White Fragility

Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Narrated by: Amy Landon
Length: 6 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10,032 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to 'bad people'" (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. 

In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

Download readers' guides at beacon.org/whitefragility.

©2018 Robin DiAngelo (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“[T]houghtful, instructive, and comprehensive... This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; DiAngelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review )

“As a woman of color, I find hope in this book because of its potential to disrupt the patterns and relationships that have emerged out of long-standing colonial principles and beliefs. White Fragility is an essential tool toward authentic dialogue and action. May it be so!” (Shakti Butler, president of World Trust and director of Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible)

“The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance.” (The New Yorker)

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    3 out of 5 stars

I wanted to like it, but ...

I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. I found "The Hate U Give" and "You Can't Touch My Hair" more informative about how to be a better anti-racist ally.

For me, this book was too scientific for too long. Over 90% of it was convincing the white reader that they are racist. Okay, got it less than 1/2 way through. So, how do I counteract my racism according to the author: "research it, there's a lot of resources." Ummm... sure, but that is what I thought I was doing when I read this book.

Part of my problem with this book is that I had amazingly wonderful anti-racism trainers when I took ERACCE training in Michigan. It's a training like this woman speaks of, except, I found it much more helpful. The trainers were relatable. This woman seems too stiff and strict to make one WANT to be an anti-racist ally.

When she finally did get to some things we can do, she never mentioned that our voting matters. This was part of my anti-racism training. It is not good enough that I work to end racism where ever in my life I am able (home, school, work, etc.), but also to vote for people who will work to end our nation's systemic racism that impact our justice, education, and housing systems (just to name a few). Also, that we need to belong to groups that want to work on anti-racism. Community is vital to this endeavor, and the book only talks about the individual.

I can see the value in some of this text, but I won't recommend it as a resource without several caveats: Too scientific, too much time on convincing white folks they are racist, and no mention of voting or working together with your community to end racism.

If you ever get the chance to take the ERACCE ant-racism training in Kalamazoo, I strongly encourage it. The trainers were relatable and successful in teaching the white people in the room that we are benefiting from white privilege and that we need to use that to fight racism in every possible way.

196 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

radical

I read it and was not impressed with psych 101 tactics to take away dissenting views. If we only have 1 side of any story we are being robbed of real progress.

69 people found this helpful

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Palatable only if you don't think

I might have damaged my eyes from all the eye rolling I did. The author doesn't seem to grasp the concept of providing evidence, instead relies on shared assumptions and outlooks as justification for what is frankly a vile concept. I do think more people should read this, if only to see how poor the arguments are.

129 people found this helpful

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Maybe more devisive than helpful

I expected more from a diversity trainer with a PhD in Multicultural Education. The narrator also may have magnified how the words of Dr Diangelo came across to me as arrogant & devisive. Some statements made are certainly true. However, I feel she is quite bold & erroneous in overgeneralizing her truths about white people. It sometimes came across as if written by black people that have their own biases (not without reason) against white people, & they just want to dehumanize them. After reading "Biased" by Dr Eberhardt (which I learned a great deal from & it gave me hope for bridging a better future) this book was a let-down, though I'm sure it was well-intentioned. Dehumanizing white people (or any people!) is not a way to get conversations going in a helpful & positive direction. Do white people need a wake-up call to white privilege? Absolutely. Our history is horrifying & shameful. Read or listen to "Biased" also if you have the opportunity.

64 people found this helpful

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Assumptive trash.

Paints racism with a very broad and biased brush. Racism is real. It is not, however, limited to just “white” people. This book would suggest otherwise.
Don’t waste your time.

62 people found this helpful

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DNF because the narrator was so awful.

couldn't get past the forward because the narrator sounded like a computer was reading the book. What a waste of a credit.

61 people found this helpful

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Robotic emotionless reading! Just shoot me!

