11 Weeks as a New York Times Bestseller, Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” Is the Truth Bomb We Need
Number 3 and twelve weeks on the New York Times best sellers list . . . and still going strong! The success of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism continues to prove that Robin DiAngelo is dropping the truth bombs white people need to realize how they’re sustaining racism without realizing it. It’s an uncomfortable reckoning, but sorely needed nonetheless.
In a time when we see numerous incidents of Living While Black reported on the news, DiAngelo offers the hard-hitting insight as to how white people uphold systemic racism. Remember the calls to the police and 911 on the black child who mowed part of the wrong yard? On the black woman using the private pool in her gated community? On the trio of black filmmakers staying in an Airbnb? “These incidents have always happened,” DiAngelo said in Vox’s piece about the criminalization of blackness, “but white people do not always believe it because it doesn’t happen to us. The only real difference we have now is that we are able to record it in a way that makes it undeniable.” But when the white people present at these incidents were asked about what happened, they got defensive and denied that race played a role in the encounter. They didn’t want to see that what they’d done was racist. It’s an example of what DiAngelo calls the “good-bad binary,” the idea that racism is an intentional act done exclusively by bad people. “It exempts virtually all white people from the system that we’re in,” she said. “As long as we think nice people can’t be racist, we’re going to protect the system.”
What further fuels the “good-bad binary” is the fact that white people are still raised to be racially illiterate, meaning that they do not learn what it means to be white. Racial illiteracy reinforces a simplistic definition of a racist as a bad person and exempts white progressives from such behavior. As DiAngelo wrote in her NBC News THINK op-ed, “the mainstream definition of a racist set me up beautifully to not only deny any impact of racial socialization, but to receive any suggestion of racially problematic behavior as a personal blow—a questioning of my very moral character . . . this is what I term white fragility.” DiAngelo’s book, thankfully, lays out the steps to take to become racially literate. And as fellow Beacon author Lori Tharps wrote, “If we want to make progress in dismantling [white supremacy], we all need to understand how it all fits together. Reading White Fragility will help us in that fight.”
DiAngelo has been busy exposing the many sides of white fragility and unpacking its long-term effects. Check out her Q&A with Slate about why white liberals are unwilling to recognize their own racism. She discusses why white women are terrified of being called racist in her Q&A with Elle Magazine. In her interview on NPR Weekend Edition, she explains why white people being nice doesn’t address the issue of system racism. She had a book event at King’s Books in Tacoma, WA, and you can watch it here. And here’s her interview with Michel Martin on Amanpour & Co.
White Fragility has even caught the eyes of a few celebrities! Actor and comedian John Roberts, famous for his role as Linda Belcher on the animated series Bob’s Burgers, included it on his summer reading list. Actor Matt McGorry, known for his roles in Orange Is the New Black and How to Get Away with Murder, shared with his followers on Instagram that he was reading the book. And comedian and actor DL Hughley regrammed a post featuring the book.
So take a cue from John, Matt, and DL: If you haven’t read White Fragility yet, get to a bookstore now and grab a copy! And if you haven’t taken our white fragility quiz yet, now’s the time!