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White Fragility

Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Narrated by: Amy Landon
Length: 6 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (684 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to 'bad people'" (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. 

In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

Download readers' guides at beacon.org/whitefragility.

©2018 Robin DiAngelo (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“[T]houghtful, instructive, and comprehensive... This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; DiAngelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.” (Publishers Weekly)

“As a woman of color, I find hope in this book because of its potential to disrupt the patterns and relationships that have emerged out of long-standing colonial principles and beliefs. White Fragility is an essential tool toward authentic dialogue and action. May it be so!” (Shakti Butler, president of World Trust and director of Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible)

“A rare and incisive examination of the system of white body supremacy that binds us all as Americans... With authenticity and clarity, she provides the antidote to white fragility and a road map for developing white racial stamina and humility. White Fragility loosens the bonds of white supremacy and binds us back together as human beings.” (Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands and Rock the Boat)

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White guilt

Does not provide any evidence other than anecdotes. Provides no helpful solutions or ways to deconstruct and improve “systematic racism”. I tried so hard to challenge my opinions and find meaning in this book, but alas, I shall keep trying with other books.

22 people found this helpful

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Food for thought.

Amy Landon sounds like an AI. I found her very hard to listen to & had a hard time not drifting off because her voice is so monotonous. The content was very interesting though and made me realize as a white person that I need to change some my attitudes and perspectives where people of colour are concerned. It made me realize that as someone socialized as white, I really have no clue what it’s like to grow up in a racist society. I can do better and I’m grateful that this book showed me where some of my biases lie and that I can do better.

22 people found this helpful

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Mixed Feelings

It's fair to say I haven't put much work into reviewing my perspective on my own behaviour and how I may be unintentionally contributing to bias, prejudice or racism, with an emphasis on 'unintentionally'. Perhaps i'm doing something without my awareness? Perhaps I need to do more to actively work against racism in my predominantly white area? Given the societal unrest at this time (spring / summer 2020), I felt it necessary to improve on this gap, as I hope to become a better person over time, reduce suffering in the world and do my part to help others where I can.

I initially started with 'Me and White Supremacy' before coming to this work. I think the large benefit to a book like 'White Fragility', and others of a similar vein, is the increased awareness of how my well intentioned actions may unintentionally perpetuate hardships for people of colour or may be perceived by POC as mis-guided, off-base, tone-deaf, culturally ignorant / insensitive etc. It's more on the fore-front of my mind, and encourages thinking before acting or speaking.

The issues I have with this book are the argument that someone reacting defensively to being labelled a racist is proof of fragility, which in turn supports the argument that they're in fact quite comfortable with supporting racism and white supremacy because calling it out to the open disrupts their comfortable lifestyle which is upsetting. If you were to give any well-intentioned and well-meaning progressive individual a horrific label such as being a racist (as classically defined), pedophile, etc, of course you're going to get a strong adverse response, moreso for people who absolutely want to be better people than that, and moreso when it's delivered as a blanket statement against all people with a given skin colour (ironic, given a book of this nature). If you use that defensiveness as evidence of participation which supports the label, it's going to absolutely turn people away, they'll turn their ears off, etc. There needs to be more time spent on the idea that the definitions of racism and white supremacy have changed, or to use alternate terms for the expanded breadth of these concepts, which will help prevent the knee-jerk reaction given most peoples definition of racism and white supremacy.

I think the idea of dismissing outward displays of compassion as a self-centered need to be the focus of attention (referred to as white womens tears in the book), assumes the worst in people. Is it not possible that someone can feel moved to tears when hearing another person speak of their experience in life, which they've endured as a result of their skin colour? Is it really fair to say that people crying is just their need to get more attention?

