30 Quotes from White Fragility book by Robin DiAngelo



Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the New York Times bestseller book - White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

White Fragility is a groundbreaking book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality.

Chapter 1-3 Quotes

I have never met a white person without an opinion on racism. It's not really possible to grow up in the United States or spend any significant time here - or any other culture with a history of Western colonization - without developing opinions on racism. And white people's opinions on racism tend to be strong. - White Fragility, Chapter 1

Interrupting the forces of racism is ongoing, lifelong work because the forces conditioning us into racist frameworks are always at play; our learning will never be finished. - White Fragility, Chapter 1

I expect that white readers will have moments of discomfort reading this book. This feeling may be a sign that I've managed to unsettle the racial status quo, which is my goal. The racial status quo is comfortable for white people, and we will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable. The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort. We can use it as a door out - blame the messenger and disregard the message. Or we can use it as a door in by asking, Why does this unsettle me? What would it mean for me if this were true? How does this lens change my understanding of racial dynamics? - White Fragility, Chapter 1

The idea of race as a biological construct makes it easy to believe that many of the divisions we see in society are natural. But race, like gender, is socially constructed. The differences we see with our eyes - differences such as hair texture and eye color - are superficial and emerged as adaptations to geography. Under the skin, there is no true biological race. The external characteristics that we use to define race are unreliable indicators of genetic variation between any two people. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

Freedom and equality - regardless of religion or class status - were radical new ideas when the United States was formed. At the same time, the US economy was based on the abduction and enslavement of African people, the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people, and the annexation of Mexican lands. [...] The tension between the noble ideology of equality and the cruel reality of genocide, enslavement, and colonization had to be reconciled. Thomas Jefferson and others turned to science. [...] If science could prove that black people were naturally and inherently inferior, there would be no contradiction between our professed ideals and our actual practices. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

The metaphor of the United States as the great melting pot, in which immigrants from around the world come together and melt into one unified society through the process of assimilation, is a cherished idea. Once new immigrants learn English and adapt to American culture and customs, they become Americans. In reality, only European immigrants were allowed to melt, or assimilate, into dominant culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because, regardless of their ethnic identities, these immigrants were perceived to be white and thus could belong. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

When a racial group's collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

People of color may also hold prejudices and discriminate against white people, but they lack the social and institutional power that transforms their prejudice and discrimination into racism; the impact of their prejudice on whites is temporary and contextual. Whites hold the social and institutional positions in society to infuse their racial prejudice into the laws, policies, practices, and norms of society in a way that people of color do not. A person of color may refuse to wait on me if I enter a shop, but people of color cannot pass legislation that prohibits me and everyone like me from buying a home in a certain neighborhood. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

The dimensions of racism benefiting white people are usually invisible to whites. We are unaware of, or do not acknowledge, the meaning of race and its impact on our own lives. Thus we do not recognize or admit to white privilege and the norms that produce and maintain it. It follows that to name whiteness [...] will be deeply disconcerting and destabilizing, thus triggering the protective responses of white fragility. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of color; it is the deeper premise that supports this idea - the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm. - White Fragility, Chapter 2

Today we have a cultural norm that insists we hide our racism from people of color and deny it among ourselves, but not that we actually challenge it. In fact, we are socially penalized for challenging racism. - White Fragility, Chapter 3

Chapter 4-6 Quotes

White solidarity is the unspoken agreement among whites to protect white advantage and not cause another white person to feel racial discomfort by confronting them when they say or do something racially problematic. White solidarity requires both silence about anything that exposes the advantages of the white position and tacit agreement to remain racially united in the protection of white supremacy. To break white solidarity is to break rank. - White Fragility, Chapter 4

It has not been African Americans who resist integration efforts; it has always been whites. The practice of our lives as a white collective has rarely been in alignment with the values we profess. - White Fragility, Chapter 4

For those of us who work to raise the racial consciousness of whites, simply getting whites to acknowledge that our race gives us advantages is a major effort. The defensiveness, denial, and resistance are deep. - White Fragility, Chapter 4

Upward mobility is the great class goal in the United States, and the social environment gets tangibly whiter the higher up you climb. Whiter environments, in turn, are seen as the most desirable. - White Fragility, Chapter 4

The most profound message of racial segregation may be that the absence of people of color from our lives is no real loss. Not one person who loved me, guided me, or taught me ever conveyed that segregation deprived me of anything of value. I could live my entire life without a friend or loved one of color and not see that as a diminishment of my life. - White Fragility, Chapter 4

As a culture, we don’t claim that gender roles and gender conditioning disappear the moment we love someone of the "opposite" gender. [...] Yet when the topic is race, we claim that it is completely inoperative if there is any level of fond regard. In an even more ludicrous form of reality, we even go as far as to claim that racial conditioning disappears if we can calmly walk by people of color on the streets of large cities. - White Fragility, Chapter 5

Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness. [...] there was no concept of race or a white race before the need to justify the enslavement of Africans. Creating a separate and inferior black race simultaneously created the "superior" white race: one concept could not exist without the other. In this sense, whites need black people; blackness is essential to the creation of white identity. - White Fragility, Chapter 6

Anti-blackness is rooted in misinformation, fables, perversions, projections, and lies. It is also rooted in a lack of historical knowledge and an inability or unwillingness to trace the effects of history into the present. But perhaps most fundamentally, anti-blackness comes from deep guilt about what we have done and continue to do; the unbearable knowledge of our complicity with the profound torture of black people from past to present. - White Fragility, Chapter 6

