Robin DiAngelo skillfully puts out the necessity for white people to recognize and talk about racism in reaction to the increasingly divisive ideological climate in the United States. Her book, White Fragility, is published when racism is a topic of discussion on formal occasions, in policy discourse, on social networks, and in media headlines (DiAngelo, 2018). The majority of these conversations, however, are predicated on the generally held notion that lone individuals only sustain racism in lone circumstances which exhibit prejudice towards a person of color. DiAngelo expertly demonstrates how this concept of racism is unjustifiably restrictive and inaccurate. In her book, she explains in detail how racism is the foundation of American civilization and how all white people are responsible for maintaining it.
DiAngelo first used the phrase “white fragility” in an article with the same title that appeared in The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy in 2011. When challenged with discrimination, white people often have strong feelings, adopt a protective posture, and resort to reasoning. This is referred to as white Fragility. Based on her encounters with some of those she has seen in her role as a counselor on racism and social justice issues, DiAngelo cites numerous instances of white Fragility. A white man who claims that affirmative action is discriminatory towards white people is a typical example of white Fragility. Another illustration is when a lady of color complains that a white woman is talking over her; the white woman responds that she talks over everyone; thus, it is not a race issue. Other instances highlight white Fragility on a national scale, such as when white folks who feel threatened distorted the Black Lives Matter movement into “All Lives Matter.” or the fear of being a minority that some white people experience. The travel restriction on citizens of nations with a predominantly Muslim demographic is one example of how white Fragility is present in President Donald Trump’s government’s pro-government policies. Because of the comprehensive and varied examples given by DiAngelo, most readers won’t have any questions about what white Fragility looks like by the end of the book: most Americans see and hear it every day in many situations and conversations.
The reader is skillfully guided through several aspects of white Fragility by DiAngelo. She gives a timeline of racism dating back to colonialism. Racism and white supremacy emerged due to colonizers’ desire to justify their treatment of indigenous people of color as less than human when they took indigenous peoples’ land throughout the world. To demonstrate to the reader that race is a social construct rather than a biological one, DiAngelo spends a significant portion of the book detailing this history. She gives examples of how early Americans supported biological diversity, including Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson posited the existence of innate differences between races and commissioned researchers to look for them. The transatlantic slave trade, American slavery, the Jim Crow South, everyday racism in the wake of the Civil Rights period, and the myth of a so-called “post-racial” America are all discussed by DiAngelo.
The author of the book
This book’s author is American and specializes in whiteness studies and critical discourse analysis. She previously held the position of tenured professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University. She is an affiliate associate professor of education at the University of Washington. She is well known for her work on “White Fragility,” a term she first used in 2011 and further developed in the 2018 book of the same name.
Summary of the Chapters in the Book “White Fragility.”
These chapters are about the power of whiteness. The vital issues tackled in these chapters are The measures through which white supremacy depicts who creates choices and who exercises authority in the country’s political, economic, cultural, and social institutions, with white individuals majorly reluctant even to recognize the survival of these power dynamics. How mythologies of individualism and objectivity make it unbearable for white individuals to identify how their opinions and operations are designed by the white Society in which they were upstretched. Lastly, the chapters also explore the pedigrees of whiteness and how white racial distinctiveness came to be accompanied by organizational supremacy on all sides of American Society.
In the previous chapters, we discussed how white supremacy, the country’s dominant ideology, shapes every institution and aspect of American Society. Additionally, we saw how white people’s ideologies of individuality and objectivity blind them to their own racial identities and how white supremacy benefits them both materially and mentally.
In this chapter, we will go into more depth on how white people are socially programmed from birth to accept and support white supremacy. We’ll see how white individuals, including those who claim to be prejudice-free, support and defend white supremacy through A false sense of “colorblindness,” race talk that strengthens white unity and labels racial minorities, especially African-Americans, as threatening without addressing race, sustaining separate communities, institutions of learning and workplace, and trying to whitewash the past and omitting how difficult life was for minority groups in earlier eras of American history.
These two chapters are based on white denial. In one of the working stations, the author, we see a white woman getting disappointed when her only fellow of color points out that she frequently talks about her. Through these misconceptions, it is essential to hint at what is going on since some of these actions inform us how the shite people consider black individuals and how they can deny their aptitude in strengthening racial disparity that is rarely interrogated for the reason that of the innate white Fragility.
The author places herself in a position to provide white individuals with a solution to their unintentional racism. Since she is white, white individuals are more open to her information than they would be. When she keeps her discourse generic, they are frequently responsive. However, when she mentions a racially negative interaction in the room, white Fragility breaks out among the audience.