I don’t know if this was a joke or what? The robotic readers voice offers no help to follow the thread or story. The whole book sounded like a thousand staccato unrelated sentences. The only time I thought there was any emotion in her voice came off as sarcasm! This was awful I tried to listen to it twice and you just get so mad at her fake robotic privileged sounding voice!

229 people found this helpful

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Some good thoughts, mostly an unproductive lecture

I believe that Privilege exists, but it’s fair to debate whether this is White Privilege or Wealth Privilege. (The author would tell me that I’m spinning “race” into “class” to avoid having to talk about racism, but this is my honest opinion). Having money makes navigating life infinitely easier. Wealthy people have much better education, much more favorable experiences with the criminal justice system, and much better health. White Privilege very much existed for most of the 20th century. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the playing field was leveled, and systemic racism was deconstructed. One can argue that we are now living in a post-racial society. The playing field being leveled certainly doesn’t account for those starting from behind, and that’s why I recommend focusing on policies that create opportunity – mainly Education.

For me, the best insight was that good people can be racist. I also agree that many good people excuse away any potential biases without taking the time to dig deeper. One that resonated with me is discounting potential racism because one lives in a northern state rather than a southern one.

It was helpful to acknowledge that humans are genetically wired to see life through stereotypes, although I think she missed by not explaining the science behind this and by calling it “prejudice” rather than “stereotype,” as the former has a much more negative connotation that’s not required to make the point.

I think this is book is great for any white person who’s on the verge of becoming self-aware. If you’re not there yet, I’m not sure how much this book helps. If one is already racially self-aware, there are many points that could be seen as too extreme or overbearing.

The author takes a fundamentally negative tone. For example, there’s no outline of success or path towards reconciliation. It seems like success to her is living a lifetime of white shame. The goal from my perspective should be self-awareness which leads to more edifying interactions with people who don’t look like us. But she basically says that this isn’t possible because white people are inherently White Supremacists, hiding our true nature to be polite. For example, the whole chapter on Anti-Blackness stated that white people get uncomfortable when black people are successful and in position of leadership. I’m sorry Robin, maybe this is your inner demon, but I’m actually rooting for black people to succeed.

I will also challenge her on her black crime statistics. Black people made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population. Until this changes, it’s unfair to ask white people to act as though black neighborhoods aren’t inherently more dangerous when deciding where raise a family.

Similar to my criticisms of BLM for fostering an external locus of control, Robin seems to do this too with her critique of meritocracy. Perhaps she’s a socialist at heart, but America is a meritocracy, and excelling in it is the only way for black people to advance. Wouldn’t it better to tell young black people that successful black people did it through hard work, determination, and by surrounding themselves with people that share these values rather than saying they were just the lucky few?

Finally, I disagree her approach toward reconciliation. I understand that white people can be overly sensitive in racial conversations, but she trashes some fundamental principles needed for open, productive dialogue, for example: assuming good intentions of others, not making assumptions, being free to speak one’s truth, and respect for one another.

51 people found this helpful

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Too much finger pointing

I’m an educated, raised in the south and working in a white male dominated environment. I could not finish this book based on the constant barrage of how bad white privileged folks are in this society. They will never read this. They will not change. What has to happen if we stop buying their wares. Money makes changes in their world. When we VOTE, change happen. Just my opinion!!!!

45 people found this helpful

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Hot Garbage

Another white apologist spinning a guilt trip left wing narrative that all white are bad. You marched in the 60s for Black rights? Who cares, still a racist. You’re white and there’s nothing you can do to not be a racist. So let’s all self reflect on how we can be less racist.

There is valid information presented, but it is diluted heavily by the authors bias and agenda.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Elaine E
  • 09-05-18

life changing book!

As a white female progressive, I found this book one of the most honest and compassionate ways of showing me my blind spots. It's was painful to hear my own defensive stances, and my own 'I'm not a racist' perspectives, and I will be every thankful that Robin, has opened my world to racism and my place in it. Absolute recommend read!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ms A E Siddons
  • 11-24-18

Rad book AWFUL narration

Why does the narrator sound like a robot

she sounds totally valiumed up, monotonous, and inhuman which detracts massively from the impact the book could have.