My take-aways from the book are that I want to continue to be open-minded on the topic, hear directly from POC as to what can be done better, and to actively do my part to stand-up when something racially-motivated is happening. I think the book lacks concrete actions that can be taken, and leaves me feeling that because I'm white, i'm guilty. If I speak to a POC, it's tokenism and I'm overriding the discussion. If I try to help the movement, its either cultural appropriation or it's being done to satisfy my own need to demonstrate how I'm not racist on social media, it's not truly well-intentioned. If I show visible emotion and compassion, it's distracting to POC. It's definitely a sense that I'm guilty because of my skin colour and that I can do no right. The book would be significantly more useful if there were examples of beneficial actions which can be considered and undertaken, aside from just apologizing.

Aside from the obvious actions of doing something like speaking up when something obviously racially-unjust is occurring, and being open to feedback on my actions, words or behaviours, I don't have a strong sense of what I can do from here. I'll continue to keep reading on the topic, but I can't yet commit endless adoration of this book just yet.

18 people found this helpful

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Some very important points made. Do your own research.

Everyone has to decide where they fit in and how they can authentically do the work to help make our world a better place. Just my personal thought but read lots, observe lots, listen lots and do not let anyone speak for you or others, regardless of your ‘race’ or theirs.
I wish everyone blessings, justice and love.

12 people found this helpful

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Validating

This book is the story of my life since I moved to North America 25 years ago. Before, I came, I was just a person. When I arrived, I became black. I have described these behaviors to my peers many times without realizing they were actually a thing. White rage, white solidarity, white fragility and White women’s tears... we live these things everyday. A huge thank you to Robin DiAngelo for writing this book. It matters to me that you are white and you chose to write this book. Maybe white people won’t change but at least I know that this race thing is real and not my imagination or “sensitivity” and that there are others who see it, understand it and make it their life’s work to fight against it. I encourage everyone to read this book!

10 people found this helpful

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What I needed to hear

Reading this was the first, conscious step for me in confronting my inherent racism and I’m so SO glad I started with this book.

I’m a white woman in my 20s. I’ve never considered myself a bigot, a racist, or anything of the sort. If/when I’ve been confronted for causing harm to someone for something I’ve said or done, I’ve been horrified and deeply embarrassed. So naturally, I went into this going: “I’m not a racist, I don’t acknowledge differences between people who are white, or coloured, so this will just be a good exercise on how to talk with other people about them being racist.” And then Rabin DiAngelo got me HARD with this paragraph, right in the introduction:

“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of colour. I define a white progressive as a 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 colour 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 anti-racist 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.”

Wow.

Had I not read this book at the beginning of my self-education on the Black Lives Matter movement, racism, and black culture, I would have spent the whole time not having confronted my own racism, my own unavoidable, socialized state of assumption and classification against people “other” than me. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spend time, and continue to do so moving forward, questioning my own privilege and what that actually means.

What an eye opener of a book. Full of examples of how we perpetuate racism daily, how we exhaust our friends and loved ones and fellow humans of colour all the time with our professed goodness...how, in spending our energy yelling from mountaintops that we’re not racist, we scoop water into our own boat and call it allyship, love, anti-racism. But it’s just us trying desperately to save face and it doesn’t help people of colour, or us.

I’ll be re-reading this one for sure. And cannot recommend this more for my fellow white people. Do yourself, and the people around you, a favour and take the time to read this book.

8 people found this helpful

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we have to talk about it

really interesting book on racism and whiteness, it hit the point to make me think about my own attitude, even if I always thought of myself as not a racist person. I know it's more complicated then that. I loved the audio book because I can learn while I'm keeping my hands busy at something else, but I though the voice was a bit " mechanical ".

6 people found this helpful

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Great meaningful content

Only feedback is the narration was a bit robotic. Didn’t know it was an actual person at first.

6 people found this helpful

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This read was life changing

As a mixed person I found this completely life changing, great audiobook. I wish this book was more available for white people.

