White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism


Dr. Robin DiAngelo explains why white people implode when talking about race.

I am white. I have spent years studying what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race. This is what I have learned: Any white person living in the United States will develop opinions about race simply by swimming in the water of our culture. But mainstream sources—schools, textbooks, media—don’t provide us with the multiple perspectives we need.

Yes, we will develop strong emotionally laden opinions, but they will not be informed opinions. Our socialization renders us racially illiterate. When you add a lack of humility to that illiteracy (because we don’t know what we don’t know), you get the break-down we so often see when trying to engage white people in meaningful conversations about race.

Yes, we will develop strong emotionally laden opinions, but they will not be informed opinions. Our socialization renders us racially illiterate.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. But this definition does little to explain how racial hierarchies are consistently reproduced.

Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system—a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society.

While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group. Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. This distinction—between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power—is fundamental. One cannot understand how racism functions in the U.S. today if one ignores group power relations.

We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good.

This systemic and institutional control allows those of us who are white in North America to live in a social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress. We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good. Thus, we move through a wholly racialized world with an unracialized identity (e.g. white people can represent all of humanity, people of color can only represent their racial selves).

Challenges to this identity become highly stressful and even intolerable. The following are examples of the kinds of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people:

  • Suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference (challenge to objectivity);
  • People of color talking directly about their own racial perspectives (challenge to white taboos on talking openly about race);
  • People of color choosing not to protect the racial feelings of white people in regards to race (challenge to white racial expectations and need/entitlement to racial comfort);
  • People of color not being willing to tell their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences (challenge to the expectation that people of color will serve us);
  • A fellow white not providing agreement with one’s racial perspective (challenge to white solidarity);
  • Receiving feedback that one’s behavior had a racist impact (challenge to white racial innocence);
  • Suggesting that group membership is significant (challenge to individualism);
  • An acknowledgment that access is unequal between racial groups (challenge to meritocracy);
  • Being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority);
  • Being presented with information about other racial groups through, for example, movies in which people of color drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles, or multicultural education (challenge to white centrality).

Not often encountering these challenges, we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. I term that push back white fragility.

588x350 Anger_during_a_protest_by_David_Shankbone

David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

This concept came out of my on-going experience leading discussions on race, racism, white privilege and white supremacy with primarily white audiences. It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews.

We can manage the first round of challenge by ending the discussion through platitudes—usually something that starts with “People just need to,” or “Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,” or “Everybody’s racist.” Scratch any further on that surface, however, and we fall apart.

It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews.

Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either not consciously aware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We experience a challenge to our racial worldview as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. It also challenges our sense of rightful place in the hierarchy. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as a very unsettling and unfair moral offense.

The following patterns make it difficult for white people to understand racism as a system and lead to the dynamics of white fragility. While they do not apply to every white person, they are well-documented overall:

Segregation: Most whites live, grow, play, learn, love, work and die primarily in social and geographic racial segregation. Yet, our society does not teach us to see this as a loss. Pause for a moment and consider the magnitude of this message: We lose nothing of value by having no cross-racial relationships. In fact, the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as “good.” The implicit message is that there is no inherent value in the presence or perspectives of people of Color. This is an example of the relentless messages of white superiority that circulate all around us, shaping our identities and worldviews.

The Good/Bad Binary: The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people. If we are not aware of having negative thoughts about people of color, don’t tell racist jokes, are nice people, and even have friends of color, then we cannot be racist. Thus, a person is either racist or not racist; if a person is racist, that person is bad; if a person is not racist, that person is good. Although racism does of course occur in individual acts, these acts are part of a larger system that we all participate in. The focus on individual incidences prevents the analysis that is necessary in order to challenge this larger system. The good/bad binary is the fundamental misunderstanding driving white defensiveness about being connected to racism. We simply do not understand how socialization and implicit bias work.

Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today.  It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.

In fact, the whiter our schools and neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to be seen as “good.” The implicit message is that there is no inherent value in the presence or perspectives of people of Color.

Entitlement to racial comfort: In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and thus have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so. We have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort (usually a person of color). This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of responses towards the perceived source of the discomfort, including: penalization; retaliation; isolation and refusal to continue engagement. Since racism is necessarily uncomfortable in that it is oppressive, white insistence on racial comfort guarantees racism will not be faced except in the most superficial of ways.

Racial Arrogance: Most whites have a very limited understanding of racism because we have not been trained to think in complex ways about it and because it benefits white dominance not to do so. Yet, we have no compunction about debating the knowledge of people who have thought complexly about race. Whites generally feel free to dismiss these informed perspectives rather than have the humility to acknowledge that they are unfamiliar, reflect on them further, or seek more information.

Racial Belonging: White people enjoy a deeply internalized, largely unconscious sense of racial belonging in U.S. society. In virtually any situation or image deemed valuable in dominant society, whites belong. The interruption of racial belonging is rare and thus destabilizing and frightening to whites and usually avoided.

Psychic freedom: Because race is constructed as residing in people of color, whites don’t bear the social burden of race. We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized. Race is for people of color to think about—it is what happens to “them”—they can bring it up if it is an issue for them (although if they do, we can dismiss it as a personal problem, the race card, or the reason for their problems). This allows whites much more psychological energy to devote to other issues and prevents us from developing the stamina to sustain attention on an issue as charged and uncomfortable as race.

Because race is constructed as residing in people of color, whites don’t bear the social burden of race. We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized.

