White Fragility

by Robin DiAngelo

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

For many white people, the very title of this book will cause resistance because I am breaking a cardinal rule of individualism—I am generalizing. (11)

DiAngelo writes that white people often resist generalizing. Instead, they insist that they are individuals and may therefore be free from racism. Her tendency to generalize often offends white people, but she writes that in our society, being free from racism is impossible. In fact, we must generalize somewhat when looking at interactions between people of different races.

Racism is a structure, not an event. (20)

Here, DiAngelo quotes J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, a professor at Wesleyan. DiAngelo explains that racism is not just the actions of individuals: it is the result of larger forces in society. People are all subject to these forces, whether they like it or not. Therefore, while whites often see racism as an act of malicious people, it is more all-encompassing than that and describes the entire sociological system in which we live.

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. (50)

DiAngelo believes that young people today are not less racist than their elders, although this is the prevailing wisdom. Instead, she believes that young people are steeped in a racist culture and often make racist comments when they are not around people of color. She refers to this tendency as a form of "white solidarity" and notes that whites who break these norms are isolated and punished by other whites. This form of racism is more subtle but more insidious than the more overt forms of racism that were prevalent in the past.

White women's tears in cross-racial interactions are problematic for several reasons connected to how they impact others. (132)

The author writes about how white women often cry in racial sensitivity training workshops. She believes this is problematic for a number of reasons—in part because white women's tears in the past often led to the lynching of Black men, as in Emmett Till's case. She also believes that the tears of white women take attention away from the experiences of people of color.

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