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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 by the plight of black people is a positive thing, as it shows your compassion and horror; who could hold that against you?

Actually…

White women’s tears in cross-racial interactions are problematic for several reasons connected to how they impact others. For example, there is a long historical backdrop of black men being tortured and murdered because of a white woman’s distress, and we white women bring these histories with us.

Emmett Till was a name I had never heard (whiteness showing clearly here.) For any others who haven’t heard it, a brief history lesson: a white women told her husband a black man had been flirting with her in their store, so the white man got a bunch of friends together and brutally killed the black man. They were tried and let go without any punishment. The woman later confessed that she had made it up.

Emmett Till was fourteen.

Continue reading “What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 4”
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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 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…

Continue reading “What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 3”
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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 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.

Actually…

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.

Continue reading “What I Learned From WHITE FRAGILITY — part 2”
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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.

Continue reading “What I Learned from WHITE FRAGILITY — Part 1”