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White Fragility

(10 customer reviews)


by Robin DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson


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.


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About this book

205 Pages
4 - 5 Hours to read
55k Total words


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.

  • Beacon Press; June 2018
  • ISBN: 9780807047422
  • Title: White Fragility
  • Author: Robin DiAngelo; Michael Eric Dyson (other)
  • Imprint: Beacon Press
  • Language: English

In The Press

“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

“[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

White Fragility is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism.”
Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

“A valuable guide . . . While especially helpful for those new to the critical analysis of whiteness, this work also offers a useful refresher to anyone committed to the ongoing process of self-assessment and anti-oppression work.”
Library Journal

“A penetrating new book.”
Pacific Standard

“A vital, necessary, and beautiful book, 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.”
—Michael Eric Dyson

“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

“A rare and incisive examination of the system of white body supremacy that binds us all as Americans. . . . With authenticity and clarity, she provides the antidote to white fragility and a road map for developing white racial stamina and humility. White Fragility loosens the bonds of white supremacy and binds us back together as human beings.”
—Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands and Rock the Boat

“As powerful forces of white racism again swell, DiAngelo invites white progressives to have a courageous conversation about their culture of complicity. . . . White Fragility provides important antiracist understanding and essential strategies for well-intentioned white people who truly endeavor to be a part of the solution.”
—Glenn E. Singleton, author of Courageous Conversations About Race

“Robin DiAngelo demonstrates an all-too-rare ability to enter the racial conversation with complexity, nuance, and deep respect. Her writing establishes her mastery in accessing the imaginal, metaphoric mind where the possibility for transformation resides. With an unwavering conviction that change is possible, her message is clear: the incentive for white engagement in racial justice work is ultimately self-liberation.”
—Leticia Nieto, coauthor of Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment

“White fragility is the secret ingredient that makes racial conversations so difficult and achieving racial equity even harder. But by exposing it and showing us all—including white folks—how it operates and how it hurts us, individually and collectively, Robin DiAngelo has performed an invaluable service. An indispensable volume for understanding one of the most important (and yet rarely appreciated) barriers to achieving racial justice.”
—Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility brings language to the emotional structures that make true discussions about racial attitudes difficult. With clarity and compassion, DiAngelo allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people.’ In doing so, she moves our national discussions forward with new ‘rules of engagement.’ This is a necessary book for all people invested in societal change through productive social and intimate relationships.”
—Claudia Rankine

White Fragility is a must-read for all educators because racism and racial disparities in access and opportunity continue to be an urgent issue in our schools. As educators, we need to summon up the courage and together act deliberately and honestly to develop the skills we need to engage in conversations about bias, race, and racism—especially our own.”
—Val Brown, professional development facilitator and founder of #ClearTheAir

About The Author

Robin DiAngelo is an academic, lecturer, and author and has been a consultant and trainer on issues of racial and social justice for more than twenty years. She formerly served as a tenured professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University.

