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 post about this! Here are a few more key points that DiAngelo discusses, and that struck home for me.
Pretending race doesn’t exist makes the problem worse
I’m sure I’ve said it myself when I was younger and thought this made sense: that white or black doesn’t matter, I don’t even notice it when talking to or getting to know someone.
stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them. We do have them, and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing.
That really doesn’t help the issue, because it’s essentially pretending that the issues don’t exist, despite the glaringly obvious issue of white supremacy and a system designed to keep Black people in the lowest rungs of society. Saying you’re color-blind or don’t see race ends with you refusing to even partake in a discussion about race, let alone try to take action to change it. This also makes people whose lives are inevitably shaped by racism in the US feel devalued and ignored, because you’re telling them that this exhausting unfair part of their life doesn’t even merit your acknowledgement.
White people: don’t ask Black people to explain race to you
Maybe you, like me, are working on actively learning about the deep seated issues of race that are still so prevalent today. Maybe you, like me, immediately think “I should find a black person I know and ask them about their experiences with race, so I can better understand what they’ve gone through and deal with.”
The expectation that people of color should teach white people about racism is another aspect of white racial innocence that reinforces several problematic racial assumptions. First, it implies that racism is something that happens to people of color and has nothing to do with us [white people] and that we consequently cannot be expected to have any knowledge of it.
It seems like the overwhelming response is weariness. Black people have been telling white people about how unfair this shit is for EVER. We just haven’t been listening. So while it’s commendable to be taking action to educate yourself, use the many many resources already created and available first. If you’ve got friends who you want to let know they can talk to you about these issues, that’s great! But don’t put the work on them to teach us.
White people are the ones who can change this
It’s not on black people to be the ones to change the way things work. In fact, they can’t be the ones to do so. Ultimately, the people with power have to be the ones to change thins. And right now… white people are the ones with power. If you don’t have the power to change things, you can’t just give yourself the power to change things. I know that seems obvious when read like that, but it wasn’t until DiAngelo pointed this out in her book that I realized I too had viewed issues of race in the US as a goal primarily driven by black people, since they were the ones affected. Oooooh how misguided I was… but more on that in part 3. (Yes, I told you, there’s a lot that I got from this one ~150 page book. Highly recommended!)
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]