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White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
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White Fragility Quotes Showing 1-30 of 134
“It is white people’s responsibility to be less fragile; people of color don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to navigate us as painlessly as possible.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“I was co-leading a workshop with an African American man. A white participant said to him, "I don't see race; I don't see you as black." My co-trainer's response was, "Then how will you see racism?" He then explained to her that he was black, he was confident that she could see this, and that his race meant that he had a very different experience in life than she did. If she were ever going to understand or challenge racism, she would need to acknowledge this difference. Pretending that she did not noticed that he was black was not helpful to him in any way, as it denied his reality - indeed, it refused his reality - and kept hers insular and unchallenged. This pretense that she did not notice his race assumed that he was "just like her," and in so doing, she projected her reality onto him. For example, I feel welcome at work so you must too; I have never felt that my race mattered, so you must feel that yours doesn't either. But of course, we do see the race of other people, and race holds deep social meaning for us.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion. In recognition of this, I try to follow these guidelines: 1.   How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant—it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina. 2. Thank you. The above guidelines rest on the understanding that there is no face to save and the game is up; I know that I have blind spots and unconscious investments in racism. My investments are reinforced every day in mainstream society. I did not set this system up, but it does unfairly benefit me, I do use it to my advantage, and I am responsible for interrupting it. I need to work hard to change my role in this system, but I can’t do it alone. This understanding leads me to gratitude when others help me.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort. We can use it as a door out—blame the messenger and disregard the message. Or we can use it as a door in by asking, Why does this unsettle me? What would it mean for me if this were true?”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions. Regardless of whether a parent told you that everyone was equal, or the poster in the hall of your white suburban school proclaimed the value of diversity, or you have traveled abroad, or you have people of color in your workplace or family, the ubiquitous socializing power of white supremacy cannot be avoided. The messages circulate 24-7 and have little or nothing to do with intentions, awareness, or agreement. Entering the conversation with this understanding is freeing because it allows us to focus on how--rather than if--our racism is manifest. When we move beyond the good/bad binary, we can become eager to identify our racist patterns because interrupting those patterns becomes more important than managing how we think we look to others.

I repeat: 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. An honest accounting of these patterns is no small task given the power of white fragility and white solidarity, but it is necessary.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“If, however, I understand racism as a system into which I was socialized, I can receive feedback on my problematic racial patterns as a helpful way to support my learning and growth. One of the greatest social fears for a white person is being told that something that we have said or done is racially problematic. Yet when someone lets us know that we have just done such a thing, rather than respond with gratitude and relief (after all, now that we are informed, we won’t do it again), we often respond with anger and denial.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The most profound message of racial segregation may be that the absence of people of color from our lives is no real loss. Not one person who loved me, guided me, or taught me ever conveyed that segregation deprived me of anything of value. I could live my entire life without a friend or loved one of color and not see that as a diminishment of my life. In fact, my life trajectory would almost certainly ensure that I had few, if any, people of color in my life. I might meet a few people of color if I played certain sports in school, or if there happened to be one or two persons of color in my class, but when I was outside of that context, I had no proximity to people of color, much less any authentic relationships. Most whites who recall having a friend of color in childhood rarely keep these friendships into adulthood. Yet if my parents had thought it was valuable to have cross-racial relationships, they would have ensured that I had them, even if it took effort—the same effort so many white parents expend to send their children across town so they can attend a better (whiter) school. Pause for a moment and consider the profundity of this message: we are taught that we lose nothing of value through racial segregation. Consider the message we send to our children—as well as to children of color—when we describe white segregation as good.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“While implicit bias is always at play because all humans have bias, inequity can occur simply through homogeneity; if I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I won’t see them, much less be motivated to remove them. Nor will I be motivated to remove the barriers if they provide an advantage to which I feel entitled.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out; now I am aware of and can change that assumption.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“All systems of oppression are adaptive; they can withstand and adjust to challenges and still maintain inequality.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“I am often asked if I think the younger generation is less racist. No, I don't. In some ways, racism's adaptations over time are more sinister than concrete rules such as Jim Crow.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“Today we have a cultural norm that insists we hide our racism from people of color and deny it among ourselves, but not that we actually challenge it. In fact, we are socially penalized for challenging racism.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“For those of us who work to raise the racial consciousness of whites, simply getting whites to acknowledge that our race gives us advantages is a major effort. The defensiveness, denial, and resistance are deep.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal. Yet the nation began with the attempted genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of their land. American wealth was built on the labor of kidnapped and enslaved Africans and their descendants. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, and black women were denied access to that right until 1964. The term identity politics refers to the focus on the barriers specific groups face in their struggle for equality. We have yet to achieve our founding principle, but any gains we have made thus far have come through identity politics.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“Unfortunately, aversive racism only protects racism, because we can’t challenge our racial filters if we can’t consider the possibility that we have them. Of course, some whites explicitly avow racism. We might consider these whites actually more aware of, and honest about, their biases than those of us who consider ourselves open-minded yet who have rarely thought critically about the biases we inevitably hold or how we may be expressing them.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“while speaking up against these explicitly racist actions is critical, we must also be careful not to use them to keep ourselves on the “good” side of a false binary.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“However, I hope to have made clear that white supremacy is something much more pervasive and subtle than the actions of explicit white nationalists. White supremacy describes the culture we live in, a culture that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal. White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of color; it is the deeper premise that supports this idea—the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“For most of our history, straight white men have been involved in a witness protection program that guards their identities and absolves them of their crimes while offering them a future free of past encumbrances and sins.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“Our lack of understanding about implicit bias leads to aversive racism.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“To be sure, like the rest of race, whiteness is a fiction, what in the jargon of the academy is termed a social construct, an agreed-on myth that has empirical grit because of its effect, not its essence. But whiteness goes even one better: it is a category of identity that is most useful when its very existence is denied. That’s its twisted genius.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“if I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I won’t see them, much less be motivated to remove them. Nor will I be motivated to remove the barriers if they provide an advantage to which I feel entitled.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“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.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“Whiteness, like race, may not be true—it’s not a biologically heritable characteristic that has roots in physiological structures or in genes or chromosomes. But it is real, in the sense that societies and rights and goods and resources and privileges have been built on its foundation. DiAngelo brilliantly names a whiteness that doesn’t want to be named, disrobes a whiteness that dresses in camouflage as humanity, unmasks a whiteness costumed as American, and fetches to center stage a whiteness that would rather hide in visible invisibility.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“For example, although we are taught that women were granted suffrage in 1920, we ignore the fact that it was white women who received full access or that it was white men who granted it. Not until the 1960s, through the Voting Rights Act, were all women—regardless of race—granted full access to suffrage. Naming who has access and who doesn’t guides our efforts in challenging injustice.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“There has been no actual loss of power for the white elite, who have always controlled our institutions and continue to do so by a very wide margin. Of the fifty richest people on earth, twenty-nine are American. Of these twenty-nine, all are white, and all but two are men (Lauren Jobs inherited her husband’s wealth, and Alice Walton her father’s).”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
“The incomes of the poorest 10 percent of people increased by less than three dollars a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1 percent increased 182 times as much.”
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

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