Additional information



10 reviews for White Fragility

  1. Timothy Clontz

    I am very reluctant to give a negative review, especially when the author is trying to be helpful. In places the author has correctly diagnosed a number of genuine problems.Merely being non-racist isn’t good enough, because you end up as a bystander when a bully is beating up on a victim; both covering your eyes and ears and refusing to acknowledge what the victim (of racism) is telling you is happening to them.If you haven’t been a victim you cannot fully understand being a victim. If you haven’t experienced the pervasiveness and constancy of negative bias both coming from other groups and even influencing your own view of yourself – then you will never completely comprehend. So in one respect a white person cannot truly say, “I get it.”Neither can you ever do enough to win a gold star and say you’ve done “enough” as long as racism exists.It’s like the Talmudic maxim: “you will never finish perfecting the world, but you are never free to stop trying.”If the book stopped there, it would be fine. Perhaps even excellent.But I give this book one star because it makes the problem worse.This book is like a bad date where the other person is accusing you of all of your failures, and when you try to make up, to do better, to understand more, to be fully engaged as an ally, you are continually pushed away.And then you are told to “breathe” and calm down. Surely you are getting upset and proving the thesis!Except that’s not what’s happening.Yes, whites don’t see racism because they aren’t a target of it. If you aren’t a racist, then you don’t hang around racists. And if you aren’t black then you don’t have it hurled in your face. 99% of the problem is created by 1% of whites who other whites don’t see.The same would be true for misogyny. 99% of rapes are caused by 1% of perps, and the 99% of innocent men don’t see it because the perps aren’t harassing them.So men need to listen without being defensive. Whites need to listen without being defensive. It’s wrong to say, “But I’m not doing it” as if that will make it go away.But it’s also wrong to say that the non-harassing men or the non-harassing whites are guilty BECAUSE of their innocence.No, they aren’t being bad. They are being clueless. And instead of being accused they need to be engaged.Especially when they WANT to listen and be helpful.In short, if someone wants to be your friend – let them.This book doesn’t invite engagement and doesn’t let the non-involved to become involved in affirmatively fighting racism. It turns a lot of would be allies away.Ultimately, it’s self defeating.We need more people aware of racism. We need more people fighting racism. We need the majority engaged in helping the minority, rather than being turned away.I’d give this book five stars if it were half as long. But it’s the flawed existentialism that makes this book a hindrance to people who should be friends, and would be friends, if they were allowed to be.

  2. JB

    This book is riddled with historical inaccuracies, such as black women being denied the vote until 1964, poor arguments, and a lack of any decent citations. This book did inspire me though. If something this bad can be published, anyone can write a book.

  3. MFV-Eugene, OR

    According to this author, those that are identified as white (not necessarily those who identify AS white) are guilty of racism and must be prepared to be tongue-lashed by her. It is curious that somehow denigrating a person by their skin color is not racist when done by a person of the same appearance. It is a popular book for those that need more of a reason to feel bad about themselves.Ironically, the subject is timely and through reading other sources of information on institutionalized racism, I have noticed many examples of this. The articles were well written and effective in that I was not made to feel that anything I did or said was automatically suspect and therefore invalid. A state of paralysis is not one from which change can occur.

  4. courtney pruner

    I anticipated after reading this book that I would gain a better understanding of why it is hard to talk about racism. However, the majority of the book focuses on generalizations about various groups of people.

  5. T.J. Pulsipher

    Complete Nonsense. Same old same old, this group of humans is incapable of being racist because of the color of their skin and this group of humans is incapable of not being racist because of the color of their skin. What a bore. If you’re having a hard time accepting your lot in life, a better use of your time may be spent reading up on personal accountability.

  6. Tracy C.

    I didn’t even want to give one star but that was my lowest option to rate this book. I disliked the book immensely, and not because I’m fragile as the author wants you to believe if you don’t agree with her ideas. I understood and even agreed with some of her thoughts on underlying unconscious racism and societal differences. What I dislike is her way of going about cutting down one group to raise another, her brush off of the serious advances society has made in race relations, and disregard to personal responsibility of actions but instead paints it as us against them. It’s a very destructive concept and does more harm than good. The underlying message to highlight how race has, and still, plays a role in society is important and should have been written as an article rather than this long nauseating book of constant barrage.

