White Fragility: why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism

Author: Robin DiAngelo

Topics: Racism, Race Relations, Whites


“White fragility?” some may ask, immediately guarded against the implications in the title of Robin DiAngelo’s book. With strength and patience drawn from her work as a consultant, trainer, and teacher of racial and social injustice, DiAngelo introduces us to the concept of white fragility or “the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially.” White fragility is born from superiority and entitlement, triggering feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration when experiencing the discomfort and anxiety of discussing race and racism. Whites protect their positions when challenged on race by invoking self defense, attempting to characterize themselves as “victimized, slammed, blamed, and attacked.” DiAngelo takes away our excuses and holds Whites accountable for maturing and facing “the world they’ve made while seeking to help remake it for those who have neither their privilege nor their protection.”

Throughout “White Fragility” we as readers are presented with clear examples of DiAngelo’s thesis, pulled from personal and work experiences. The author also includes bulleted lists of reactions with clear suggestions on how to reframe these moments into more positive interactions. Early chapters include “the challenges of talking to White people about racism”, racism and white supremacy, and “how does race shape the lives of White people?” Once the root of white fragility is established, DiAngelo delves deeper into ideas that form the core of the concept. One such example being “the good/bad binary” which is defined as the excuse or explanation, “He’s not/can’t’ be racist. He is a really nice guy”. Other common phrases dismissing accountability are also explored such as “I was taught to treat everyone the same,” an impossibility, it is explained, because humans can not be 100% objective. This book is for the white progressives, who need to be engaging in ongoing self awareness, continuing their education, focusing on relationship building, and practicing an antiracist mindset . 

DiAngelo asks a fellow co-worker, “What would it be like if you could simply give us feedback, have us graciously receive it, reflect, and work to change the behavior?” They responded simply and powerfully, “It would be revolutionary.”

You’ll Love This Book If

You’ll love this book if you’re interested in gaining clarity on why people who identify as White are so difficult to converse with in regards to race, and insight and direction on how to improve your own racial responses in daily interactions. 

This book might not be for you if you identify as multiracial. DiAngelo states she “is not able to do justice to the complexity of the muliracial identity,” instead focusing on the broader terms of Whites and Blacks throughout the book.