These are the last parts of the book. These chapters revisit white Fragility and how it contributes to racial power systems and consequences. Some things discussed are how and why white individuals respond with unfriendliness, renunciation, and thrilling discomfort at even the most inconsequential encounters to their racial standing. Similarly, the chapters explore how white Fragility places white apprehensions and worries at the center of any racial conversation and how it interchanges those dialogs away from a detailed examination of racism and its influences on black individuals.
In these chapters, White Fragility can be seen in the necessity for trust-building before white individuals can discuss racism in workshops so that others will not assume they are racist. They want to be regarded and don’t want anyone to criticize them or think they don’t mean well. But once more, this gives white people’s feelings more weight than those negatively impacted by racism. For white people to concentrate on how they propagate racism—rather than if they do—they must be aware that white individuals raised in Western Society are socialized into a white supremacist worldview. Furthermore, DiAngelo argues that confronting racial practices must take precedence over persuading others to be free of them.
White supremacy is the idea that due to the centrality and perceived superiority of white people in Society, they have come to control the political, economic, and social systems at large. But white supremacy still has a significant influence on Society now in addition to being the basis for previous institutions like slavery and segregation. White Fragility demonstrates how white people continue to profit from and maintain the dynamics of white supremacy by demonstrating how white supremacy has changed over time. The fact that white supremacy is largely unacknowledged in Modern Society, however, marks a contrast between the past and the present.
White supremacy initially served as a justification for the subjugation of non-white people in the United States, which sparked additional oppression and inequality. When the United States was founded, the Founding Fathers had to reconcile the opposing ideals of all people being created equal with African enslavement and the extermination and displacement of Indigenous peoples. The race itself is a function of white supremacy. To justify their exploitation, the Founding Fathers—and Thomas Jefferson in particular—suggested that individuals of other races were inferior. The author pinpoints several instances of political and economic policies that trailed from white supremacy because they were grounded on the idea that white people were better than blacks: 246 decades of vicious subjugation; this same sexual assault of black women for the gratification of white men and to produce more subjugated employees; the selling off of black children; the intended ethnic cleansing of Indigenous individuals, Indian deletion acts, and bookings; debt slavery, extrajudicial killings, and mass violence; workplace harassment; educational marginalization; and inadequate sex.
Objectivity, Meritocracy, and Individualism
Combating white supremacy requires understanding white people as a group because it highlights the advantages white people enjoy in Society. To most white people, however, individualism, objectivity, and meritocracy—three fundamental Western ideologies—make it challenging to comprehend. According to individualism, everyone is different from others, including members of social groups; according to objectivism, it is possible to be devoid of all bias; and according to meritocracy, anyone can achieve with enough effort. DiAngelo contends in White Fragility that these three ideas create misleading narratives and aid white people in downplaying their inherent advantages as a race.
Because some white people try to claim that they have not benefited from the same advantages or privileges as most white people, individualism contributes to the continuation of white supremacy. According to individualism, there are no inherent obstacles to one’s achievement, and one’s failure does not result from social institutions but rather from one’s character. Contrary to individualism, white individuals benefit inherently from being white. White people, for instance, “control the major institutions of society and set the policies and practices that others live by”; due to their race, they automatically receive the advantages of membership in such organizations. Individualism is a common strategy used by white people to highlight how they are distinct from other white people and do not have the same privileges. Five out of 200 employees in the organization where DiAngelo gives one of her speeches about diversity in the workplace are persons of color. After she finishes, a white man approaches her and claims that because he is Italian, white people have also experienced prejudice. DiAngelo observes the irony in his inquiry, given that most of his coworkers are white and unquestionably enjoy an advantage in the hiring process at the business. She should “examine how Italian Americans were able to become white and how that assimilation has influenced his experiences in the present as a white man,” she says, adding that. DiAngelo does not mean implying that white people have never experienced prejudice, only that any discrimination they may have experienced does not prevent them from supporting and participating in white supremacy.
White people who are trying to be objective and avoid discussing race tend to feel that they are not prejudiced, which hides the fact that they do and that their experiences differ from those of people of color. White individuals can perceive themselves as “simply humans,” regardless of race, thanks to white supremacy. Shakespeare and Jane Austen, for instance, are frequently cited as examples of the “universal human experience.” In contrast, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are frequently cited as examples of the Black experience. White narratives emerge to be accepted narratives that rule Society. However, this hides the fact that the white experience is not shared and inhibits white people from thinking of themselves as a racial group with a particular point of view or prejudices.