  7. Dick_Burkhart

    If you’re seeking insight on how to understand and fight against escalating exploitation and oppression by the US ruling class, look elsewhere. This book is a polemic, a work of guilt-tripping ideology, given to sweeping and unsubstantiated statements about “white supremacy” and “racism”. If this book were to use the religious language of the Puritans, “whiteness” would be the “original sin”.As a Unitarian-Universalist I am appalled by such ideology because I am dedicated to our first principle -“the inherent worth and dignity of every person”, regardless of social status or category. This includes not just “people of color” but the legions of “whites” who have suffered terribly despite the supposed safety net of “whiteness”. Unfortunately, ruling class whites are often condescending toward working class whites, and this book is no exception. When they are not ignored or treated rudely (DiAngelo) they may be called names like “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton) or even then unbelievably insulting “white trash” (the title of a book by Nancy Isenberg). And just think of all the derogatory names that are used for the homeless, who again are mostly white.Here’s an example of DiAngelo’s rude disrespect: An Italian American explained “that once Italians were once considered black and discriminated against, so didn’t I think white people experience racism too?” (p. 12). Instead of acknowledging and honoring the truth he spoke from his own lived experience, she changes the topic, accusing him of “refusing to examine his own whiteness today”. This is typical of the mental gymnastics that DiAngelo employs to evade the truths she hears that are “inconvenient” for her ideology of “whiteness”. In an earlier era Irish Americans could have said the same thing, and this has always been a felt-in-the-gut truth for poor whites.Although DiAngelo has an academic background, she unapologetically violates the canons of good scholarship, See, for example, the third essay of Todd Eklof in “The Gadfly Papers”, or the work of Johnathan Church, such as his article in Areo magazine on how “white-fragility-theory-mistakes-correlation-for-causation”. Instead she conveys an attitude of self-assured superiority, a provocateur who declares herself to be proud of her “identity politics”, dismissing criticism from “whites” as a product of their “white supremacy” or “racism” and labeling it “white fragility”. Brain-washed by such ideology, she is oblivious to how insulting terms the like “white supremacy” fuel the cultural wars, hence political gridlock, hence giving a free reign to predatory capitalism and escalating inequality.DiAngelo never acknowledges how her ideology “whiteness” serves two unsavory political purposes. The most obvious one is to divert attention from the color-blind nature of today’s predatory capitalism – how vulnerable whites are targeted far more than blacks simply because the whites have so much more to lose. The second becomes obvious once we reflect on the time-tested strategy of ruling classes to stay in power by “divide and conquer” tactics aimed at the populace. In the US, “racism” itself was born as such a construct in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, serving to divide white and black workers and turning the latter into dehumanized slaves. Today the cultural wars comprise a similar divide and conquer strategy, but this time dividing the white ruling class from its working class to create political gridlock. Here I use the term “ruling class” in its broadest sense, as roughly the top 10% to 20% of the population in income or wealth who have a college education, while using the rough definition of “working class” as those without a college degree, or about 2/3 of the population. As we learned in 2016, the political consequences can be dire indeed when progressives abandon their fundamental principles and the working class to embrace the self-serving strategies of the ruling class.

  8. Robert

    In light of George Floyd, I wanted to update my review of this book:I’m African-American and this book has changed my life. While DiAngelo openly states in the author’s notes that she is “mainly writing to a white audience”, I don’t think white people are ready for this book. And, deep down, the author must know this. Instead, I would posit the opposite: this book should be required reading for any person of color living in this country.I particularly found Chapter 9 and 10 informative. DiAngelo highlights examples of white fragility as well as ten rules of engagement that can be used a sociological green-book on how to navigate our interactions with white folks on the issue of race. These are rules of engagement that our children need to be taught because – let’s be honest with ourselves – white supremacy isn’t going anywhere. This book even has an entire chapter on how to deal with histrionic white women and their tears.This book also talked about white solidarity which particularly hit home for me. White solidarity is where white folks make excuses on why another white person’s racist behavior isn’t racist and/or refuse call each other on racism. That was my entire graduate school experience, and it left me tears. During my first semester, I was working in a lab at night and had the police called on on me while in the middle of mixing reagents. Someone had reported that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Luckily, the officers were understanding and left without incident. When I mentioned this my graduate advisor, she was indifferent and suggested that I do experiments in the mornings and afternoons. When I mentioned how was this racism in the graduate office, the other graduate students just got angry or made excuses. Later that year, I had knocked on the door of another faculty member, we had a brief but otherwise ordinary conversation about an assignment and I left. There was no indication that there was anything wrong. The next day, I was called in the the Dean’s office and was told the said faculty member said I was “aggressive”. I was confused. Apparently, I had knocked on her door too loudly. The said faculty member made a huge show of being afraid of me, she would only meet with me in the main office (not her personal office) with the door open and demanded that Dean sit in on the lecture. It was a mess. I ended up getting my master’s (I was a doctoral student) and ran far as I could from academia. I write all of this to say that if I read this book before hand, it would’ve known what to expect from white folks when it comes to race. If I had this read book, I would never had looked to white folks for validation on the issues of race. I would never had to carry that baggage of stress, self-doubt, and poor self-esteem all those years. And, that itself, would’ve changed my life’s trajectory.My only small, frivolous, insignificant, petulant quibble is that there isn’t an index, so I’m rereading it again with a highlighter. Thank you for what you do.

