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What Does It Mean to Be White?; Developing White Racial Literacy

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  514 ratings  ·  99 reviews
What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless yet is deeply divided by race? In the face of pervasive racial inequality and segregation, most whites cannot answer that question.

Robin DiAngelo argues that a number of factors make this question difficult for whites: miseducation about what racism is; ideologies such as individualism and colorblin
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published May 30th 2012 by Peter Lang Us
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Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best for: White people interested in antiracism work (so, hopefully, all white people, but I’m not that naive).

In a nutshell: Academic (and white person) Robin DiAngelo breaks down many of the problems white people have in confronting our own socialization in the racist reality we live in.

Line that sticks with me: “Because of white social, economic, and political power within a white supremacist culture, whites are in the position to legitimize people of color’s assertions of racism. Yet whites
This book took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to memorize every bit of it. My copy is underlined with numerous margin notes, and I posted excerpts on Facebook on a regular basis. I learned SO MUCH from reading this book. Any white person interested in doing their part to resist the culture of white supremacy will find this book a fabulous resource. I couldn't recommend it higher. ...more
Tim Sergeant
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This wasn't a particularly quick or easy read, but it was definitely worthwhile.

Some things that I really liked:

* The book is designed for readers who (like me!) haven't thought deeply about racism in this way before. It makes really clear definition of racism very early on, then calls back to that very directly (in big boxes saying 'Remember!') throughout the remainder of the book. This hammers home the core idea really effectively.

* The book talks a lot about "socialization", which I've encoun
This book blew. my. mind. It is a powerful primer on racism and antiracist practice. It offers a clear and concise framework from which to think about these issues. It arms you with knowledge and advice. I don't often say this, but this should be required reading.

Here is a fraction of what I learned:

—Because white people don't feel the effects of their race, they are tricked into thinking we live in a post-race and post-racism society. Perhaps they will concede that things aren't perfect for peo
Jun 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
I was unfortunately subjected to much of DiAngelo's harmful rhetoric for years in university where it is shoved down your throat. I of course vomited it right up metaphorically of course. However it was still not coincidentally the worst years of my life where I suffered from depression and recreational drug use.

This is my sincere letter to Robin: I don't identify as white. I identify as a human being first and foremost. I also identify as a cat mom and a Canadian with a Serbian Italian backgro
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Books can take a long time to read for a number of different reasons. This one took me a long time because its message was so strong and thought-provoking.

I am very glad for the day this book came across my desk. I realised after reading only a small way in, how important I thought it was for (particularly white) people to understand the issues discussed in it. So I tracked down and bought a copy (a tricky and expensive endeavour), because I hope to convince my friends to borrow and read it
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Provocative and well-written. Holds your hand through the basics, but chapters 11 on will cause the best kind of disquiet. What to do about the fact that people who should read this book most are the same ones that think they don't need it? ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The summary: "My inability as a white person to see or understand racism is unrelated to its reality." The very best resource I've found to examine and unpack whiteness. ...more
Will Ejzak
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If, back when I was in high school, the only thing I'd been required to do was read this book and discuss it with my classmates, I would've gotten a much better education than the one I received. This isn't hyperbole. Any institution that doesn't actively teach racial literacy is failing its students, regardless of test scores. If school curricula weren't politically neutered, racial literacy and intersectionality would be a four-year core class, regardless of the composition of the student body ...more
Alex Johnson
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't easy to read, and it shouldn't be as a white person. DiAngelo provides a framework to enable white people to see racism as pervasive and interwoven throughout all aspects of our lives. She challenges her readers to reflect on how whiteness and white priviledge have affected their lives and to begin to dismantle this internalized dominance and passive white silence. I got frustrated halfway through reading this, both a little overwhelmed (hello, being a white person who is encoura ...more
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best, most challenging and eye-opening books I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It took me a awhile to work my way through it simply because there's so much there. The writing is engaging and I feel like the author really takes the reader on a journey in unpacking what it means to be white, from defining some critical key concepts, to more advanced ideas about how to wrestle with racism. The author's humility and patient - yet determined - persistence with herself ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alternatively titled (for me, at least): How to Talk to White People About Racism

Really didn’t wanna read this, but unfortunately I felt like I needed to given where I work and the people that surround me o. O

Got some great talking points next time people come at me with ignorant bullshit. More white people should read this but probably won’t because white fragility.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race
This book is phenomenal, one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I learned so much about racism, about the multitude of ways people think about race and racism, and about myself. Highly recommended.
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017challenge
This is a must read book. Racism in America 101. This is one to come back to again.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If only I could get all my friends to read this book... I have to adjust the other book ratings so five stars actually means something, like this book.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How can I eloquently put into words what this book has done for me? My entire life, I have touted myself as a strong and relentless ally in the face of racism and oppression.

Damn, how wrong I was.

Dr. DiAngelo opened my eyes to the lens through which I’ve grown up seeing the world. I didn’t realize how much I needed this book. In order to grow and develop racial literacy, I needed to first understand the WHY behind the historical white perspective and how I could overcome my learned experience to
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is so much here there is no way for me to summarize but only validate the importance of reading this if you are white and working in equity, diversity and inclusion.

Great explanation of white privilege, white silence, and intersectionality.