Constant messages that we are more valuable: Living in a white dominant context, we receive constant messages that we are better and more important than people of color. For example: our centrality in history textbooks, historical representations and perspectives; our centrality in media and advertising; our teachers, role-models, heroes and heroines; everyday discourse on “good” neighborhoods and schools and who is in them; popular TV shows centered around friendship circles that are all white; religious iconography that depicts God, Adam and Eve, and other key figures as white. While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture.

These privileges and the white fragility that results prevent us from listening to or comprehending the perspectives of people of color and bridging cross-racial divides. The antidote to white fragility is on-going and life-long, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education. We can begin by:

  • Being willing to tolerate the discomfort associated with an honest appraisal and discussion of our internalized superiority and racial privilege.
  • Challenging our own racial reality by acknowledging ourselves as racial beings with a particular and limited perspective on race.
  • Attempting to understand the racial realities of people of color through authentic interaction rather than through the media or unequal relationships.
  • Taking action to address our own racism, the racism of other whites, and the racism embedded in our institutions—e.g., get educated and act.
The antidote to white fragility is on-going and life-long, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education.

“Getting it” when it comes to race and racism challenges our very identities as good white people. It’s an ongoing and often painful process of seeking to uncover our socialization at its very roots. It asks us to rebuild this identity in new and often uncomfortable ways. But I can testify that it is also the most exciting, powerful, intellectually stimulating and emotionally fulfilling journey I have ever undertaken. It has impacted every aspect of my life—personal and professional.

I have a much deeper and more complex understanding of how society works. I can challenge much more racism in my daily life, and I have developed cherished and fulfilling cross-racial friendships I did not have before.

I do not expect racism to end in my lifetime, and I know that I continue to have problematic racist patterns and perspectives. Yet, I am also confident that I do less harm to people of color than I used to. This is not a minor point of growth, for it impacts my lived experience and that of the people of color who interact with me. If you are white I urge you to take the first step—let go of your racial certitude and reach for humility.

Also by Dr. Robin D’Angelo: White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement
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Photo: Getty Images



  1. Jason Colbourne says:

    I womder who this author believes is a better example? What group provides us a role model of being collectively shamed, blamed and held accountable for their people’s actions?

    Jeliteon Olsean Whites didn’t invent slavery, but they did end it. Whites are among the only group who have decided to be multi-cultural, purposefully let other ethnic groups occupy their lands. (Well, I guess the United Arab Emirates is 80% foreign nationals, but they don’t grant them full citizenship) Is there any other group on earth that constantly blames and shames themselves for being ‘privileged’ In their own land? ( which is mostly due to being a majority, just like any group in the world is ‘privileged’ for being a majority in their own country.) would any other group tolerate other ethnic groups moving in, then constantly criticizing and blaming them for not making their lives perfect? It is precisely whites lack of strong racism that allows them to be bullied into letting other groups define them on their behalf. If arabs moved to Japan (which was colonized by the Chinese. The Ainu are Japan’s native people) and sought to dismantle ‘Japanese supremacy’, instill Japanese guilt, forced them to apologize for the crimes of the past, elect them to offices and put them in charge of companies, demanding equal representation in the their corporate world, no one would stand for it. The fact that whites do shows just how not racist they are.

  2. The two cultures are so far apart in perspective, that a conversation at this point, is meaningless. I’m white and twice a year ( only to justify african americans fear ) have to sit through eeo sensitivity courses. Subject matter only seems to fuel the black cultures grievances. White Privelege, racial discrimination, minority hiring, institutional racism, and the need for continued minority hiring.

    That’s the conversation.

    It will continue to stay that way. Let’s not fool ourselves.

    Does anybody really believe Blacks are going to ever raise a mirror? I doubt it.

    Whomever is to blame for racial strife today, I can only be greatful my community believes in family, education, and hard work. The race card has simply played itself out. Sorry.

    The largest issues in the african americans communities have nothing to do with race. That’s called a pickle. A tough reality. Shouting to whites ignorance is wasting time.

    • Phillip, all anyone wants…black or white or brown or red ….is to be understood. All black people aren’t the same. All white people aren’t the same. Our problem as people is that we can’t separate ourselves from our own self involvement to see where we may be culpabl. Both sides have their faults.

      In our lifetime, it will probably be that racism and separation will exist because it is so set in some of our…well many of our minds that we have to tolerate others instead of seeking to understand them and why they feel what they feel. I feel future generations will be more flexible in this..,but our current generation is rigid so it will be what it will be with them. The world will need to changing it will continue to exist.

    • Ironically your comment pretty much exemplifies the mind set that was spoken of in this article. Did you even read it? this article was not about black vs white. It was about how white people deal with race and racial issue that are brought to their attention. Rushing to Deny , deflect and disengage. This article was pretty spot on and this comment proves it.

  3. As a person of colour I have discovered that most of the racism I have experiences through my life was i MY head… Not in the actions and words of others.
    If you expect to be treated as less, that is what you will experience, even if it is not true, and it will become a self fulfulling prophecy through your own actions and reactions.

    • I think this is a big part of it. I coach local youth sports and I remember one incident very clearly. I was coaching wrestling and one of the kids from my son’s football team was also on the wrestling team. In wrestling there are many coaches and the students usually find 1 or 2 they like for personal instruction and coaching at meets. Since we were familiar with each other and I liked him I spent time helping him. He usually asked for me at the meets. One meet was poorly run and had kids waiting a lot time in between matches. During this kid’s last match he was rolled onto his back and the ref gave a quick pin call. I immediately started coaching points about what he did right and what he did wrong. His mom comes over and interrupts to ask about the quick pin. I agreed that the pin call was a little fast. She then asked, do you think it is because he is black? I was floored. We are 8 hours into a youth wrestling tourney and he was wrestling exhibition. Also the best wrestler on the team that regularly won matches quick was black. I told her that it likely wasn’t and that the ref probably was trying to hurry matches along.

