White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an important book to read if you're white and you care. I can't put it more plainly than that.
But this is also, by no means, an easy book to get through. Indeed, it challenges every reader to look at themselves from a different perspective. NOT as a person of color would see a white person.
It's important to stress that this is NOT a book about taking on personal blame, about being a self-hating white person, but about seeing the racial question from a systemic and broader viewpoint. It's about power. It's about being the dominant power in any cultural equation.
By this definition, because I am white, and have benefited knowingly or unknowingly by many, many institutional benefits, I must NOT be a jerk about it. That means I must not deflect or get defensive or shrug off the problem as if it doesn't touch me at all. Because it does.
The white person who writes this makes very excellent points throughout the book. She's heard every excuse. The point is: we all have to actually LISTEN to what others are SAYING. If someone tells you they're hurt by something you said, knowingly or unknowingly, then it's not up to THEM to coax you out of your fragile shell and tell you everything is going to be all right. It's up to you to be a f***ing grown-up and own it if you've made someone uncomfortable.
I'm not talking about going overboard on political correctness or pandering to anyone. I'm talking about real relationships with real people. If you actually care, get over your own hangups and LISTEN. It's not hard. Just realize that the institutional racism is everywhere and we've all be steeped in it for so damn long.
It means acknowledging that we might be wrong.
That's what white fragility is NOT. When we lash out or start crying or complain that we're not that way or that we're good people and that we've never done anything to hurt anyone, IT MIGHT VERY WELL BE TRUE. But that's NOT the POINT. Saying any of that changes NOTHING.
If we want to move forward, we must listen in a give-and-take way AS IF THE PEOPLE WE'RE TALKING TO ARE REAL PEOPLE. *gasp* *shock*
If you're white, you need to grow a backbone. Be resilient. Stop being a dick. Take criticism and use your critical thinking skills as if you actually got a good education in a well-funded system and you haven't been surrounded by nasty, subtle, and pernicious racist ideas all your life.
The definition IS important. I am a product of racism. That means I'm a racist. It doesn't mean I'm not also a good person, because I am. (But that doesn't matter.)
It doesn't mean I must start becoming a self-hating white person. It means I must be AWARE of my world and own up to the s**t that I might do that makes the world a worse place to live.
I officially welcome criticism. I'm not a special snowflake. I promise to use my head. This is not a request to start abusing me -- but beyond that, it is a proclamation that I absolutely refuse to abuse anyone else.
This is not to say I will not make mistakes, but damn... I will OWN them. I will make it good. I will listen.
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