Given the liveliness of the debate, would have benefited immensely from a more rich, nuanced, impassioned (and quicker) reading.

I had to really struggle with the frustration of this, which was annoying, because the content of the book is rad.

1 person found this helpful

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  • natalie
  • 05-14-19

Great book

Very interesting read, informative in a way I hadn’t expected. Has given me plenty of food for thought.

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  • D S Sinclair
  • 02-28-19

Great communication of key issues.

This book will be rubbished by many people and championed by many others.

Crucial issues are raised and well-connected with clear relation to reality. This book will not change how anyone thinks but may get some people to reflect on the context of their life and treatment of others.

An excellent book.

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  • Mrs Cathy
  • 01-07-19

Every white person must read this


Every white person must read this book.

Before beginning, I considered myself pretty ‘woke’ and presumed that this book would not be able to teach me much more - I was wrong.

White racism towards non-white people seeps into every part of Western society - only after reading this book did I realise all the small ways I am socialised to be racist and that it takes continuous conscious work to overcome these. And that is the best lesson to take away from this book - that the term ‘racist’ is now so offensive that whites cannot bear to be associated with it, it’s akin to being called a rapist. But the best thing that we could do as a white society is accept that we are all racist, that it is an inevitable product of our society, and that after admitting this, we can now take action to combat it and keep learning throughout our lives.

The book was gripping and illuminating from start to finish.

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  • Mr Paul Jackson
  • 12-09-18

from white fragile

very important to hear narratives on race placed this way. As a white man in the UK my life long learning and growth has been bolstered by this and my continued need to look, hole, act and be prepared to feel rejected by my own identity groups in order to make progress...I continue to make mistakes. dealing with feedback and giving it the most useful

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  • vanessa van gelder
  • 11-05-18

For every white person..

Robin Diangelo has got to the crux of the issue and i really wish every white person would listen to this, if you have an open mind, you will learn a lot. We need to step outside of insular realities and take a reality check.

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  • CFye
  • 10-02-18

Excellent.

A very thorough discussion of white fragility & privilege, the roles these play in maintaining unequal racial status, and how to step out of the expected narratives.
Recommend listening on 1.25 or 1.5 speed.

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  • Leigh
  • 08-21-18

Transformative and mind expanding!

Brilliant. Although I would consider myself a progressive white person, the content of this book has opened my mind up to some of my implicit blind spots that would have an ongoing, pervasive and significant impact on people of colour, individually and collectively. This book was challenging to listen to at times but the nudge motivates me to want to learn more about myself and the product of my conditioning that I am. Thank you!

1 person found this helpful

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  • helmand mandozay
  • 02-09-19

vital

every white person needs to take this in. I'm ashamed it took me this long to begin to educate myself.

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  • Angela Walsh
  • 01-29-19

Must Read

Great book for white people to be exposed to its premise and to reflect on the racial biases and why they exist. acknowledges she says what PoC have been saying for ever.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-21-19

A must for any white person who considers themselves progressive

As a person of colour, this is a life-affirming book that has beautifully articulated so many of my incredibly exasperating experiences and interactions with well-intentioned-but-ultimately-counterproductive white people.

Cannot recommend it strongly enough for every single white person who considers themselves progressive.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-16-19

Compulsory read for all white people.

Great book, very honest and open. Great to keep referring back to for reinforcement of important mesages.
Unpack your toxic white feminism (white supremacy in heels), listen to people of colour and trust their experiences. Do the work and be a better ancestor.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-07-19

excellent! head hurting stuff but REAL!

Such new concepts for us white people but we need it! if you want to challenge your brain, read this!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Katie Crothers
  • 12-15-18

Awful narrator, sounds like a robot!

A real letdown because the content is brilliant. the author is so intelligent and observant. The narrator sounds like an ad for real estate or the old Microsoft narrator voice. She never changes tone or pace, really offputting..put me to sleep and made her hard to follow.