Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Reviewed by Meilee Anderson
Recent headlines shattered my perception of our country. A string of questions raced through my mind. A sense of uneasiness pervaded my thoughts. What is going on in my country? How is racism so alive and well in 2020? Why does this country continue to feel polarized, alarmingly polarized? What does systemic racism really mean? What can we do about it? Do I go to a protest? During a pandemic? And would I be welcomed? What can I do to be a better advocate? The list was long, the unanswered questions were many.
I saw recommended reading lists with titles written by activists in the space of racial equality appear in my social media feeds. My library compiled a list of 27 books on racism and Black History. Without hesitation I knew what to do. I began to work my way through the lists. I started with the New York Times best-seller, White Fragility.
The book is short, 129 pages. I chose to listen to the six-hour audiobook version narrated by Amy Landon. The book made me cringe, cry, and shake my head in dismay. There were times I would sit slack jawed, wide-eyed in denial or disbelief. There were times I’d stop to take a deep breath, then continue to explore my reactions and assumptions about race. I absolutely recommend this book. This book answers relevant questions we may not be asking ourselves but should.
My advice to readers (or listeners) is when you dive into this book if you feel yourself stiffen with defensiveness, or denial…pause. Take a minute to consciously decide not to react. Just read. Just listen. Just sit with the words. It’s ok to be uncomfortable.
I felt challenged, but not attacked by the eye-opening examples DiAngelo shares in her book. White Fragility is written by a white woman and is intended for a white audience. The author uses facts, statistics, and examples from her experience in leading diversity workshops. I appreciated the way the author modeled how to receive feedback.
After reading White Fragility I read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I now feel as if I completed college level classes on the history of racism and attended an intensive workshop on diversity. The content in White Fragility is thought provoking, sobering, and humbling. I am so glad I read this book and the other titles that followed. I want to understand our current events, know the history behind the headlines, and be a better advocate. I want context. I hope you do too.
Stay tuned for more reviews on this relevant and important topic.
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