White Fragility: chapters 7-12

Chapters 7-12 went by rather quickly and are summarized here. Chapter 7 further repeats elements of white fragility: responses of anger, withdraw, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance. White people tend to resort to one of these coping mechanisms whenever they are challenged in racial discussion. Chapter 8 further repeats elements of white fragility by focusing on “trauma.” White people react so strongly to racially difficult situations, that “trauma” becomes a frequent description of their response. White people are emotionally and physically moved by such confrontations. Chapter 9 is a further restatement of the feelings, behaviors, claims, assumptions, and functions of white fragility. Chapter 10 offers helpful critiques in framing and guiding discussions about race with white people. I agree with pretty much everything she says. Chapter 11 further repeats elements of white fragility through the lens of white women’s tears. White women often resort to emotional outbursts to deflect and control racially difficult situations.

The final chapter, “Where do we go from here?” lays out a course for racial sensitivity. After(once again) laying out the defensive characteristics of white fragility, several guidelines are offered. Apologies must be genuine and not conditional: no, “I’m sorry if…” Secondly, white people should reflect seriously on the messages they have received, privileges they enjoy, how they have been socialized to feel superior, and how these things are showing up in their daily lives. Next is a too-brief discussion of white guilt. I appreciate the statement, “When I start from the premise that of course I have been thoroughly socialized into the racist culture in which I was born, I no longer need to expend energy denying that fact. I am eager—even excited—to identify my inevitable collusion so that I can figure out how to stop colluding!” We are then told that there is no such thing as a good white person. To be white is to be racist. The only hope for a white person is to be less white.

White Fragility addresses an important topic. Unfortunately, it falls short in offering meaningful solutions. White people are inherently racist. White people revolt in disgust and denial whenever this racism is challenged. After establishing the facts of the case (and I do believe they are facts) DiAngelo spends multiple chapters restating the facts through lenses of various illustrations. In the concluding chapter, DiAngelo tells white people not to feel bad about being inherently racist; that white people cannot not be racist; and that white people should continue to try harder to not be racist. It is a rather hopeless conclusion to a vexing issue. As a book, White Fragility suffers from repetitiveness. The main text is scarcely 150 pages, but just as well could have been 75. As a way forward, White Fragility suffers from hopelessness. If to be white in a white society is to be racist, how on earth am I to suddenly find the answer to my whiteness by just trying hard to not be white?

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