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This is finna be a thread on the pushback against White Fragility.
As books on racism take over the bestseller lists, there’s inevitable debate about which books make it there & whether they deserve it. I commented on the critique re: “How to Be Antiracist” a few days ago. Now let’s talk about White Fragility.
I am a clinical psychologist, as is Robin DiAngelo. Never met her but admired her work for a good 15+ years. She’s been doing it since before it was profitable or popular.
She’s written other books but they’re hard to find. I was glad to finally read something of hers when #whitefragility came out. DiAngelo is credited with creating the term in a 2011 paper. I used it as a source for #IBringtheVoices in the chapter on whiteness.
The book has been #1 on the NYT list for the past few weeks as white ppl try to learn more about racism. There’s legitimate reason to critique white people’s reliance on a white person to teach them about racism.
BIPOC watch this play out all the time. White ppl are always more comfortable patronizing their own, despite denying racial solidarity/identity. It’s why Elvis, NKOTB, & *NSYNC outsold Chuck Berry, New Edition, & BTK. White people prefer Black music/dance performed by White ppl.
It’s also why a few weeks ago we learned that White 1st time authors routinely get better advances than Black genius authors like @rgay & @nkjemisin. It’s why American Dirt exists.
White Fragility isn’t critical race theory or history. It doesn’t explain how racism works or historicize it. It focuses on white people’s routinely ridiculous & utterly predictable reactions to talking about racism.
It’s a quick read that offers little education re: racism or even guidance on what to do with white fragility. There are other authors who do that well, including @ruthkingmindful, @rvmagee, @lamarod1, & Layla Saad.
Should White Fragility be number one? No. There are plenty of other quick reads that do far more, all pretty much written by Black women. And many not-so-quick reads that are WAY more educative.
But just because it shouldn’t be #1 doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. DiAngelo’s book is helpful for many ppl. I used it as a source for #IBringtheVoices because it’s conceptualization of white fragility being a tool - not just an artifact - of white supremacy is excellent.
The term white fragility is commonplace now, but it hasn’t always been. DiAngelo helped with that & deserves credit for that, even as others have expanded/challenged/elucidated the idea more (kind of like we do with #intersectionality).
And also, we can’t have it both ways. We keep yelling for White ppl to do their own work, to stop putting the onus for educating themselves & others abt racism on BIPOC. Are we saying that we don’t want that education to include writing books?
It’s important for White ppl to talk & write about their racial experiences because there’s some elements of White privilege that BIPOC are not privy to. In convos with White friends about race, I’ve learned ways they were benefiting from White supremacy that I hadn’t fathomed.
For example, I thought it was standard operating procedure for police to approach cars with their hands on their guns at traffic stops. I also had no idea that White women get refunds for $400 purses w/o receipts when those purses sustain damage months after original purchase.
Those are small, not book worthy examples. But White ppl such as @drjenharvey @debbyirving & Shannon Sullivan write about whiteness in ways that expand the conversation. That type of writing is important.
FYI that’s not the same as White ppl learning they are White in 2018 and writing a book about racism in 2019. Or getting book & speaking gigs because they moved in a Black neighborhood. Cause that happens. A lot. It’s utter BS. But white ppl stay white ppling.
I don’t think DiAngelo is just white ppling, though. Her voice is a good one. And White people need to read specifically about Whiteness in their readings about racism.
The danger is White ppl reading one book (whether it’s DiAngelo or Kendi) and assuming they’ve done their due diligence. But folks who do that ain’t about that antiracist life anyway so who cares what they read.
In conclusion, read white ppl’s books on race if they’re helpful. You won’t know if they’re helpful until you read them. But also read lots of BIPOC, especially Black women. And not even just “any” Black women, but the radical ones.
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