  4. I think an important fact to mention to help others potentially understand the fragility part is the reality that. As a minority I talk to all my minority friends about race openly and all are super comfortably talking about it. I do not discuss matters of race with my white friends because they shut down instantly. We as minorities speak on it amongst the massess and one another. African Americans speak to Asians to Latinos to Indian. Its like a minority conversation. But when it is brought up around white friends it gets weird. I don’t feel it is made weird by the minority because we are all so used to the topic. Even the historically identified oppressor has to come to the round table for discussion or the division continues from all against white folks. It is not a matter of blaming anyone for what an ancestor has done its more about fixing what they done just like we all have to reap what our ancestors have done. Interested in thoughts. I totally feel like my white friends are fragile. I almost thought my highborn was going to shit onher self when we watched Straight Outta Compton together. but I have watched some of her old western films and she was just a smiling and laughing.

    • Jason Colbourne says:

      Because we are used to either hearing, or being told how our views on race are wrong or ignorant, no matter what they are (except to say whites are awful). We are routinely told that our intentions don’t matter and every little thing we do is oppressive. Microagressions only apply to white people. And what is or is not a micro-aggression changes regularly, so it can be hard to keep up. We must accept overt aggression from others, while having to be mindful that anything we say or do can be misconstrued, and our intentions don’t matter. If we don’t agree with something, we are told we don’t get it, or we are too blinded by our privlege. It is not a conversation with white people, it is a lecture. So yeah, it does make us fragile. Precisely because most of us actually are not that racist, we don’t want to offend, make people feel bad or be seen as prejudice, so we learn to keep our mouths shut. Yet even that gets criticized, as your comment shows. We learn from experience, that whatever our opinions are, it will be construed somehow as racist.

  5. femmemuscle says:

    White people are afraid of anything that is not submissive to them. That’s why we keep hearing those stupid remarks about “the good ole’ days”.

    The days when if a negro didn’t agree with a white person – they were lynched.
    The days that if a negro refused to have sex with a white male – they were raped.
    The days that if a black woman looked better than a white woman – she was lynched/raped.
    The days where if a black woman’s hair was considered far more attractive than a white woman’s – they made a law to have her head covered at all times in public.
    The days where police could come into our neighborhoods and gang rape a beautiful black woman.
    The days that if a white man desired a black woman – he could rape her right in front of her family
    The days that if black man protected his family he was lynched.
    The days where a white male could announce to the world that he despised black women – but would come over “across town” and rape them with his buddies.
    The days where a black person could not go and enjoy sports like they do today – because black people in crowds make white people “uncomfortable”.
    The days where white men ACTUALLY THOUGHT they were BEST at any sport in the world.
    The days where white men ACTUALLY THOUGHT they were highest in intellect in science, art, coaching, medicine, technology and literature. (Pushkin, Beethoven, Dumas Aesop – all black or mulattoe).
    The days where black conquerors, scientists, explorers, navigators, doctors, cultures (Moors, Egyptians,etc) were depicted in theaters, movie and all media as white.
    The days where white men could paint their faces black and make fun of blacks openly.
    The days where white females when caught in the act of consensual sex – would cry rape and have black men lynched.
    The days where a white man could commit a crime and have a black man – ANY black man sent to prison or death row.
    The days where a non-competent white man could hold down a good job, just because he is white.

    Those days are not over. But THIS is why there is white fragility. It’s because all cultures believed that age-old worn out propaganda that whites were their superiors. Now, through education, and finally, some angry cultures – they no longer believe the lie.

    • This was written and expressed perfectly.

    • Jason Colbourne says:

      Jeliteon Olsean Whites didn’t invent slavery, but they did end it. Whites are among the only group who have decided to be multi-cultural, purposefully let other ethnic groups occupy their lands. (Well, I guess the United Arab Emirates is 80% foreign nationals, but they don’t grant them full citizenship) Is there any other group on earth that constantly blames and shames themselves for being ‘privileged’ In their own land? ( which is mostly due to being a majority, just like any group in the world is ‘privileged’ for being a majority in their own country.) would any other group tolerate other ethnic groups moving in, then constantly criticizing and blaming them for not making their lives perfect? It is precisely whites lack of strong racism that allows them to be bullied into letting other groups define them on their behalf. If arabs moved to Japan (which was colonized by the Chinese. The Ainu are Japan’s native people) and sought to dismantle ‘Japanese supremacy’, instill Japanese guilt, forced them to apologize for the crimes of the past, elect them to offices and put them in charge of companies, demanding equal representation in the their corporate world, no one would stand for it. The fact that whites do shows just how not racist they are.

  6. If the whole point of race in America is that white people don’t get it, then what conversation is there to be had? The truth is, most white people demur when it comes to the subject because, if they do speak, they either need to agree with what a person of color thinks about the topic, or be called clueless, told to “check their privilege”, and/or risk being branded racist. So, most keep their mouths shut to avoid stepping on a potential landmine. The reality is that what people of color in America don’t want to have a conversation about race with whites, they want to give a lecture – teach white Americans what they don’t know or understand about race (which covers a lot of territory). Unfortunately, every white person in America has already heard this lecture countless times and has either accepted it or rejected it, and thus further conversation would seem to be pointless. Americans prefer action and evidence to words- which is why, for example, a video of a white officer needlessly harming or killing a person of color is infinitely more valuable in changing minds than any conversation could ever be.

