White fragility is a powerful tool to silence conversations on race, says author

Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism?

White academic Dr Robin DiAngelo has written book that explores white people's aversion to discussing racial issues.

Her book, titled White Fragility, has been a US bestseller and sparked important discussions on whiteness in America.

Dr DiAngelo, who is currently in South Africa for speaking engagements, describes white fragility as "an everyday white racial bullying".

She says, for many white people, simply suggesting that being white has meaning will cause great umbrage and defensiveness.

This white fragility, characterised by hostility, defensiveness, anger and refusal to engage, is a powerful tool to silence people of colour and prevent discussions around race, power and the racial hierarchy.

Dr DiAngelo says when white people claim not to "see colour", they are actually denying the realities of marginalised black people.

The fragility part is meant to capture how little it takes to cause white people to melt down on the topic of race.

Dr Robin DiAngelo, Academic and author

The upset, the defensiveness and the tears are not fragile at all in their impact. They're incredibly powerful ways to basically silence the discussion.

Dr Robin DiAngelo, Academic and author

Things tend to get worse for people of colour who try to bring this up.

Dr Robin DiAngelo, Academic and author

I'm clear that I will not be free of my racist conditioning in my lifetime. I'm not defensive anymore when people point it out.

Dr Robin DiAngelo, Academic and author

Sociologist Dr DiAngelo has worked as a diversity trainer across America for more than 20 years.

She has a PhD in multicultural education.

Listen to the conversation on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : White fragility is a powerful tool to silence conversations on race, says author


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