Because it ensures that they won’t be examined or changed, white people’s biases are protected by objectivity. The idea of “colorblindness” is another tool white people use to sidestep the subject of race and present it as impartial. According to colorblindness, admitting one’s race is racist; in contrast, “pretending not to perceive race” will help eradicate racism since, in theory, it will encourage people to treat one another fairly. But this ideology has serious flaws. When a white participant in one of DiAngelo’s inclusivity training claims that she doesn’t see race, DiAngelo’s Black co-leader responds that pretending not to see race assumed that he had the same experiences as she did. However, this ignores the fact that people see race and that race has profound social significance for all people, even if unconsciously. While the concept of color blindness may have begun as a well-intentioned way to stop racism, DiAngelo claims that it has only worked to keep racism in place by denying its existence. White people cannot change their racist perceptions by denying that they exist because most racism is subconscious.
The systematic unfairness that people of color have experienced and still experience in the United States is hidden by the idea that it is a true meritocracy. The fact that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the major leagues of baseball is frequently recognized and honored. However, how he is described makes it sound as though Robinson “finally had what it required to play with whites as if no black athlete before him was strong enough to compete at that level.” DiAngelo challenges readers to picture the story of Jackie Robinson had been the first black and white man to be permitted to play major-league baseball. The concept that Jackie Robinson faced obstacles because of white supremacy and that other Black people would have achieved the same success if those obstacles hadn’t existed downplays the idea that he was exceptional and that he succeeded simply because he worked hard enough. White people frequently choose schools based on test results while searching for schools and the neighborhoods surrounding them.
Contrary to the notion of meritocracy, schools are incredibly unequal: institutions with a high concentration of pupils of color frequently receive fewer resources because they do worse on standardized tests. White families shun those schools; as a result, further devaluing them by labeling them “poor schools,” which feeds the cycle. The idea of meritocracy conceals the disadvantages faced by people of color and the benefits enjoyed by white people, much like individualism and objectivity do.
DiAngelo examines one of the fundamental myths white people have about racism in addition to looking into racial Fragility and white supremacy. White people have traditionally seen racism as a personal sin that only immoral individuals may commit. However, because they believe others are challenging their moral integrity, white people only become defensive when someone criticizes or brings up their racism. In this way, DiAngelo shows how white individuals might avoid confronting their racism by considering racism as a quality only really evil people possess. Instead, Society should view racism as an unavoidable consequence of white dominance that everybody must challenge.
The book explains how racism came to be seen only as a form of extreme prejudice and violence, which is why many people, especially white people, still believe that racism is a quality that only immoral people possess. It was considerably more socially acceptable for white people to confess their racial prejudices and belief in white racial superiority before the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. White people across the country watched in horror as Black men, women, and children were pummeled at lunch tables and attacked by police dogs and fire hoses because the fight for civil rights was broadcast on television. White people become much less willing to acknowledge their racial prejudice due to not wanting to be associated with these violent racist crimes. People frequently equate racism with harsh and deliberate behavior even today. An example from more recent times is when “alt-right” white supremacists protested the removal of Confederate statues from a park in Virginia in 2017 by marching with torches. One of the counter-protesters was killed when a white supremacist rammed his automobile into them. Since the civil rights struggle, the most prominent depictions of racism have linked it to crime and immorality.
Personal Perception Regarding the Book
The newest book, “White Fragility,” carefully analyzes the difficulties which prevail in modern societies between Blacks and Whites. As seen from the Summary’s content, I found this Summary to be very thorough and intelligently articulated. As a result, this Summary is a great place for any reader who wants to start understanding the complexities and challenges of trying to resolve the age-old issue of racial disparities, inequality, and prejudice against Blacks.
But notwithstanding the exceptional quality of “White Fragility” contents which can help us change for the better as a society or as individuals, I want to remind my fellow readers that Jesus Christ gave some very simple yet powerful instructions on how we can begin to address racial injustice and discrimination in the New Testament of the Bible. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” By directing us to treat one another as “equals” and with “respect,” this wise advice directly addresses the root cause of our human problem with racial injustice and discrimination. In contrast, failure to do so results in a wide range of serious societal issues that can be classified as racial injustice, discrimination, and much worse.
It can be quite challenging to identify and let go of one’s racist training as a white person to the greatest extent possible. But if you are genuine about your stated opposition to racism, you should take action. If you cannot recognize how you unjustly gain from and promote institutional racism, you will never be able to address it. It is unnecessary to become indignant when someone’s ethnically inappropriate conduct is raised since prejudice is a societal phenomenon rather than a specific personality feature. Moreover, the criticism you are hearing doesn’t endanger you because of your dominating status within the racial hierarchy. You must strengthen your racial fortitude if you feel intimidated.
DiAngelo, R. (2018). Summary & Analysis of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Independently published.