    • Your reply seems to be a charter saying that it’s pointless to listen to any person of colour, because you’ll find it hard to believe what they say unless they have recorded evidence to *make* you listen. Isn’t the whole point of this article that listening to narratives outside white experience is *meant* to make us uncomfortable, and that this experience (what you call being lectured to) is just the first chink of beginning to understand the feeling of being racially marginalised? Your response seems to me to really prove the article to be true.

    • Slocum I’ve found your experience with this topic to be the same as mine. Conversations that I’ve had lately on this topic where I disagree with the person I’m talking with have been met with the response that I need to educate myself further rather than to discuss the validity of my arguments and theirs. It seems that they would rather lecture me on what I don’t know instead of seeing what I do. If someone wants to have a conversation with me where we can discuss the impact that privilege has played in someone’s experience or the role that race has in that, then let’s start from a point that anyone, regardless of their privilege, skin color, race, income level, education, sex, sexuality, etc is able to form a valid argument and contribute. Those arguments should be evaluated on their own merits and not with regard to any of the characteristics of the person making the arguments. One group of people does not hold a hegemony on racial discussions. Let’s encourage people to talk openly about these topics instead of giving a lecture.

    • People of color in my experience only turn it into a lecture after the white person gets defensive. When you say here is my experience with racism instead of trying to understand white people indoctrinate the person of color as a liar because it is that part of them that wants to be seen as good or because they haven’t experienced it in their life. So this article still has validity in your argument.

  7. Eunice Parker says:

    I believe that people who called themselves the White Race, believe that All People of Color are inferior, period. You take what you want, you say what you want and you do what you want. ,All are servants/.slaves to do your bidding and not to have a complaint. You have a problem discussing things you do and say because you KNOW, you would NOT want to be in their shoes. You KNOW what you do is WRONG. No amount of talking is going to change that. You and you alone NEEDS to get off of that superiority horse of yours. After all. you eat, shit and die like the rest of us. When you no longer do that?

  8. Noah Riley says:

    Bull shit lol. Wow, racially illiterate haha. Ermagggad. They issue is self love at it’s root. If people could care as much for others as they do themselves or better, there would be no racism. But because no human is capable of doing this, we will always have inequality, in every arena of life. We do in fact organize society to reproduce and reinforce our interests and perspectives… this is a human issue. Mostly white men fought other mostly white men for freedom in America, none of which were fragile on either side. It’s oppression and superiority as human conditions that forecast or societal issues but there IS NOT one group more victim than another. We are all self lovers.

  9. white privilege analysis has been too narrow in its focus. Specifically, it fails to acknowledge important ethnic and class differences, among both whites and people of color. White privilege implies that all hindrances suffered by people of color are related to race. However, privileges awarded to groups of people based on class is often left out of the discussion. There are privileges awarded to the middle and upper class that are not awarded to the lower class. White privilege also fails to recognize diversity within groups of people.

    • Agreed, Other.

      I’ve now read two articles written by Robin, and the one question I would ask her after reading both of them is simply this: exactly WHAT do you hope to accomplish with these?

      Yes, white privilege is real. Yes, most white people have unknowingly benefited from it at some point in their lives or even most of their lives. No, there’s not much any individual white person can do to change a gigantic system like this. All they can do is not perpetuate white privilege by treating people equally regardless of race. Yes, I realize how horrendous it can be for non-whites to be judged and treated differently because of their skin color, which is why I make it a point to not do so myself.

      So what good comes from telling people how privileged they are? Really, WHAT do you aim to accomplish, Robin?

      I see only two possible outcomes, here:

      1. You alienate the people you’re trying to convince. These people could’ve been allies in this fight, but instead, you’ve opted to try and shame them into…what, exactly? Maybe all of the aforementioned behaviors you cite wouldn’t be so prevalent if you attacked this from a different angle?

      2. They feel bad about it. Good for you! You’ve made white people feel guilty about being white, and we can all see just how much progress white guilt has made for racial equality, right?

      See, that’s the thing about guilt: it’s the human mind’s way of fooling itself into feeling as though it has atoned by feeling bad for a certain period of time. After the people you’ve made feel bad about it have felt that way long enough, they’re going stop feeling bad, and congratulations, you’re now right back to square one.

      And I’m sorry, but it IS a socioeconomic issue, because the reason why whites are privileged is because white people built the system and white people have most of the money and power. White privilege is just an extension of the influence of the predominantly-white super-wealthy.

      Rather than tell white people (most of whom are dirt poor) about just how privileged they are (which will only serve to make them hate you), maybe you should be approaching this whole thing from a different angle. Start with the fact that many white people are struggling financially right now. Explain to them that this is the noose of class warfare they feel tightening around their necks, a noose that chokes with no regard for race, color, or gender. From there, I’d weave the common thread between people of all colors who are feeling this, and point out that only through working together are they going to remove this noose from their necks. United we stand, divided we fall.

      The super-wealthy WANT to see the lower classes bickering about race. Every time someone tells a dirt-poor white person just how privileged they are, you’ve not only lost a potential ally but also dramatically reduced the chance that that person will EVER scrutinize the super-wealthy’s chant of “All your problems are caused by minorities, illegal immigrants, welfare recipients, etc.”

      Again, I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish here, Robin, but I think you should change your angle to something that’s more likely to focus on the similarities between people of different races who are all being systematically impoverished by the same horrible system, a system that WANTS to see us fight each other instead of trying to change it.

