White Fragility

Review

18th November 2019
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White Fragility is a book written by a white woman talking about why it is so difficult for white people to talk about race, and to realise our own compliance in maintaining the racist structures we see in place in society. As the author points out at the start – there are also many books by people of colour about this subject that you can also read to educate yourself.

I will start by saying that this book is probably best to read if you are already in agreement that we live in a white supremacist society and white privilege is something we (I’m speaking myself as a white person) benefit from. If you do not come to this book with an open mind and willingness to learn, then to be honest, it seems pretty pointless and you’re not going to get much out of it. I think this book may also be useful for those of us who think we are not racist, and are ‘progressive’ about ideas regarding race, and those who consider themselves ‘colour blind’ i.e. that we no longer need to consider race as an issue.

I think one of the most important aspects of this book is the explanation that it isn’t just ‘bad’ people who are racist – we have all grew up in a white supremacist society and we are all guilty of being racist, sometimes overtly, but often in more subtle and subconscious ways and without realising, and we prop up and perpetuate the racist structures that are in place. It is not just those who describe themselves as racist or are outwardly aggressive to non-white people who are – we need to look inwards at ourselves. We need to look at how we uphold these institutions ourselves and this book outlines how we, as white people, have deeply ingrained racist attitudes that manifest in many ways.

There are great chapters in the book that deal with white fragility as a form of bullying and also white women tears as a particular form of white fragility, and the historical context that it refers too. DiAngelo includes numerous anecdotes in her book of when this fragility has occurred and that I found useful to consider.

I found the end of the book to be the most useful, which deals with ways to deal with feedback or criticism. As people who benefit from this system, it is important that we are able to deal with the discomfort this can bring to us, and also learn from it. As pointed out, in this book and many others, we have far less at stake when we do this compared to people of colour, and it is often the case that white people are often far more receptive to other white people when discussing issues of race. We need to purposely put ourselves in interacts that challenge the racist status quo and consider why the spaces we are in, if they are overwhelmingly white, why is this? This is definitely something I need to work on a lot harder in my own life and the spaces I engage with.

If this book makes you uncomfortable at times, that is not a bad thing, and a reason to keep reading. It did for me at times. Despite the book sometimes feeling somewhat repetitive at times, and it being quite basic, I think it’s an important book for white people to be reading. We need to be clear that race is important, and so is how we address the issues around it. ■

Northern Jam is an Anarchist and Feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

White Fragility. Published September 20018 by Beacon Press. Written by Robin DiAngelo

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