A client recommended I read this book and, to be honest, it made me extremely uncomfortable thinking I needed it.
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’” (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
I mean, I’d always thought of myself as open-minded and focused on inclusion and diversity.
Surely I was not racist; I had African American friends.
I am here to tell you that my entire perspective was changed after reading this book, and every leader or business person who aspires to be mindful and conscious must read it.
Many of us go through inclusion and diversity training—our corporate training was an online video that we checked the box on once a year. They went over things like not making sexual jokes or touching people inappropriately.
But what they don’t cover are the more complex realities of a multi-racial workplace where overt racism has evolved to more subtle and unconscious bias that still create oppressive workplaces.
Think about it.
Go to the medicine cabinet at your office and pull out a Band-Aid.
What color is it?
Most likely it’s what’s called a “flesh” tone. But who decided that “flesh tone” means the light color that will disappear over Caucasian skin? And have you thought about what message your organization is indirectly sending to your employees of color?
I bet you haven’t even had to think about this reality. And I hardly doubt that your employer is overtly trying to be racist.
Most workplaces cater to the experiences of Caucasians, and this needs to be addressed.
Millennials will be the most diverse population that has ever lived, and we better start understanding diversity and inclusion in the most real sense now where everyone has an equal chance to thrive… And for most of us, that means learning the unconscious and subconscious beliefs that we have and act on that harm employees.
What I learned from this book is that you do not need to be qualified as a “bad person to be racist.” Most of us have grown up with a certain privilege that we don’t even understand others do not have. We unconsciously create and reinforce cultures that oppress without knowingly doing it.
The next round of leadership must understand real diversity and inclusion, not just treat it as a checkbox once a year.