      • Gavin Grayson says:

        Agreed Other & El_Guapo-I’d add only for ‘brevity’ in future discussion, that it’s easy to conflate issues with class because historically ‘class issues’ have largely broken down along color lines. Essentially a ‘caste system’ was enforced with ‘color’ effectively defining the ‘black-bottom.’. What vertical mobility exists has hewed closer along a more traditionally Marxist conception of class distinctions, though here in the US more permeable. There has been much research on this intersection of class and race, my favorite is my first, and seminal to me; Dr. Robinson went to Cal., Nam,’ and Stanford…
        Black Marxism, Cedric J. Robinson, PhD

      • Racism can’t be solved by ignoring it. And I’m presuming that the author is attempting to combat racism. Not classism, which is what you’re suggesting. Is it because talking about racism is uncomfortable for you as a white person? I think there was a paragraph or five addressing that in this article.

  10. Mary Benedict says:

    I agree with much of this article and disagree with some of it, and the pros and cons of the POV have been discussed at length here by smart people, so I’m going to raise another point. What defines a white person today? There are people who surely benefit from white privilege as they are fair skinned and look as Caucasian/European as English people do, but who do not consider themselves white and some consider it an insult to be described that way. In the author’s context, does white mean anyone whose appearance entitles them to white privilege or does it have to be someone whose origins are entirely European with no Spanish or Portuguese in their background? I know fair skinned Latinos and I know Armenian-Americans who do not consider themselves white even though I see them walk by and my mind registers “white.” My DNA test showed I’m 8% Spanish and 12% West Asian (i.e. Turkey/Armenia/parts of Iran). Some would consider those categories nonwhite so am I really white by today’s definition? I have white privilege but so do some who claim not to be white. I am grateful for any insights because it’s hard to talk about white racial issues when we don’t agree on what a white person is.

    • “does it have to be someone whose origins are entirely European with no Spanish or Portuguese in their background?” You do know that Spain and Portugal are in Europe, right..?

      • Spain and Portugal ARE in Europe, but in the past in the United States, Portuguese in particular were not considered white. Find a book called “The Pig Farmer’s Daughter” wherein the author details the case of a white man arrested and tried for miscegenation for marrying a Portuguese woman. It’s been a very long time since I read it, but as I recall, the case was finally dismissed (on appeal) because, “while the Portuguese woman cannot be said to be white, she’s not black either.” This, of course, makes the OP’s point — who is white and who is black is very much a cultural idea. Take our president, and my niece as examples — they’re children of a white and a black parent, but nobody in this culture is going to call them “white.”

  11. Thanks for the essay – it’s got some important issues at it’s heart.

    I still don’t understand why we persist with the term “racism” and not call the disorder something more related to it’s modus operandi – like “white supremacism”. Calling it racism leads to all sorts of challenges that are unnecessary if we used language that illustrates the issue more clearly.

  12. “Psychic freedom: Because race is constructed as residing in people of color, whites don’t bear the social burden of race. We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized. Race is for people of color to think about—it is what happens to “them”—they can bring it up if it is an issue for them…”

    …And there we have it. It seems to me this is the big white elephant in the room of this big discussion about race. The “Social Burden of Race”, or rather the continuous self-consciousness that American minorities have inflicted upon themselves not only by racism from others, but also from self-inflicted cultural choices, is the crux here.

    From the writer’s perspective, it’s unfair and a privilege that white people can live without being continuously self-conscious about their race. But another way of looking at this is the fact that white people are actively discouraged from being too self-conscious about our race. If we start “celebrating whiteness”, then suddenly we’re in a Klan rally or a Neo-Nazi gathering.

    Following this logic, it seems to me that the big problem here is as much the burden of racial self-consciousness as much as anything else. There are other countries (such as the UK) where racial self-consciousness isn’t nearly as aggressively enforced as it is in America, and people have a much easier time getting along.

    • Looking at my comment above, part of my wording didn’t sound right. Let me rephrase something:

      “The social burden of race, or rather the self-consciousness that American minorities have inflicted upon them from racism by others, but also from their self-imposed cultural chocies, is the crux here.”

  13. I would like to know if we can take these arguments to societies’ dominated by other colors and races and if it would stand up for them? I grew up among different races , much more than the US and one thing race advocates never gets is that it is not necessarily a color thing, but a culture thing, first of all. Like families, my family is mine and yours are yours, entitlement within THE FAMILY. Of course if your outside your family you won’t get those benefits, what are you? 9?
    2ndly, to be aggrieved by perceived entitlement of others are nothing more than immaturity, if we have to be aware of our perceived ‘entitlement’ or possible unconscious racist effect that we have on others, is the same vice versa, and to explain it better, it is the status quo, somehow you guys never get that things change not on your level, but an economical level which is not determined by color or race, if you believe that, then you don’t believe that banks and rich people have absolute control of the worlds finances and therethrough our governments and only way way down, us….and rich people do not just live in Europe or the US, these economical factors are determined by them, only the in the area where color is represented by family due to race or language who takes care of their own, and that counts for EVERYBODY, black, white, yellow

  14. This is a great article – thanks for publishing it. A number of comments were from whites who said that they had experienced racism and discrimination when they were in a population of people from different ethnic groups. I would like to suggest to difference between what they experienced and what blacks in the US experience. First the belief in white superiority and the high value of “whiteness” is all over the world. So although some Japanese may have treated a white person rudely as a comment claimed, whites are still not looked down on. For example Asians and others strive to emulate whites (skin lightening, professional dress, plastic surgery, etc.). Thanks to the mythology of race, blacks are pretty much looked down on everywhere. You will see blackface, racial insults in newspapers, black caricatures, blacks being treated like they smell in Asian countries. There’s a difference and that difference is almost everywhere. It’s one thing to be treated like a foreigner – it’s another thing to be treated like an animal.
    Second, some comments complained that blacks have treated them poorly in the US. Most importantly blacks have no power over whites AS A GROUP. This is the meaning of institutional racism. Whites as police officers kill blacks, whites do not allow blacks to move into certain neighborhoods or go to certain schools, or get certain jobs. But blacks cannot do any of this to whites. Also my first point still applies – while whites may have been antagonized “whiteness” is still held in high regard. As a matter of fact research has shown that blacks discriminate against blacks and in favor of whites. So if a white person experiences racism from blacks they are indeed experiencing something rare.

