“I am white. I am writing to a white audience. I am addressing a white dynamic.” Robin Diangelo, the author of White Fragility, makes one thing very clear. This book is written from a white perspective for white people. While others might be helped by reading this book, it is written for white folk. And white folk likely need to brace themselves for the challenging realities that Diangelo lays out.
Diangelo dives in, covering issues of race and culture, ethnicity and identity, all the while considering the historical origins of understanding whiteness and power. She considers how we, the collective white population, determines the very definitions themselves and ultimately who is included and excluded. Geography of place, freedom of movement, and distribution of global wealth are ultimately privileges of race. Diangelo’s years of experience as a diversity and justice trainer give her an abundance of stories to share as she engages issues of racial bias in the workplace, in education, and in neighbourhoods.
At each turn she is able to raise an issue that causes one to be defensive, but as she draws it out, the reader sees his or her own white biases laid bare.
Diangelo posits that those who consider themselves “white progressives,” who firmly believe that they are race-neutral, defending their nonracist posture, might be causing the most damage to people who are marginalized by race and color.
Published in 2018, White Fragility has made its way onto the recommended reading lists and discussion boards of governments, corporations, and institutions. In light of the racial reckoning following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor in the spring of 2020, this book catapulted into the New York Times bestseller list and other bestseller lists. Church councils and congregations would do well to put this on their own reading lists.
Although this reviewer was disappointed that Diangelo did not read the audio version herself, actress Amy Landon’s calm measured narration is fitting and excellent.
Listening to a section of the audio might be a good starting point for a group discussion.
Here is a life’s work to understand deeply and bring about change, beginning within oneself. As readers and listeners, it will require a collective humility and patience as we reset our understandings and relinquish power in order to reshape our communities. Time is of the essence.
Finally, If you begin this book but then put it aside, ask yourself why. 6 hours, 21 minutes. (Beacon Press)