  9. Nate Sugarcane

    DiAngelo, like Tim Wise, Cheryl Matias and others, is a professional race-baiting huckster. She makes a living traveling the country telling white people how awful they are, how morally superior she is, and how if white people pay ridiculously expensive fees to attend her lectures, they too can be a “good” white person like her.Why is it so hard to talk about race? Because any discussion where you are cast immediately as the villain likely isn’t going to be a very productive conversation.What is white fragility? White fragility is standing up for yourself against unsubstantiated charges of racism. If a black or brown person makes an ignorant statement regarding you, your family, your life’s experiences or whatever, and you defend yourself as any normal person would….well, that’s white fragility. What you should be doing is to just take it. Admit you are born evil as a member of a race of pale face demons and accept the charges that are being leveled against you. That’s being woke!You see, anti-racism activism used to be directed towards people who were……you know, racist? However, that changed over the last couple decades as more virulent strains of post-modernism and cultural Marxism infected the movement. Now, the idea of all white people being racist is championed and supported within the annals of academia. You don’t have to nurse a hatred of black or brown people to be racist. All you have to be is white. You have a plethora of extremely vague terms regarding supposed “systems” and “structures” that are poorly defined and not nearly as well illustrated as intended. Indeed, the definition of racism was surreptitiously changed to a “correct” redefinition of a whites-only enterprise of power plus privilege while other ideologies such as feminism curiously maintained their original dictionary description.Critical race theorists have insisted that white privilege, whiteness studies, etc. are not meant to foster a sense of a guilt and shame amongst white people. It’s blatantly clear when you peel back the layers that that is precisely the end goal. They tell you that you – the individual white person – are part of the problem. You have to admit your original sin, and then you’ll come into the light. They don’t do a very good job hiding their true intentions.And what’s up with so-called “allyship”? Allies are supposed to be members of a mutual pact, not a one-sided arrangement of praise and apologies.On the subject of fragility, I find it very amusing and ironic when you consider that if DiAngelo or Wise were to speak at a college campus or university, they won’t have to worry about a horde of angry white students disrupting their lectures, storming the lecture halls, pulling fire alarms, drowning out the speakers with chants, etc. Fragility is rife on campus life these days. Safe spaces, protests over racist incidents that turn out to be hoaxes perpetrated by the “victims”, and so on. Who are the real fragile ones here?At the end of the day, DiAngelo’s end goal won’t be realized. Sure, coastal white liberals who are down with the cause might think that people like her are creating change, but it’s simply not working. Far too many white people whose lives aren’t full of ease and privilege will not take kindly to such dumb bigotry wrapped up in fancy academic terms. Critical race theory, like so many related “isms” in the social justice lexicon, is simply building up its own funeral pyre.

  10. Rev. David Price

    I am a white pastor who is a part of a team that fights against racism within the church. Engaged in public education in Christian circles has been a sobering experience as white people hide behind their belief to support their fragility and prejudice. This book provided me with personal insight that I have never before encountered. The insight is that as a white man, I carry racism and the benefits of white privilege with me all the time. This understanding deepens my empathy and awareness when working with others from all social and racial backgrounds. I need to be consciously “less-white” and seek honest feedback from minority groups.If you are interested in reconciliation and peace-making this book is for you. Be brave and look at yourself as you read it. DiAngelo has given the reader an opportunity for personal growth and insight. This book’s insight is a big step toward white maturity and relational peace.

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