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.
White people “carry” race, too
This is building on the idea from Part 2 about white people asking black people to tell them about race. I’ll come back to this quote:
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 and that we consequently cannot be expected to have any knowledge of it.
White people experience race even if they are never around non-white people in their whole lives. The very fact that that might happen is a consequence of race: ask yourself why there are no non-white people living in the area you live in. Why aren’t you living in an area where there are more black people than white people? What differences between those two places would you imagine to exist? Portraying black people as the only ones with a race is ridiculous; there can’t be one without the other. If black is a race, why wouldn’t white be? Which leads us to the next issue…
“White” is not the same as “standard”
White is often not seen as a race or as carrying race the same way black is because whiteness is not often named. In the lack of naming whiteness, it becomes the standard, or norm. If a race is not specified, then the person must be white. Otherwise, it would be pointed out that they were something other than white, something different from the norm.
Whiteness rests upon a foundational premise: the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.
We see this issue in uses of the term “diverse,” too. For example, diverse is often incorrectly applied to a singular thing: a diverse author, or a diverse book. Diverse should refer to a group, not an individual. A person being black, white, short, bi, or anything else is in itself not diverse — it’s just who they are. A group can be diverse when it has people who are all different in some way. Naming one single person as “diverse” is the same as naming them as “other” or “different from the norm” — meaning, most often, non-white. Don’t set up white as standard and anything else as The Other.
For those who ask why there is no White History Month, the answer illustrates how whiteness works. White history is implied in the absence of its acknowledgment; white history is the norm for history. Thus, our need to qualify that we are speaking about black history or women’s history suggests that these contributions lie outside the norm.
You absolutely have been shaped by race
Adding to the first point in this post, even if you have never or rarely been around black people, you have been shaped by race. You could consider damn near every part of your life and see some shade of race that has affected it.
My god I could go on and on, but really: if you have never had to think about if your race would affect you in a situation, then that alone has shaped you.
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 […]