white fragility

white fragility.png

(2018) by by Robin DiAngelo 


Robin J. DiAngelo (born September 8, 1956) is an American academic, lecturer, and author working in the fields of critical discourse analysis and whiteness studies. She formerly served as a tenured professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University. She is known for her work pertaining to *white fragility, a term which she coined in 2011…She has defined the concept of white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” As of 2016, she regularly gives workshops on the topic.

*Although the definition of “white privilege” has been somewhat fluid, it is generally agreed to refer to the implicit or systemic advantages that white people have relative to people who are the objects of racism; it is the absence of suspicion and other negative reactions that people who are objects of racism experience.

The term is used in discussions focused on the mostly hidden benefits that white people possess in a society where racism is prevalent and whiteness is considered normal, rather than on the detriments to people who are the objects of racism. As such, most definitions and discussions of the concept use as a starting point McIntosh’s metaphor of the “invisible backpack” that white people unconsciously “wear” in a society where racism is prevalent


Robin DiAngelo created the term “white fragility”. She has said that “white privilege can be thought of as unstable racial equilibrium”, and that when this equilibrium is challenged, the resulting racial stress can become intolerable and trigger a range of defensive responses. DiAngelo defines these behaviors as white fragility. For example, DiAngelo observed in her studies that some white people, when confronted with racial issues concerning white privilege, may respond with dismissal, distress, or other defensive responses because they may feel personally implicated in white supremacy. Elsewhere, it has been summarized as “the trademark inability of white Americans to meaningfully own their unearned privilege”

In a 2019 article for The New Yorker, the columnist Kelefa Sanneh characterized DiAngelo as “perhaps the country’s most visible expert in anti-bias training, a practice that is also an industry, and from all appearances a prospering one”. He suggested that in using the concept of “people of color”, DiAngelo “reduces all of humanity to two categories: white and other” and that she presents people of color as “sages, speaking truths that white people must cherish, and not challenge.” Sanneh was also critical of what he saw as DiAngelo’s tendency to be “endlessly deferential—for her, racism is basically whatever any person of color thinks it is”.

The economist and journalist Jonathan Church has published multiple articles appraising her “white fragility” thesis as a *fallacy of reification brigaded by faulty science

*the error of treating something that is not concrete, such as an idea, as a concrete thing.

9 min video (2018) explaining white fragility: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/robin-diangelo-on-white-fragility/

as a white person i was raised to see myself as just human.. you’re a particular kind of human.. i’m just human.. the evidence that white people give for their lack of racism is very revealing to what we think racism is.. i try to get us off the surface of all those narratives.. which despite them.. our outlook hasn’t changed


intro’d to book here:

Joi Ito (@Joi) tweeted at 6:05 AM – 8 Aug 2019 :
Just finished reading “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. As a non-black “person of color” I didn’t strictly identify with either the oppressor or the oppressed but identified with both as well. Might be difficult for many white people to read but should be required reading. (http://twitter.com/Joi/status/1159435586614304768?s=17)




author’s note

we don’t have to intend to exclude for the results of our actions to be exclusions..


i use the terms white and people of color to indicate the two macro level, socially recognized divisions of the racial hierarchy.. yet in using these terms i am collapsing  a great deal of variation..  and though i believe that temp suspending individuality to focus on group id is healthy for white people.. doing so has very diff impacts on people of color.. for multiracial people in particular, these binary categories leave them in a frustrating ‘middle’

yeah.. vermont idea.. and too.. who’s purely white?


when multiracial people’s racial id is ambiguous, they will face constant pressure to explain themselves and ‘choose a side’..

i will not be able to do justice to the complexity of multiracial id.. but for the purposes of grappling w white fragility, i offer multiracial people the concept of saliency..



thought white fragility is triggered by discomfort and anxiety, ti is born of superiority and entitlement.. white fragility is not weakness per se. in fact, it is a powerful means of white racial control and the protection of white advantage..


i came to see that the way we are taught to define racism makes it virtually impossible for white people to understand it.. shock to system.. however.. if i understand racism as a system into which i was socialized, i can receive feedback on my problematic racial patterns as a helpful way tot support my learning/growth..


valuable only after we accept that racism is unavoidable.. impossible to completely escape.. all responses illustrate white fragility and how it holds racism in place..  this book is intended for us, for white progressives who so often – despite our conscious intentions – make life so difficult for people of color..  i believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color..  i define  white progressive as any white person who thinks he/she is not racist.. or is less racist.. or int he ‘choir’ or already ‘gets it’.. white progressives can be the most difficult for people of color.. because.. to the degree we think we have arrived..w e 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 ed, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice..  white progressive do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so..


