White Fragility (book)
A book on challenging racism by working against and understanding what the author terms "white fragility", a reaction in which white people feel attacked or offended when the topic of racism arises. The book discusses many different aspects and manifestations of white fragility that DiAngelo personally encountered in her work as a diversity and inclusion training facilitator.
White Fragility became a New York Times bestseller for more than a year. In September 2019, Slate noted that "White Fragility has yet to leave the New York Times bestseller list since its debut in June 2018, making it the fastest-selling book in the history of Beacon Press."
The Los Angeles Review of Books review by David Roediger said "White Fragility fascinatingly reads as one-part jeremiad and one-part handbook. It is by turns mordant and then inspirational, an argument that powerful forces and tragic histories stack the deck fully against racial justice alongside one that we need only to be clearer, try harder, and do better." The reviewer also praised DiAngelo's "keen perception, long experience, and deep commitment" and said the book is "uncommonly honest about the duration and extent of entrenched injustice and provocative on the especially destructive role of progressive whites at critical junctures." Ultimately, the book "reads better as evidence of where we are mired than as a how-to guide on where we are on the cusp of going."
The Publishers Weekly review called it "a thoughtful, instructive, and comprehensive book on challenging racism" and "impressive in its scope and complexity". The New Statesman review described it as "a clear-sighted, methodical guide seeking to help readers 'navigate the roiling racial waters of daily life', though stops short of prescribing any concrete solutions." It asserted that DiAngelo's "overarching aim is not for her readers to feel guilty about their white identity. Rather it is to encourage them to understand that there will be no change if they are just 'really nice… smile at people of colour… go to lunch together on occasion'."
For The New Yorker in 2018, staff writer Katy Waldman wrote about White Fragility that "[t]he book is more diagnostic than solutions-oriented, and the guidelines it offers toward the end—listen, don't center yourself, get educated, think about your responses and what role they play—won't shock any nervous systems. The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance." Nosheen Iqbal, an editor for The Guardian, wrote that "DiAngelo's book is a radical statement at a time when the debate is so polarised."
In a 2019 article for The New Yorker, the columnist Kelefa Sanneh characterized DiAngelo as "perhaps the country's most visible expert in anti-bias training, a practice that is also an industry, and from all appearances a prospering one". He suggested that in using the concept of "people of color", DiAngelo "reduces all of humanity to two categories: white and other" and that she presents people of color as "sages, speaking truths that white people must cherish, and not challenge." Sanneh was also critical of what he saw as DiAngelo's tendency to be "endlessly deferential—for her, racism is basically whatever any person of color thinks it is".
Reviewing Sanneh's comments, professor Lauren Michele Jackson "consider[s] DiAngelo's inclusion of seemingly incongruous grievances a strength. Etiquette is never beside the point. As DiAngelo has said, neither White Fragility nor her workshops intend to convert the gleefully racist; she speaks to the well-intended whose banal blusters make racial stress routine." However, Jackson found the lack of cited scholars troubling: "I couldn't help but notice the relative dearth of contemporary black studies scholarship cited in White Fragility."
- Waldman, Katy (July 23, 2018). "A Sociologist Examines the "White Fragility" That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism". The New Yorker.
- Chotiner, Isaac (August 2, 2018). "Why White Liberals Are So Unwilling to Recognize Their Own Racism". Slate.
- Jackson, Lauren Michele (2019-09-05). ""White Fragility" Has a Whiteness Problem". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- Roediger, David. "On the Defensive: Navigating White Advantage and White Fragility". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- "Nonfiction book review: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism". www.publishersweekly.com. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- "How not to be a racist". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- Iqbal, Nosheen (2019-02-16). "Academic Robin DiAngelo: 'We have to stop thinking about racism as someone who says the N-word'". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (August 12, 2019). "The Fight to Redefine Racism". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
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