... a messy, complex story—which reflects the nature of the circumstances. She presents a compelling account of the benefits of diverse, integrated schools: Maya thrives academically, and her social life explodes as she makes friends across racially, culturally and ethnically diverse groups. And yet, Learning in Public is more credible because it also grapples with how the arrival of well-resourced, well-meaning White families isn’t always an inevitable, unalloyed good ... we also need accounts like Martin’s: better cultural models for how White families can show up in schools, not as saviors or anxious hoarders of opportunity, but as people participating equally in a community with peers of all backgrounds.
... aimed at fellow upper-middle-class white progressives eager to confront their 'white fragility' ... The word brave gets used a lot in Martin’s book, and the idea of bravery gets performed a lot in DiAngelo’s book, as she time and again steps in as savior to her Black friends, who apparently need a bold white person to take over the wearisome task of educating unselfaware, well-meaning white people ... everything she notices about whiteness has been noticed by Black writers before her. DiAngelo’s whiteness is her not-so-secret sauce, giving her crucial entrée to audiences who, as she puts it, 'are more likely to be open to initial challenges to [their] racial position …from a fellow white person' ... How we have wished that white people would leave us out of their self-preoccupied, ham-fisted, kindergarten-level discussions of race. But be careful what you wish for. To anyone who has been conscious of race for a lifetime, these books can’t help feeling less brave than curiously backward ... Her account is cringey in its many blind spots. She’s also hyperaware that it has blind spots. Does that mean we are not allowed to cringe? ... She’s acerbically self-deprecating, sharp in her observations ... Martin strains to be transparent about her own 'mistakes and shortcomings' ... Martin admits all her wrongdoings before we can get to her (those footnotes, of which there are surprisingly few, seem to be reserved for glaring missteps). And yet, despite the mea culpas and disclaimers and self-deprecating acknowledgments of all the ways she fails, she goes ahead and writes a book about race barely more than a year into her real-world odyssey of wokeness. And she continually reverts to a binary and reductive racialized shorthand—a sign that she is having a harder time shaking off her white blinders than she realizes ... When Martin finally arrives at the promised land of Black public school and surrounds herself and her child with actual Black people, they come across as flat, kindly stock figures—props who serve to illustrate whatever anti-racist point she’s trying to make ... Martin’s impulse to idealize Black people as fonts of needed wisdom has a counterpoint: She can’t seem to help pathologizing Black people as victims awaiting rescue. Her account implicitly conflates class and race; Blackness is a blanket term that somehow comes to equal poverty, as though wealthy and highly educated Black people don’t exist. Martin recognizes the problem—that the fearful white imagination has trouble seeing Black people as individuals—but she continually reinforces these ideas in her narrative ... Martin just can’t shake her patronizing belief that Black people need her to save them. Her effort to build on a friendship between her daughter and the son of a single Black father at the school unfolds like a salvation fantasy ... The world these writers evoke is one in which white people remain the center of the story and Black people are at the margins, poor, stiff, and dignified, with little better to do than open their homes and hearts to white women on journeys to racial self-awareness.
Martin’s musings sometimes read as self-involved, but the narrative will resonate with like-minded (particularly white) parents in similar economic situations ... The author’s choice to share her own story is laudable, and her work effectively unpacks the ways white Americans engage in racist and economically disadvantaging structures. It is, by design, a largely one-sided narrative, but one that many readers, especially parents of young children, will appreciate.