  15. Steve Barbone says:

    Funny how folks think individual experience is general to all experiences. Case in point Japan. When I was there shortly after WW 2 as a G.I. there were no Japanese pushing or shoving me, and no Japanese harassment of white people at all. In fact the opposite was true as we “conquering heros” both black and white harassed them. Does that mean it doesn’t happen now? Of course not. But if you remember experiences as far back as WW 2, there was reciprocal racism, Japanese vs. Americans, Americans vs. Japanese; Germans vs. Americans, Americans vs. Germans. We were all inferior barbarians in the hearts and minds of each other. In many cases today that is still true. The solution, perhaps the most powerful religious teaching, is ; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
    Unfortunately too few people are willing to follow that logic. Instead they pervert their religions in an effort to claim superiority over the “others”.

  16. I wonder if the problem will really go away if all whites admitted they are racist. That will eventually happen, but it will take on the tone of “I’m an alcoholic”, or “I’m a sinner”, and it will be OK, because every other white is a racist as well, so it won’t be as bad. It’s easy to stand up and say you are “bad” or a “sinner”, and even confess your past “sins” . Unfortunately confession is not the answer. Government policies need to change, not individual modes of interaction. The government needs to have some system of reparations and affirmative action in place to remedy some of the effects of racism. Getting white confessions is only an exercise in religious fundamentalism, which is forgiveness by God if you are really, really sorry. A few tears will be shed, Glen Beck style, and we will be back to business as usual. I am white and if I’m struggling with this as a liberal, there really isn’t any hope for getting all whites to change before there is a change in society.

  17. The power structure within the U.S. has put white, straight, males at the top. We could also probably add Protestant and “land-owning” to that list. Therefore, much of what is written in the article can be said about how the system also works to hold down women, LGBT persons, Jews, Muslims, people in poverty, etc.

    There is a difference between individual acts of prejudice or acceptance, and a country’s structure designed to keep a certain group in power by giving opportunities not given to other “groups” and by holding down / oppressing those same groups.

  18. We just need to fight it out and get it over with. I don’t like people of certain races- I am prejudiced. I judge based on previous experience, not unlike a business investor. Some groups get along with each other, even when they might hate each other, more than other groups. Some groups do not have a strong group identity.

    But people are tribal. Even within their groups’ skin colours. They tend to want to dominate other groups, and those groups which do not want to dominate usually wind up being subjugated.

    So let it burn.

  19. One of the things I never see mentioned in any of these dialogues, which I think is a very important aspect to address, is white culture’s strict adherence to certain social paradigms.

    For example, I am not disagreeing that most white folk will freak the fuck out if you head on address them about their racist bs – but then again, we’d probably freak out if you head on addressed us about any sensitive topic – that’s not really a socially “acceptable” communication method in our bubble.

    Who knows, maybe it is fragility – personally, I think it’s a throwback to old english manners. Certain topics are just considered sensitive and require an extra level of tact. Even with my best buddy (who also happens to be a white dude) if I had to address something sensitive with him, I would approach it like I was approaching the queen of england with this “ya know, little idea I had”. You NEVER want to offend people. It’s just uncouth. Maybe that’s just a New England thing – who knows.

    I really don’t know what the solution is, but I know that the amount of anxiety a direct conversation about ANYTHING potentially confrontational would also cause me to act like an asshole. Just things for all of us (myself included!) to think about.

  20. Excellent article. Most of the comments in here prove why this article is needed & these comments prove exactly what the article is stating.

    We need books and documentaries & everything else on the topic. Time for whites to wake up & take responsibility for their role in racism. Just as blacks are always told to wake up & take resonsibility for our role in everything, even things we don’t benefit from.

    • Well said, Megans Mom. Most of the comments do prove the need for what the article is saying. I’m going to save the article and share it with my students. We are always talking about race, and it’s so refreshing that a White woman is taking the conversation to White people in such a straightforward way.

  21. Obviously the writer was not a victim of affirmative action like I was! We had to move 13 b the time I was 13 because my white father kept getting fired so the companies could hire minorities and women!!! I don’t care what skin color you have, privileged is privileged whether your black or white…white privilege feels a lot like hard work to me!!!

    • KoriKirkland says:

      But did you ever think that some POC were overlooked in the beginning because of their race. If there weren’t bias and racism there would not have been a need for affirmative action. I think what happened to your father and others iswrong, but so is not hiring a person because of their race. It was an attempt to even the playing field no matter how flawed the process.

    • Know Better says:

      If your father kept getting fired,it wasnt to fill a quota, but likely because your father was a piss poor employee. Affirmative Action is only for companies that deal ditectly with the government, otherwise its completely voluntary. They still hire the most qualified applicants, but will give first preference to minorities if the candidates have equal merit and skill. So sick of people like yourself trying to villify the AA program and suggesting that minorities are not as capable or qualifies employee candidates as whites. NO company fires productive employees jus to meet a diversity quota….they kick out the shitty ones n use the vacancy as a chance to diversify by hiring quality employees of color.

