White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
A frank discussion of what it means to be a white person and how to accept that you,—yes you, fellow white person—are racist and how you can work to change.
*pause for effect*
No, you’re not a card-carrying member of the KKK or joined up in any of the white supremacist rallies. You probably don’t own a tiki torch or subscribe to any of the racist chat sights.
You can’t be racist! You voted for Obama, for crying out loud! You don’t see color!
We were socialized into a society and culture built upon white supremacy. This nation was literally founded on the ideology of freedom and liberty for some, and much of its history has been based upon the subjugation of peoples of color. It’s true for pretty much every other place in the world that has a history of colonialism (or media access—because how people of color are depicted plays a hugerole in how they are perceived), but the US has its own special brand of racism and that’s what this book addresses.
No matter where you grew up in the US, you were socialized to be prejudiced in some way towards people of color. This racism is built into our core being as white people and our denial of racism and refusal to address or look at the issues only serves to reinforce systematic racism within our society.
Additionally, deflecting responsibility or deflecting the issue by saying “such-and-such group had it worse so whites/Americans are absolved for forever” doesn’t help and again, reinforces the system—so does white guilt and white tears, which centers the response to racism on white people and our emotions as opposed to…the actual people of color who are directly affected by racism.
Our white fragility, i.e., our inability to accept that we might be racist (because racist means white hoods and slavery and is BAD—as opposed to a system of oppression you were socialized to and participate in), also perpetuates systematic racism.
Anywho, my point is that while I don’t generally tell people you *have* to read certain books, this is for all of my fellow white folks—READ THIS NOW.
You’re gonna get offended. You’re going to have a reaction. You’re going to think about every single interaction you’ve had with a person of color (and maybe cringe a bit—I definitely did).
There are definitely many things to think about from this book, and I’m still digesting a lot of it.
Needless to say, I have a lot of work to do to correct my own thinking and actions, and responses to situations.
I’ve said, “I don’t see color,” “I’m colorblind,” “I don’t care if you’re black or white, or purple or green!” “but the Native Indians had it worse!!”…which is…whew, yikes. And other things that I didn’t mean to be offensive or racist, but again, my intent doesn’t matter.
However, what does matter is getting better and working to dismantle systematic racism—along with listening to people of color and being prepared to put in the work. As DiAngelo said, there is no cure against being racist.
It’s a life-long process that primarily involves being open to criticism, educating yourself and listening to people of color (and not relying on people of color to put in the emotional work for you).
If you are in the library profession, here are some resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Women and Gender Studies Librarian:
Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries