concepts are also new. Consider this a short primer, and I encourage you to pick up this book or one of the many others being recommended right now.


Racism is not an event, it’s a system

I had always envisioned racism as something one person does to another. Denying services, physical or verbal abuse, using slurs: those things were racist. In my mind, if you didn’t do those things, you were good, because you clearly weren’t racist!

Actually…

David Wellman succinctly summarizes racism as “a system of advantage based on race.”

This means that it’s not just something that occurs on an individual level, but rather a societal level. The government of the United States and the values supported inherently support white people. Therefore the US is built on a system that advantages whites — the exact definition above.

Racist / not racist is not the same as good person / bad person

With the view that racism is a system and not a disposition, it’s easier to separate this in my head. The idea that a racist person is someone who commits hate crimes and a non-racist person is someone who does not lends itself naturally to the idea that to be racist is to be a bad person.

Actually…

I’m racist. Probably most white people are racist. And the reason for that is exactly as in point one: we are part of a culture that undeniably favors whiteness over blackness. Everyone who internalizes the values and messages of this society — definitely anyone born and raised here — will inevitably become at least a little racist. That in itself cannot be viewed as making me a bad person; I have to be able to accept that as a categorization of myself. Working to change where I am on that continuum and to increase my understanding is what will keep me from being a bad person in this respect. Viewing racism as a disease I was infected with but can work to reduce is a more accurate take.

I know that because I was socialized as white in a racism-based society, I have a racist worldview, deep racial bias, racist patterns, and investments in the racist system that has elevated me. Still, I don’t feel guilty about racism. I didn’t choose this socialization, and it could not be avoided. But I am responsible for my role in it.

Black people can discriminate; Black people in the US cannot be racist

Look, I KNOW this is a controversial one: reverse-racism is not a thing. White people have power in the United States, granted to them by The System. Black people do not. As in the above definition, racism requires a system of power granted based on race. Therefore since Black people do not have the power, Black people cannot be racist. Since white people have the power, only white people can be racist in the US.

To be clear here, blacks can discriminate and be prejudice. They can judge a white person for the color of their skin, or any other unfair reason. They can be violent towards someone because they are white, or refuse service to a white person, and those are acts of discrimination and hate. But since they do not have the system-backed power in the country, those are not racist acts.

When I say that only whites can be racist, I mean that in the United States, only whites have the collective social and institutional power and privilege over people of color. People of color do not have this power and privilege over white people.

I know this is probably a tough one, so I’ll leave it here for now. Read this one a few times if you need to wrap your head around it.


I’m working on learning. Learning the issues. Learning the resources available. Learning how to make change. Learning how to increase my own racial stamina. Learning how to accept my own socialized racism, and learning how to combat it and change my subconscious views. Always always learning. So if you have something to contribute here towards my learning, please let me know! Comment, DM, email, whatever. I’m doing my best and always striving for better. I’m grateful for any help or discussion.


What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — part 2

I recently finished reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and have been working through my major learnings from it. The book focuses on the issues white people have with understanding and talking about race issues in the US, and the way the country socializes people into racism. If you haven’t already, check out my first […]

What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 3

I recently finished reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and have been working through my major learnings from it. The book focuses on the issues white people have with understanding and talking about race issues in the US, and the way the country socializes people into racism. If you haven’t already, check out my first […]

What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 4

White women: leave the room if you gotta cry This one rang pretty true for me, because I cry easily and know that I would absolutely be the one to fall into this category without realizing the issues it carries. It might seem strange to hear this. You might think that being moved to tears […]

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Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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