      • tANsyBurke says:

        and isn’t it the very definition of white privilege to be a piss poor employee, and rather than to even let it cross ones mind that maybe one is not a valued asset to a company, to believe instead that one is being unseated by affirmative action? This is exactly what white supremacy convinces us, that even a mediocre white man who keeps losing his job, 13 times even, is not failing, but is a victim of circumstance of any legislation or practice that seeks to remedy our racist history. The iron clad delusion of racism, is exactly that, it helps white people ignore their own failure and displace responsibility onto anybody besides themselves.

  22. “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”
    ― Assata Shakur
    Seriously, it is a waste of time. For evidence of how very true this statement is see all of the comments on this article made by people who refuse to hear what they do not want to while still expecting others to listen to them. People who are not bigots CAN hear other points of view, they are not closed off so they can really hear and are not just pretending to hear while merely listening for something to reply to that allows them to express a personal sense of oppression. Refusing to acknowledge the possibility that people of color may actually have problems that you have never faced, or dismissing that reality as though it were yours to dismiss, is a sign of bigotry. Bigots are closed minded, they do not hear (and as you can see they make the fact that they refuse to hear quite clear when they make statements that illustrate how little they were willing to read or understand) yet they insist on being heard themselves and on expressing their own sense of oppression and hurt feelings as though this article was written to message their egos and is only allowed to have flattering things to say about them. It is not like there are not plenty of articles that are written to message their egos because there are many sites they could go to and find many sympathetic fellow posters. The problem with commenting on those articles instead of this one might be that there is no one for them to silence or bully on a comment thread that caters to their own insecurities.

    • There are countless counterexamples in this country. Gay marriage is a perfect example.

      if you’re gonna quote something it should at least be more than trivial to shoot it down.

    • I love a good Assata Shakur quote! Looks like your post was a Rorshach blob for some replies of the White fragility variety!

    • I believe that white privelege is real, but white fragility is bs. We are all touchy when taking about race with members of other races. According to this argument of white fragility, if you disagree then you prove it true. That’s the worst logic in the world and an incredible piece of intellectual dishonesty. I am very willing to talk about race (hence why I even read such article) but not when it’s framed in this paradoxical illlogical way. You want to tell me I’m priveleged, we can talk about that. I agree that I have the luxury of not thinking about race or the color of my skin. White fragility on the other hand suggests that anything I have to say on the topic is invalid because I’m not the one being oppressed. If that’s the case, then don’t talk to me. In any discussion of any topic on the planet, if one party is not allowed to have any say, then it’s not a discussion. It’s either a lecture or a dictatorship. I’m not going to have a voluntary discussion with anybody under those circumstances and neither would you. If I’m not free to disagree with what you say, my agreement means nothing.

  23. I would really like to commend all the commenters on this article. I have started to swear-off comment sections. I just can’t tolerate the name calling, vitriolic statements and responses. But this has been respectful. The comments and opinions here have enhanced my initial reading of the article.
    Thank you!

  24. Danielle says:

    im just not sure what the point is. I can try to understand all day long, but what exactly is the point of it? Are we trying to fix something and if so how? It never gets to the how, no matter how many things I read on the subject. We can’t change history, it is what it is. And my understanding of this article would mean that no matter what race ends up in charge, the rest of the races would then be subject to institutional racism by default. So how can this be fixed? Can it be fixed?

    • How is by educating yourself. By acknowledging it and when you hear someone being ignorant to educate them. Pass it on. Speak up. You can’t change everybody but at least you can get some thinking.

  25. stanely21 says:

    So disturbing that writes like this have the reputation of speaking against racism when in fact their entire premise PIVOTS on their own racism. The fact is ALL PEOPLE are of color, the very idea that there is some line between “whites” and everyone else is a social-justice construct – an alliance of minority groups pooled together to oppose the “white” majority. It’s a shame that SOME non-white people are so busy blaming whites for racism they can’t recognize their own. Because if you think “white” people are fragile when talking about racism, that puts Black folks on the catatonic end of the spectrum.

    • Yes, exactly. The author is suggesting that we group ourselves, actions and thinking based on color, which seems to be the very essence of racism. I agree that we ought to be very mindful and thoughtful about our biases based on the historical systems in which we were raised, but we are all individuals, not a group. As part of a group, I have little power to change anything. As an individual I can do my best to combat racism whenever I see it. An individual who is trying hard will only be demoralized by being told that no matter her/his effort, that he/she is still a racist.

      • Precisely Stanley. I agree with the author’s assertion that we are racially illiterate because these divisions and narratives are so deeply embedded in our cultures; however perpetuating “whites” and “people of colour” etc does nothing to resolve the problem – it just further engrains their significance as legitimate constructs. Certainly, we should be removing institutional barriers that categorize and marginalize people based on whatever antiquated racial profile they fit, but while we’re at it, we should banish those racial profiles too.

    • You just blamed whites in your other post.

  26. Most of the white people posting here proves everything the author of this article is saying in their feeble attempts to justify why it isn’t true.

    • You are right!

      • I totally agree. I want to speak of this even though it will be uncomfortable for me. The article is right on point. I have never realized how utterly ingrained this is. I recognize myself in certain aspects of the article and it is very uncomfortable. As many whites, I don’t consider myself racist but I am also a product of my upbringing and and environment. It would be ludicrous to not to believe this has had a profound effect on me. I am sick of what has and what continues to go on in this country as far as race is concerned. But I am part of it. Nothing can change unless we truly look at ourselves and listen to others perspective. I truly want to understand and I don’t care how uncomfortable it will be.