racism has been among the most complex social dilemmas since the founding of this country. while there is no biological race as we understand it.. race as a social construct has profound significance and shapes every aspect of our lives..

this book does not attempt to provide the solution to racism.. nor does it attempt to prove that racism exists; i start from that premise.. my goal is to make visible how one aspect of white sensibility continues to hold racism in place: white fragility..

ch 1 – the challenges of talking to white people about racism


being seen racially is a common trigger of white fragility, and thus, to build out stamina, white people must face the first challenge: naming our race

nationality: human.. it’s not going to work any other way


silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude and other forms of pushback.. these are not natural responses, they are social forces that prevent us from attaining he racial knowledge we need to engage more productively, and they function powerfully to hold the racial hierarchy in place..

racial ness is not natural.. it comes from being ie: whales in sea world.. forcing everyone to know/focus-on race.. history even.. is what functions powerfully to hold any hierarchy in place..

let go

we make sense of perceptions and experiences thru our particular cultural lens. this lens is neither universal/objective, and w/o it, a person could not function in an any human society

yeah.. i don’t buy that.. we just need to get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

what we need is for 9b (all the people) to listen to their daily curiosity .. rather than to try to understand a certain public culture..  ie: we keep spinning our wheels.. wasting our time.. oppressing people.. by thinking we are spot on to keep studying whales in sea world


because of our society’s emphasis on individuality, many of us are unskilled at reflecting on our group memberships

oi.. marsh label law et al.. let go


as a sociologist, i am quite comfortable generalizing; social life is patterned and predictable in measurable ways

dang.. what the world needs most: the energy of 9b alive people.. alive human beings are not predictable.. not measurable.. if we want to really see what we’re capable of.. we have to let go of any form of measuring/accounting.. be comfortable with that

we cannot understand modern forms of racism if we cannot or will not explore patterns of group behavior and their effects on individuals..

ok.. fine.. generalize/realize this.. we’re all like whales in sea world

for now.. try to let go of your individual narrative and grapple w the collective messages we all receive as members of a large shared culture..

what we need to let go of is the voluntarily complianced shared culture we’re all in because of ie: the supposed to’s.. of school/work

ch 2 – racism and white supremacy


*under the skin, there is no true biological race.. the external characteristics that we use to define race are unreliable indicators of genetic variation between any two people..

*let’s go with that.. let’s go that deep


the idea of racial inferiority was created to justify unequal treatment.. first we exploited people for their resources, not according to how they looked.. exploitation came first, and then the ideology of unequal races to justify this exploitation followed.. quoting coates and kendi..

ta-nehisi.. ibram..


race is a social construction, and thus who is included in the category of white changes over time..  european immigrants became racially united thru assimilation.. .. speaking english, eating ‘american’ foods, discarding customs that set them apart.. reified the perception of american as white.. if we ‘look white’ we are treated as white in society at large..


also manifested along class lines; poor wand working class people were not always perceived as fully white..  however poor and working class whites ere eventually grained full entry into whiteness as a way to exploit labor.. if poor whites were focused on feeling superior to those below them in status they were less focused on those above..  the poor and working classes, if united across race, could be a powerful force..  but racial divisions have served to keep them from organizing against the owning class who profits rom their labor..

ch 3 – racism after the civil rights movement


kings speech.. one day might be judge by content of character and not color of skin.. seized upon by whit public provide simple and immediate solution to racial tensions: pretend we don’t see race, and racism will end.. color blindness was no promoted as the remedy for racism.. in other words.. it is racist to acknowledge race

but.. pretending not to notice he was black was not helpful to him in any ay.. as it denied his reality..  and kept hers insular and unchallenged.. color blind ideology makes it difficult for us to address these unconscious beliefs..

indeed.. what we need most is a nother way to live for all of us (has to be everyone).. the by product will be that we don’t see color.. rather.. we’ll see/hear .. daily curiosity (only label)..

