ó Youíre white. Youíre educated and open-minded.
Youíre a good person! And youíre anything but a
donít care if someone is pink, purple or polka-dotted.
In fact, you were raised to not even see color.
you need to stop, Robin DiAngelo says. Stop saying
things like that, for they are completely insulting.
Human beings arenít purple or polka-dotted, and we
should see color.
so is one of the first steps white people can take
toward improving race relations, according to DiAngelo,
a white, Seattle-based speaker and trainer who focuses
on racial justice, and whose third book, "White
Fragility: Why Itís So Hard for White People to Talk
About Racism," was released Tuesday.
sought DiAngelo out ó and read her new book ó
because I have had my own struggles with racism.
year ago, I wrote a column about Columbia City that
implied the historically black community only hit the
map when a Pagliacci Pizza and Rudyís Barber Shop
moved in. I apologized, and have made it my mission to
understand that whiteness is something I wear every day.
It influences how I interact with the world.
learned from DiAngeloís book that my biases began when
I was born white. From there, I was raised with a
privilege that I never earned, but that came from
biological fate, and generations of oppression and
segregation ó some forced, and some inherent. It is my
responsibility to deconstruct those biases.
donít even think about my race, DiAngelo said, while
people of color are reminded of it every day, be it with
slights, discrimination or abuse. They pay for it with
stress, health problems and even early death. (The death
rate for African Americans was generally higher than
whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma and
diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.)
All this while being asked to explain to white people
what they can do to make things better.
if they try to explain, well, most times well-meaning
white people challenge them with talk of polka dots.
They get defensive, angry, afraid or go silent ó
reinforcing the "white equilibrium," which
gets us nowhere.
white people cannot answer the question, ĎWhat does it
mean to be white?í with any depth or complexity,"
DiAngelo told me. "(White people) are not raised to
see ourselves in racial terms, and bring that inability
to answer that question to the table with us.
people of color know that (white people) canít answer
that question, that we have no awareness of ourselves as
racial beings," she continued. "Thatís part
of what they have to navigate with us. If I have no idea
how my race shapes me, I am probably not going to be
open to any feedback about how your race shapes you. And
so we end up minimizing and invalidating them."
ask yourself, DiAngelo says: When was the last time you
had a person of color at your dinner table? When did you
risk "ruining dinner" by challenging a
relative who made a racist comment, when the comment
itself should do that on its own? And are you aware of
the ways in which your whiteness has made your life so
easy that the color of your skin barely crosses your
help me understand how white people sometimes ask people
of color to explain their experience, and minimize their
role in it, DiAngelo substituted sexism for racism.
would be like a man walking up to a female co-worker and
asking, ĎSo, talk to me about sexism. What has
happened to you?í" DiAngelo said. "Itís
putting an emotional and political burden on them. And
we should strive to build authentic relationships across
in each others lives, seeing what has happened,"
DiAngelo said. "Take the initiative and look things
up like anything else that matters to you. And you have
to be willing to listen."
also have to be willing to speak up when we see racial
inequality in acts big and small.
with solidarity," DiAngelo said. "Thatís
what we have to do as white people: Be courageous."
received her doctorate in multicultural education from
the University of Washington, was a tenured professor in
that subject at Westfield State University and focused
her research on Whiteness Studies and Critical Discourse
Analysis, "explicating how Whiteness is reproduced
in everyday narratives," according to her bio.
while those credentials give her the expertise to speak
about race, her own whiteness benefits her as well.
we are aware of it or not, the power of implicit bias is
that white people tend to be more open to engaging with
that question when it is coming from a fellow white
person," she said. "Implicit bias grants more
legitimacy to their white voice."
if we are going to challenge implicit bias, she said, we
have to build our capacity to listen.
also have to be accountable to people of color, DiAngelo
said. Hers canít be the only voice. Thatís one of
the reasons she asked Georgetown University professor
and author Michael Eric Dyson, who is black, to write
the foreword to "White Fragility." In it,
Dyson called the book " Ö a bracing call to white
folk everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is
and to seize the opportunity to make things better now.
joins the front ranks of white anti-racist thinkers with
a stirring call to conscience, and most important,
consciousness, in her white brothers," he wrote.
"White fragility is a truly generative idea Ö an
idea whose time has come."
since the election of Donald Trump, people have been
emboldened and validated in their racism.
has been given more permission," DiAngelo said.
"I think a lot of the eruption of racism is the
umbrage people took at not being able to express it
knows of 12 book groups in Seattle reading her last
book, "What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing
White Racial Literacy." She appreciates that, itís
definitely progress. But she has a question: "How
will people of color know you read my book?"
is not courageous," DiAngelo said. "Niceness
will not get racism on the table. It takes breaking with
white solidarity, and resisting the forces of white
white people, we need to check ourselves. Stop defending
ourselves. Only then will we learn.