5 people found this helpful

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It's A Slog

There are some interesting points made. I particularly enjoyed the points made about affirmative action. However the vast majority of the book is painful to listen to due to how the author assumes every little thing is about race (maybe the neighbourhood is bad because it's black or maybe, and much more likely, the neighbourhood is bad because it has a statistically higher crime rate), how the author cherrypicks examples from crazy women to generalize the population and how she brushes aside any criticism by saying, "You're not black, so you wouldn't understand.". To be fair, sometimes there are legitimate concerns that African Americans may have, but other times there are not. In fact given how many times the author says that things simply 'feel uncomfortable' to African Americans I'd say a much better title for this book is 'Black Fragility'.

4 people found this helpful

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  • matthew
  • 2019-07-11

Worst book I've ever read

I'm Mexican, but I guess I've "internalized" my racism or whatever nonsensical term this white lady uses, because I couldn't disagree more with almost every point and premise in this book. Don't waste your time listening to this.

777 people found this helpful

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  • Gary French
  • 2020-06-04

radical

I read it and was not impressed with psych 101 tactics to take away dissenting views. If we only have 1 side of any story we are being robbed of real progress.

257 people found this helpful

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  • G. Rowson
  • 2020-06-07

Some good thoughts, mostly an unproductive lecture

I believe that Privilege exists, but it’s fair to debate whether this is White Privilege or Wealth Privilege. (The author would tell me that I’m spinning “race” into “class” to avoid having to talk about racism, but this is my honest opinion). Having money makes navigating life infinitely easier. Wealthy people have much better education, much more favorable experiences with the criminal justice system, and much better health. White Privilege very much existed for most of the 20th century. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the playing field was leveled, and systemic racism was deconstructed. One can argue that we are now living in a post-racial society. The playing field being leveled certainly doesn’t account for those starting from behind, and that’s why I recommend focusing on policies that create opportunity – mainly Education.

For me, the best insight was that good people can be racist. I also agree that many good people excuse away any potential biases without taking the time to dig deeper. One that resonated with me is discounting potential racism because one lives in a northern state rather than a southern one.

It was helpful to acknowledge that humans are genetically wired to see life through stereotypes, although I think she missed by not explaining the science behind this and by calling it “prejudice” rather than “stereotype,” as the former has a much more negative connotation that’s not required to make the point.

I think this is book is great for any white person who’s on the verge of becoming self-aware. If you’re not there yet, I’m not sure how much this book helps. If one is already racially self-aware, there are many points that could be seen as too extreme or overbearing.

The author takes a fundamentally negative tone. For example, there’s no outline of success or path towards reconciliation. It seems like success to her is living a lifetime of white shame. The goal from my perspective should be self-awareness which leads to more edifying interactions with people who don’t look like us. But she basically says that this isn’t possible because white people are inherently White Supremacists, hiding our true nature to be polite. For example, the whole chapter on Anti-Blackness stated that white people get uncomfortable when black people are successful and in position of leadership. I’m sorry Robin, maybe this is your inner demon, but I’m actually rooting for black people to succeed.

I will also challenge her on her black crime statistics. Black people made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population. Until this changes, it’s unfair to ask white people to act as though black neighborhoods aren’t inherently more dangerous when deciding where raise a family.

Similar to my criticisms of BLM for fostering an external locus of control, Robin seems to do this too with her critique of meritocracy. Perhaps she’s a socialist at heart, but America is a meritocracy, and excelling in it is the only way for black people to advance. Wouldn’t it better to tell young black people that successful black people did it through hard work, determination, and by surrounding themselves with people that share these values rather than saying they were just the lucky few?

Finally, I disagree her approach toward reconciliation. I understand that white people can be overly sensitive in racial conversations, but she trashes some fundamental principles needed for open, productive dialogue, for example: assuming good intentions of others, not making assumptions, being free to speak one’s truth, and respect for one another.

225 people found this helpful

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  • parker
  • 2020-06-15

Hot Garbage

Another white apologist spinning a guilt trip left wing narrative that all white are bad. You marched in the 60s for Black rights? Who cares, still a racist. You’re white and there’s nothing you can do to not be a racist. So let’s all self reflect on how we can be less racist.

