“White Fragility” Celebrates Its First-Year Anniversary and 52 Weeks as a New York Times Bestseller!
It’s time to bring out the cake and blow out the candle! Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility has spent one full year on the New York Times Best Seller List! This has been an incredible year for DiAngelo, her book, and Beacon. White Fragility is only a year old and has been a bestseller since it went on sale!
The book has been spotlighted on independent bookstore bestseller lists, too! For twenty-nine weeks, it’s been on the Indie Bestsellers List (it’s currently #9), and for most of the year has popped up on nine regional lists, such as New England, the Pacific Northwest, Southern, New Atlantic—just to name a few.
What does this amazing year mean to Robin DiAngelo? “While I knew there was interest in developing the concept, I could not have expected this level,” she said. “Having language to describe a very familiar experience (white emotional irrationality, ignorance, arrogance and resistance on issues of racism) has been incredibly important for people of color and helped counter the white denial and gaslighting. It has also been important for white people to have these patterns named and challenged, making it harder to engage in them without accountability. Making it harder to engage in white fragility interrupts a key way that racism is protected and minimizes the pain we inflict on people of color. While racism is a highly adaptive system, right now I do feel some hope about that!” Doing the work of confronting white fragility is the way forward if we want to make the just society we want a reality. Because as DiAngelo wrote in her Guardian essay, “niceness does not bring racism to the table and will not keep it on the table when so many of us who are white want it off.”
Our director, Helene Atwan, is just as thrilled with the success. “All of us at Beacon feel very lucky, as well as very proud, to have published Robin DiAngelo’s culture-rocking book. It’s not only thrilling to have a book on the New York Times Best Seller list, almost all 52 weeks in the top 5, but to have a book which has so much to offer readers, and so many correctives for addressing our white supremacist culture. I would say we’ve all learned from the book, and we’ve heard from hundreds of readers who have valued it as well. Finally, the book has contributed to the strengthening of the press in immeasurable ways.”
Rachael Marks, the book’s editor, reflected on what working on it and readers’ interactions with it have meant to her. “I learned a great deal about myself from editing White Fragility, and it’s been rewarding and heartening to see readers have similarly illuminating experiences. This is a challenging book that demands to be wrestled with, and we’ve seen readers do just that. I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing readers post pictures of their copies on social media. Their well-loved books—replete with notes in the margins, highlighted text, Post-it Notes on various pages—are a testament to how readers are engaging with the ideas in the book.”
During its first year in print, the very term DiAngelo coined, “white fragility,” was officially added as an entry on Dictionary.com. “Dictionaries catalog new words that reflect the national conversation,” DiAngelo said in USA Today. Naming and defining “white fragility” helps increase the public’s understanding of systemic racism and disrupts the way it’s upheld.
Now that we have the language to talk about it, more people want to know how to dismantle it, and that requires guided and constructive discussion. Guides developed for the book are available on our website and will help facilitate these discussions for various audiences. One audience is educators. In a school system in which the teaching population remains primarily white and the student population continues to become more racially diverse, it’s necessary for them to develop skills to engage in conversations about bias, race, and racism—especially their own. Our discussion guide for educators is designed to help them work through these conversations. For Unitarian Universalists who want to disrupt racism in their communities, we have a discussion guide that opens paths for white participants coming to terms with their own and others’ fragile, defensive, and coded responses when a conversation turns to race. Other groups can download our guide for readers with questions that will deepen reflection and understanding of the chapters and constructively inform responses to white fragility. This guide makes recommendations for group size, group composition, how to monitor the group, and more.
Guess who else is seeking her book to face white fragility head on? Organizations! Many have reached out to us and to DiAngelo to make copies of it available as a resource to their staff. We’ve heard from Google, Amazon, The Seattle Times, Teach for America, MIT Press, Teaching Tolerance, and sixty more, including schools and other companies.
There’s another way to check your white fragility. Remember the quiz we posted on our website? Since launching it last year, it has received over 20,000 responses. If you still haven’t taken it, you can celebrate the book’s anniversary by doing so!
Other ace-level public figures have taken notice of the book, too. Actor and comedian John Roberts, famous for his role as Linda Belcher on the animated series Bob’s Burgers, added it on his summer reading list. Actor Matt McGorry from Orange Is the New Black and How to Get Away with Murder shared with his followers on Instagram that he was reading the book. Comedian and actor DL Hughley regrammed a post featuring the book. Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts added it to her Introduction to Activism reading list.
And to add to the confetti, let’s run through some of the incredible media coverage she’s received since publication date! It all started with a Q&A from USA Today, The New Yorker’s in-depth review, and an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition. One topic from the book that received a lot of attention was the role of white women in systemic racism, and pieces from Elle and Harper’s Bazaar explored that issue in detail. DiAngelo’s op-ed with NBC.com's Think discussed racial illiteracy in white people, while her Q&A on Slate focused on why progressives find it so hard to confront their own contributions to racism in America. The book has also received extensive coverage in other outlets: Weekend Edition, Pacific Standard, Sojourners, Washington Post, Vox, the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, MPR News, and The Record on KUOW Seattle. Michel Martin interviewed DiAngelo to ask her what she recognized as her own unconscious bias on PBS’s Amanpour & Company. She spoke in featured video pieces on Refinery29's online program Strong Opinions Loosely Held, The Big Think, and NBC.com. And Teaching Tolerance had a Q&A with her to discuss why working against one’s own fragility is a necessary part of white anti-racist work. Whew!
So, what’s coming up next? We’re expecting to see White Fragility make an appearance this fall on Chelsea Handler’s upcoming docuseries Chelsea Does, which will follow Handler’s journey of understanding white supremacy and privilege. We’re publishing DiAngelo’s next book, which is about the need for white people to break with white solidarity in order to better support efforts toward racial equality. It’s tentatively scheduled for release in late fall 2020 or spring 2021. And, of course, DiAngelo’s work is never done. She remains as busy as ever, touring with the book and giving workshops around the country and abroad.
Happy anniversary to Robin DiAngelo and her culture-rocking book!