If you’re white, you may not think of yourself as racist. Maybe you hardly think about race at all. But Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, says white people need to think about how they fit into racist systems if they want to be anti-racist. She calls for a more nuanced and informed understanding of racism so white people can take accountability for the ways they benefit from these structures:
“The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic,” writes DiAngelo in White Fragility.
“We live in a society that turns race over to people of color. They have a race, and we’re just people. And so we see ourselves as outside of race,” says DiAngelo. “If we can start our work by reflecting on our own experiences — specifically as white people — and not only as objective individuals outside of race, there’s so much insight to be gained there. Start by asking yourself: What does it mean to be white? How has being white shaped my life?”
It’s important to recognize that all white people have been socialized into racist systems and it’s inevitable that we all have blind spots, says DiAngelo. It is akin to swimming with a current, rather than against it. Instead of asking if you’ve been shaped by these systems, ask yourself how you’ve been shaped by them [emphasis added].
If we don’t interrupt the systems we live within, then we’re complicit in them, says DiAngelo. “In that way, we can say that nice white people who do nothing further to challenge racism are racist.”