There is valid information presented, but it is diluted heavily by the authors bias and agenda.

223 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-10

DNF because the narrator was so awful.

couldn't get past the forward because the narrator sounded like a computer was reading the book. What a waste of a credit.

165 people found this helpful

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  • Darren P. Auger
  • 2020-06-10

White guilt shoved down your throat

I've tried listening to this audiobook with an open mind. But all that basically says is all white people are racist, that all white people should have white guilt, and that white people should all kiss black or brown people's asses to make up for history. This book has a twisted and absurd perception of race relations and provides no solutions. Here's an idea: Get over history, and live every day treating every human being with respect.

150 people found this helpful

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  • Happy Cat
  • 2019-01-31

I wanted to like it, but ...

I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. I found "The Hate U Give" and "You Can't Touch My Hair" more informative about how to be a better anti-racist ally.

For me, this book was too scientific for too long. Over 90% of it was convincing the white reader that they are racist. Okay, got it less than 1/2 way through. So, how do I counteract my racism according to the author: "research it, there's a lot of resources." Ummm... sure, but that is what I thought I was doing when I read this book.

Part of my problem with this book is that I had amazingly wonderful anti-racism trainers when I took ERACCE training in Michigan. It's a training like this woman speaks of, except, I found it much more helpful. The trainers were relatable. This woman seems too stiff and strict to make one WANT to be an anti-racist ally.

When she finally did get to some things we can do, she never mentioned that our voting matters. This was part of my anti-racism training. It is not good enough that I work to end racism where ever in my life I am able (home, school, work, etc.), but also to vote for people who will work to end our nation's systemic racism that impact our justice, education, and housing systems (just to name a few). Also, that we need to belong to groups that want to work on anti-racism. Community is vital to this endeavor, and the book only talks about the individual.

I can see the value in some of this text, but I won't recommend it as a resource without several caveats: Too scientific, too much time on convincing white folks they are racist, and no mention of voting or working together with your community to end racism.

If you ever get the chance to take the ERACCE ant-racism training in Kalamazoo, I strongly encourage it. The trainers were relatable and successful in teaching the white people in the room that we are benefiting from white privilege and that we need to use that to fight racism in every possible way.

250 people found this helpful

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  • linda a drumgoole
  • 2020-06-01

Too much finger pointing

I’m an educated, raised in the south and working in a white male dominated environment. I could not finish this book based on the constant barrage of how bad white privileged folks are in this society. They will never read this. They will not change. What has to happen if we stop buying their wares. Money makes changes in their world. When we VOTE, change happen. Just my opinion!!!!

123 people found this helpful

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  • Phillip
  • 2019-08-20

Palatable only if you don't think

I might have damaged my eyes from all the eye rolling I did. The author doesn't seem to grasp the concept of providing evidence, instead relies on shared assumptions and outlooks as justification for what is frankly a vile concept. I do think more people should read this, if only to see how poor the arguments are.

243 people found this helpful

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  • Jacqueline Chang-Stroman
  • 2019-08-16

Maybe more devisive than helpful

I expected more from a diversity trainer with a PhD in Multicultural Education. The narrator also may have magnified how the words of Dr Diangelo came across to me as arrogant & devisive. Some statements made are certainly true. However, I feel she is quite bold & erroneous in overgeneralizing her truths about white people. It sometimes came across as if written by black people that have their own biases (not without reason) against white people, & they just want to dehumanize them. After reading "Biased" by Dr Eberhardt (which I learned a great deal from & it gave me hope for bridging a better future) this book was a let-down, though I'm sure it was well-intentioned. Dehumanizing white people (or any people!) is not a way to get conversations going in a helpful & positive direction. Do white people need a wake-up call to white privilege? Absolutely. Our history is horrifying & shameful. Read or listen to "Biased" also if you have the opportunity.

111 people found this helpful