In a new book, White Fragility,, DiAngelo attempts to explicate the phenomenon of white people’s paper-thin skin. She argues that our largely segregated society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress—such as, for instance, when someone suggests that 'flesh-toned' may not be an appropriate name for a beige crayon ... The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance. Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work. For all the paranoid American theories of being 'red-pilled,' of awakening into a many-tentacled liberal/feminist/Jewish conspiracy, the most corrosive force, the ectoplasm infusing itself invisibly through media and culture and politics, is white supremacy.
The advice in White Fragility is fairly straightforward—which is not, of course, the same thing as easy to act on. DiAngelo wants white people to abandon ideas of racism as a matter of individuals being good or bad, moral or immoral. To accept that we surely have unconscious investments in whiteness—investments we might not yet fully understand. To seek out the perspectives of people of color, embrace the discomfort that might result, and avoid confusing that discomfort with literal danger. To start uncomfortable conversations with family and friends. To breathe slowly. And, perhaps most important, to remember that we should do all this not for people of color, but instead for ourselves, in the spirit of honesty and truth-telling ... It is easy to overstate the value of 'conversations about race' and, in the process, de-emphasize the need for material change. But it is hard to deny that a great many new conversations are likely needed, particularly within white families and social circles. The number of conversations coaxed into existence by DiAngelo's work will be a central measure of its success. I hope it is a great one.
She explains that the book is primarily intended for white audiences to aid in 'building our stamina' for tolerating these discussions in order to challenge racism. Diangelo brings together personal experiences, extensive research, and real-world examples—including missteps she herself has made, such as joking inappropriately about a black colleague’s hair—to demonstrate how entrenched racism remains a societal norm in institutions and white people’s mindsets, including supposedly 'colorblind' thinking and behavior. Her analysis effectively challenges the widespread notion that 'only intentionally mean people can participate in racism'; rather, she explains, racism is 'deeply embedded in the fabric of our society.' She ends with a step-by-step blueprint for confronting and dismantling one’s own white fragility to try to 'interrupt' racism ... 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.