by Robin DiAngelo
Does the term “White Fragility” make you squirm? Does it make you uncomfortable? Is your first reaction, “that doesn’t describe me”? Good, it should make you uneasy. Talking about race is very difficult for many people, but it is more clear than ever...it is absolutely necessary.
"But isn't your blog about education?"
Yes, mostly. But how can I, in good conscience, talk about and advocate for education and educational equity without addressing racial injustice? Without addressing racism and injustice, we can never truly get to the inequity piece.
So, what do we do about it? I will choose to do that which I believe I am best suited to do.teach and learn with others.
I hope you will join me as I embark on a 4 week book study of White Fragility by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. If you have already read the book, fantastic, perhaps you’d like to reread it or share what you’ve learned with others.
So what does a book study look like? How is it different from a book club? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure, I’ve never been part of a book club…but I think a book study is a more formal activity in terms of structure and facilitation. I plan to lead the book study in a manner similar to the way in which I taught my graduate courses. Each week we will cover roughly three chapters. The minimum expectation is that you have read the book chapters and come prepared to engage at whatever level you are comfortable. I will host an hour-long group chat on Google Meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and post some guiding questions for each chapter in order to facilitate our discussion. Additionally, there will be a group Google Doc for participants to capture thoughts, ideas and questions. Finally, I will also include weekly book-themed links and activities for those who want additional examples or insights which will include Facebook and/or Twitter chats, recommended readings, recommended podcasts, or activities to help crystallize your learning.
When do we start? Due to high demand, the book is on back order (which is a great thing!) so in order to give folks an opportunity to participate, we’ll begin on July 7. Here is our tentative schedule.
Racism is a white problem. It was constructed and created by white people and the ultimate responsibility lies with white people. For too long we’ve looked at it as if it were someone else’s problem, as if it was created in a vacuum. I want to push against that narrative.
- Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility
Live Web Discussion Schedule
DiAngelo discusses the concept of 'individualism.' Individualism is as a belief that is foundational to racist, US society and allows white people to believe that their opinions, feelings, and beliefs are purely individual and that, therefore, when confronted with race or racism, they have nothing to do with the structural system of white supremacy. Because white people are taught that they are individuals, when they are confronted with race issues, they distance themselves from the conversation in various ways, including becoming defensive.
Chapter 2 outlines what racism means, the differences between racial prejudice, racial discrimination, and racism, and what she calls the 'white racial frame.' Chapter 3 outlines why white people do not know their racial history and how this contributes to racist attitudes such as 'colorblindness.' This attitude is often held by white progressives and liberals and, she says, 'causes the most daily harm to people of color.'
Chapter 4 discusses the way that her life has been shaped by racism. She discusses 'white racial belonging': messaging about whiteness and race, segregation, and an expectation of what she calls 'white solidarity/racial silence' which allows whiteness to go unchallenged in white spaces and intensifies the discomfort and reactions that white people have when confronted with issues regarding race. Chapter 5 outlines the ways that white people react to being called a racist and examines the binary of 'good' and 'bad' white people and how this undermines actual anti-racist solidarity with people of color.
Chapter 7 looks at how 'racial triggers,' which can be anything from the term 'wypipo' to being called out for racism, evoke 'emotions such as anger, fear and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation' in white people.
In Chapter 9, DiAngelo explains that when an assumption is challenged, it triggers and emotional reaction. This reaction, in turn, triggers and expected behavior and specific claims.
Chapter 10 explains the white 'cardinal rules for behavior': unspoken rules that ultimately prohibit conversation about race, white people's racism, or changing racist behavior. In Chapter 11, DiAngelo discusses how white womens' pity can reinforce racism.
DiAngelo discusses an antiracist framework and uses an example from her own life of perpetrating racism and then responding appropriately using antiracist values. She concludes that it is not enough to be nice and that racism ultimately relies on 'nice white people' to keep it alive. Instead, white people have to use the tenets in anti-racism to be able to understand when and how racism takes place, and they must undermine their own white fragility to be able to take appropriate actions.
Book Study Guide
Check out this study guide from White Fragility author Dr. Robin DiAngelo and Dr. Özlem Sensoy. It includes tips for productive discussion and thought-provoking questions by chapter.
Get Your Copy
The big-boxes are struggling to keep this New York Times best-selling book in stock. Consider instead purchasing a copy from your local bookstore or black-owned business.