words without a truly different way to live is what we keep doing.. how we keep oppressing.. the color blind ideology isn’t what’s holding racism in its place.. it’s that we aren’t changing our ecosystem (ie: hari rat park law.. et al)


the body of research about children and race demonstrates that white children develop a sense of white superiority as early as preschool

indeed.. not just white ness.. supposed to’s.. of school/work.. are keeping us from hearing what’s deep in our hearts.. a means to get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem

ch 4 – how does race shape the lives of white people

ch 5 – the good/bad binary

ch 6 – anti blackness

ch 7 – racial triggers for white people

ch 8 – the result: white fragility


white fragility functions as a from of bullying; i am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me – white fragility keeps people of color in line and ‘in their place’


we aren’t likely to get there (take responsibility for our racism) if we are operating for the dominant worldview that only intentionally mean people can participate in racism

ch 9 – white fragility in action

ch 10 – white fragility and the rules of engagement


stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others we don’t have them.. we do have them and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing..

what we need is a nother way to live.. we need a reset..

ch 11 – white women’s tears


‘when a white woman cries, a black man gets hurt’

whether intended or not, when a white woman cries over some aspect of racism, all the attention immediately goes to her, demanding time, energy, and attention form everyone in the room when they should be focused on ameliorating racism..  while she is given attention, the people of color are yet again abandoned and/or blamed.. ‘then comes the waiting for us to comfort and reassure them that they’re not bad people’


tears that are driven by white guilt are self indulgent..  when we are mired in guilt, we are narcissistic and ineffective; guilt functions as an excuse for inaction..  for people of color.. our tears demonstrate our racial insulation and privilege..  ‘you are crying because you are uncomfortable w your feelings when we are barely allowed to have any.. because then we are being difficult.. we are supposed to remain stoic and strong because otherwise we become the angry and scary people of color’

ch 12 – where do we go from here


white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.. this does not mean we should stop id ing as white and start claiming only to be itlaian or irish..

no.. we should just stop id-ing.. let go

imagine if all the id-ing/labeling we did was.. daily curiosity


the default of the current system is the reproduction of racial ineq; our institutions were designed to reproduce racial ineq and they do so w efficiency.. our schools are particularly effective at this task..  to continue reproducing racial ineq.. the system only needs white people to be really nice and carry on, smile at people of color, be friendly across race, and to go lunch together on occasions..  niceness is not courageous..

ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work


via michel fb share:

“DiAngelo’s book is replete with claims that are either plain wrong or bizarrely disconnected from reality. Exactly who comes away from the saga of Jackie Robinson thinking he was the first Black baseball player good enough to compete with whites? “Imagine if instead the story,” DiAngelo writes, “went something like this: ‘Jackie Robinson, the first black man whites allowed to play major-league baseball.’” But no one need imagine this scenario, as others have pointed out, because it is something every baseball fan already knows. Later in the book, DiAngelo insinuates that, when white women cry upon being called racists, Black people are reminded of white women crying as they lied about being raped by Black men eons ago. But how would she know? Where is the evidence for this presumptuous claim?
An especially weird passage is where DiAngelo breezily decries the American higher-education system, in which, she says, no one ever talks about racism. “I can get through graduate school without ever discussing racism,” she writes. “I can graduate from law school without ever discussing racism. I can get through a teacher-education program without ever discussing racism.” I am mystified that DiAngelo thinks this laughably antique depiction reflects any period after roughly 1985. For example, an education-school curriculum neglecting racism in our times would be about as common as a home unwired for electricity.”


another michel fb share

“Dr. Robin DiAngelo, the bestselling author of White Fragility, claims to believe in accountability. DiAngelo used to list the “racial justice” organizations she donates to as part of her extensive “accountability statement,” including a monthly “land rent” paid to the Native American tribe that used to occupy Seattle.

But when the Washington Free Beacon began contacting the organizations she listed as recipients of her largesse, DiAngelo scrubbed the site, removing their names and the dates of her giving from the public domain—a version of the page remains available through the Internet Archive after briefly being unavailable due to what the site said were technical issues. The page was edited again as recently as Friday, when DiAngelo wrote she would begin donating 15 percent of her after-tax income, “in cash and in-kind donations,” starting next month—suggesting she had not previously, as the page exhorts, given a percentage of her income large enough that she could “feel it.”

This about-face is odd for a woman who has made her career demanding white people not respond defensively in hard conversations.” https://freebeacon.com/culture/the-wages-of-woke-2/?

the wages of woke – how robin diangelo got rich peddling ‘white fragility’

in comments michel shares link to video of matt taibbi – dismantling ‘anti fragility’ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxDUNg5SUNc&t=153s&fbclid=IwAR3AUFk5x-DBcnKBICHswMlrlO4xnk6i6vwno5zwTqqCPBCl_u5gFuAfwZM]