If you are going into racial equity discussions, the section “A Note on White Silence” would help with understanding ensuing conversations and getting them started in the first place.

Best fundamental takeaway for me...”white people are not socialized to
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I know fellow white people may disagree with ideas in this book, which itself is problematic because (a) who are we to judge what’s racist, (b) the content is factual and proven by rigorous studies which the author credits, and (c) did you even read the book?

I underlined and highlighted the living crap out of this book. I grew up in rural Illinois but have spent 20 years living very intentionally in the middle of Chicago and now Los Angeles in very diverse communities. Even as someone who’d rath
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race-relations
This book is heady, and I read it at a time when I didn't have a whole lot of extra bandwidth due to the annual cycle of my job. That's one of the main reasons it took me so long to get through. Also, though, it's instructional and requires the reader to think and assess their role in a racist society. So that, if done at all appropriately, takes brain power, too. I think this should be required reading for anyone wishing to understand more clearly the racial dynamics that exist in our country, ...more
Jae Ell
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i will do better
i will listen
i will seek support
I will no longer be a member of white solidarity
i will take action
i will give support

i will ...
i WILL...

Bill Thorness
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this for a discussion group related to a nonprofit board on which I serve, and the combination of the book and the group provided an excellent learning experience. Foremost, I learned the language of systemic racism, so now I feel that I can follow along when the issues are discussed. Certainly I was challenged about my own views and actions, which have ranged from neglect to cluelessness to, yes, racist acts. Having read this book and discussed it, I feel that I can own my history of sho ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, sociology
“I teach in an education program that is 97% white, and it is rare for me to have any students of color in my classes. Thus, this typical insistence that race doesn’t matter comes from white students sitting in an all-white classroom, who grew up in primarily white neighborhoods and attended primarily white schools, and are currently being taught by a virtually all-white faculty (including me). These racial realities testify to a society separated by race. Yet how do so many white people manage ...more
Miller Sherling
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Engrossing, humility-inducing, necessary. Chapter on "Patterns of Well-Intentioned White People" was cringe-inducing, because I can think of times I've engaged in every one of those behaviors. DiAngelo says racism is not our fault, AND because we benefit from it wheyther or not we want to, and it's harmful to people of color, it IS our responsibility to work against it. There is no passive anti-racism: it requires constant self-examination and awareness to interrupt our deeply ingrained and deep ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cbr9
If you teach, you must read this book. Robin DiAngelo notes that most individuals who enter teacher education are white, came from white neighborhoods and were educated in white schools by white teachers. Increasingly, they teach a diverse plethora of students but have no concept how to talk about race in a productive manner. This book is the product of years of antiracist work on her part.

As a white woman who has for the last several years identified as an ally, I found this book helpful and in
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a white man, I have had the luxury and privilege of not having to think about race or understand how it has shaped my life; it is something that "others" have. This book isn't a quick read, but it is so important in understanding what it means to be white in a society that pretends that race doesn't matter, but is deeply divided by race. If you are white and you recognize that racism is alive and well, this book is a critical one to read. ...more
Minjia Qiu
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simple and straight forward dissection of the general race blindness of well meaning whites in America, and what it means in their relations with the rest of the groups. Deeply held American ideals of meritocracy, independence, self sufficiency, and above all individuality serves to undermine the ability of white america to see the racism embedded in the system that continues to serve privilege to a group that doesn't realize it. The author does a great job by slowly delving into this emotional ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the wake of everything that's happened recently with BLM and Native Lives Matter, I read this book as a way to find more talking (and listening) points to people who are adamantly holding onto racist ideology -- and as a way of re-awakening my own self-awareness about my white privilege. I loved that this book was easy to read, with helpful "remember..." sections parsed out in each chapter highlighting especially important information, and the type of conclusions in each chapter that anyone w ...more
Fate's Lady
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is very, very much "whiteness 101". If you're just getting started with learning about racial tension and oppression, this is a good book for you. It even includes questions at the end of each chapter to prompt thought or discussion. For someone who has been actively learning these things, it's going to be extremely basic. I'm halfway through and this isn't just review, it's review of stuff I've learned faces in the past now. It's also amazingly expensive and only available in paperback. ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've seen so far on white culture and how it affects the ways in which white people relate to people of color. This is a must-read for everyone, but especially people who identify as white. ...more
Dr. Raye of Sunshine
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
It took me fivever to get through this book because it's so deep and requires so much thought and reflection. This book will give you perspectives you probably have not considered before. It's a great read just very deep. ...more
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Robin J. DiAngelo is an American academic, lecturer, and author working in the fields of critical discourse analysis and whiteness studies. She formerly served as a tenured professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University and is currently an Affiliate Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is known for her work pertaining to white fragili ...more

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“There is a difference between agreement and understanding: When discussing complex social and institutional dynamics such as racism, consider whether "I don't agree" may actually mean "I don't understand.” 19 likes
“Racism is a complex and interconnected system that adapts to challenges over time. Colorblind ideology was a very effective adaptation to the challenges of the Civil Rights Era. Colorblind ideology allows society to deny the reality of racism in the face of its persistence, while making it more difficult to challenge than when it was openly espoused.” 14 likes
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