I believe that the white collective fundamentally hates blackness for what it reminds us of: that we are capable and guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains come through the subjugation of others. We have a particular hatred for "uppity" blacks, those who dare to step out of their place and look us in the eye as equals. - White Fragility, Chapter 6

White racial socialization engenders many conflicting feelings toward African Americans: benevolence, resentment, superiority, hatred, and guilt roil barely below the surface and erupt at the slightest breach, yet can never be explicitly acknowledged. Our need to deny the bewildering manifestations of anti-blackness that reside so close to the surface makes us irrational, and that irrationality is at the heart of white fragility and the pain it causes people of color. - White Fragility, Chapter 6

Chapter 7-9 Quotes

White fragility may be conceptualized as a response or "condition" produced and reproduced by the continual social and material advantages of whiteness. When disequilibrium occurs [...] white fragility restores equilibrium and returns the capital "lost" via the challenge. This capital includes self-image, control, and white solidarity. Anger toward the trigger, shutting down and/or tuning out, indulgence in emotional incapacitation such as guilt or "hurt feelings," exiting, or a combination of these responses results. Again, these strategies are reflexive and seldom conscious, but that does not make them benign. - White Fragility, Chapter 7

The continual retreat from the discomfort of authentic racial engagement in a culture in which racial disparity is infused limits white people’s ability to form authentic connections across racial lines and perpetuates a cycle that keeps racism in place. - White Fragility, Chapter 8

White equilibrium is a cocoon of racial comfort, centrality, superiority, entitlement, racial apathy, and obliviousness, all rooted in an identity of being good people free of racism. Challenging this cocoon throws off our racial balance. Because being racially off balance is so rare, we have not had to build the capacity to sustain the discomfort. Thus, whites find these challenges unbearable and want them to stop. - White Fragility, Chapter 8

White fragility functions as a form of bullying; I am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me - no matter how diplomatically you try to do so - that you will simply back off, give up, and never raise the issue again. White fragility keeps people of color in line and "in their place." In this way, it is a powerful form of white racial control. - White Fragility, Chapter 8

Chapter 10-12 Quotes

White fragility punishes the person giving feedback and presses them back into silence. It also maintains white solidarity - the tacit agreement that we will protect white privilege and not hold each other accountable for our racism. When the individual giving the feedback is a person of color, the charge is "playing the race card," and the consequences of white fragility are much more penalizing. - White Fragility, Chapter 10

Stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don’t have them. We do have them, and people of color already know we have them; our efforts to prove otherwise are not convincing. An honest accounting of these patterns is no small task given the power of white fragility and white solidarity, but it is necessary. - White Fragility, Chapter 10

Whether intended or not, when a white woman cries over some aspect of racism, all the attention immediately goes to her, demanding time, energy, and attention from everyone in the room when they should be focused on ameliorating racism. While she is given attention, the people of color are yet again abandoned and/or blamed. - White Fragility, Chapter 11

Because racism does not rely solely on individual actors, the racist system is reproduced automatically. To interrupt it, we need to recognize and challenge the norms, structures, and institutions that keep it in place. But because they benefit us, racially inequitable relations are comfortable for most white people. Consequently, if we whites want to interrupt this system, we have to get racially uncomfortable and be willing to examine the effects of our racial engagement. - White Fragility, Chapter 11

To break with the conditioning of whiteness - the conditioning that makes us apathetic about racism and prevents us from developing the skills we need to interrupt it - white people need to find out for themselves what they can do. There is so much excellent advice out there today - written by both people of color and white people. Search it out. Break with the apathy of whiteness, and demonstrate that you care enough to put in the effort. - White Fragility, Chapter 12

Cited Quotes

By according whiteness an actual legal status, an aspect of identity was converted into an external object of property, moving whiteness from privileged identity to a vested interest. The law's construction of whiteness defined and affirmed critical aspects of identity; of privilege; and, of property. Whiteness at various times signifies and is deployed as identity, status, and property, sometimes singularly, sometimes in tandem. - Cheryl Harris (race scholar), as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 2

To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying. - Ta-Nehisi Coates, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 2

Both globally and within particular nation states, then, white people, Europeans and their descendants, continue to benefit from the Racial Contract, which creates a world in their cultural image, political states differentially favoring their interests, an economy structured around the racial exploitation of others, and a moral psychology skewed consciously or unconsciously toward privileging them, taking the status quo of differing racial entitlement as normatively legitimate, and not to be investigated further. - Charles W. Mills, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 2

I don't want you to understand me better; I want you to understand yourselves. Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it's required your ignorance. - Ijeoma Oluo, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 4

Racism is a systemic, societal, institutional, omnipresent, and epistemologically embedded phenomenon that pervades every vestige of our reality. For most whites, however, racism is like murder: the concept exists, but someone has to commit it in order for it to happen. This limited view of such a multilayered syndrome cultivates the sinister nature of racism and, in fact, perpetuates racist phenomena rather than eradicates them. - Omowale Akintunde, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 5

But all our phrasing - race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy - serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth [...] You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body. - Ta-Nehisi Coates, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 6

The early American economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer. And this destruction did not end with slavery. - Ta-Nehisi Coates, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 6

The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. - Carol Anderson, as quoted in White Fragility, Chapter 6