        • NK yes. All these defensive comments – though the writers each seem to think their own unique perspectives disprove the original thesis – are just grooves that have been worn painfully deep in every conversation about race I’ve ever participated in. I’ve *said* some of these things! I’ve only recently encountered the term “white fragility” but oh yes, it explains a lot – it’s a mirror that is especially hard to look into. And I’m sure I still hold attitudes today that some day I’ll look back on and sigh.

          To all those folks who want to hold up their own story of how they’ve been oppressed as a way to deny or deflect, please try to let that go just for a moment and allow the conversation to be about someone other than you. I know it’s hard. What you’ve experienced and suffered may be a big part of your identity but IT’S NOT THE SAME THING. Read this essay and others like it as many times as you need to until you actually hear what’s being said, because I promise you that you have not gotten the point yet.

          In the meantime, racism still is destroying lives every day while we whites can’t bear to have our feelings hurt even for a second. The destruction will continue until WE choose to stop it. There’s no other way.

        • Thomas Brann says:

          I was never a slave owner. As far as I know, neither were any members of my family. I have an issue with ppl apologizing for something they did not do to ppl that did not have it done to them. Slavery for instance always gets blamed on white ppl and to go further southern white ppl. The fact is that slavery was worldwide and did not just evolve Africans. Millions of other races and groups were slaves. Irish for instance were sold as slaves by the hundreds of thousands across the world as well as in the America’s even before many African slaves were brought here. Many times in a war the living captured from the losing country became slaves. It was common place. I have no shame because I did not enslave anyone. I’m tired of seeing white ppl being shamed like this and I say it is racism to shame someone because of having certain skin color. These whites out here trying to shame whites are racists themselves. I feel they feel guilty and are somehow trying to make up for it.

          • Thomas, yes if racism were just about slavery, then it would be over. But it’s not. Discrimination has persisted through Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, desegregation, and to this day. My family all came here in the 1890s long after slavery was over, but I’m well aware that as a white person I have had advantages that just aren’t there for others – and I grew up in the north. Racial preference is the water we all swim in, it’s just invisible to those of us who benefit from it, where it’s right in the face of people who are oppressed by it. If you don’t think that’s true, you’re fooling yourself.

    • Or maybe reasonable people can disagree.
      Maybe the author has framed the debate in such a way that dissent is dismissed.
      Maybe there’s a reactionary element to the current discourse surrounding identity, and maybe that, rather than “fragility” is what makes many progressive people uncomfortable.

  27. stanely21 says:

    The very idea that any person of color could try to exempt themself from the possibility of racism is the ESSENCE of racism.

  28. Stephen DGH says:

    I can see by many of the comments on this thread you work is nit yet done. Many of your critics have not even had the wit to avoid responding in ways that just confirm much of what you said.

  29. All of Dr DiAngelo’s points are valid. But I find her thesis naive and simplistic. It’s the kind of naivete typical of a white, liberal academic in a capitalist country that refuses to acknowledge the fundamental role of class in shaping the social and cultural realities that inform and reinforce peoples’ tribalism. You can’t have an honest, productive conversation about race in the US without acknowledging class divisions. Try talking to a white working class or lower middle class person about “white privilege” and see how far that gets you. Trust me. I made that mistake when I was much younger and more naive, and I was lucky if all I got was laughed at. After years of redlining, hiring discrimination, inadequate school funding and other forms of economic oppression, African Americans are predominantly trapped at the lowest rung of the economic spectrum. In a time when income inequality is higher than it’s ever been, and when social mobility is at an all-time low, the only way to have an honest conversation about race, and, more importantly, to do anything productive about it, is to talk in terms of shared interest. and a common struggle. Anything else will just be perceived as finger pointing

    • jay cee says:

      Shows just how much so many people want to ignore race. Tom lists all those examples of racial oppression that have gone on for centuries in this country, but says NOW it’s about Class. Maybe someone could tell me, exactly what year did racial problems become class problems?

      • I think the point Tom is making is that social justice might be better served by banding together, regardless of skin tone, to fight income inequality and poverty, rather than by emphasizing the various identity groups we belong to.

        I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive, and obviously poverty affects some groups more than others, precisely because of structural racism, but the fact remains that if we eliminate poverty, we eliminate it for everyone.

  30. ladyfilosopher says:

    Jensen on Anguish in the American Dream discusses the premis of hierarchy of valuing one another and the inherent violence this breeds; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eaFj3OsRFI
    The application of this violence damages all parties: the perpetrator, the victim, the outsiders of an alternative group…. men and women, children and elderly….To base one’s beliefs that one person is less/more of value than another can only lead to learned patterns of pain, black or white, young or old. Only the ‘lucky’ get old enough to reach awareness of the ageism we harbor….

  31. Jean-Andre' Roberts says:

    The reactions to this post only reinforce what Ms. D’Angelo is stating.

    I see a bunch of people just working off of offense, conjecture, and somehow using all of your personal experiences to infer what she is saying, without the thought that your comprehension could be incorrect.

    It’s clear that you truly don’t understand what she was expressing because it pricked your skin and your ability, or willingness, to actually learn and understand turned off immediately.

    Of course Ms. D’Angelo is aware of the individual negative actions everyone faces, and in no way was she belittling anyone, but this post was not addressing that issue. She has expressed sympathy and anger towards those who abuse others, of any race, in other posts.

    Instead of jumping to ignorant conclusions, please look at the top as to what topic she is actually addressing.

    I don’t go to a Dr. on the premise of seeing him because of a cold I have, and then get upset he doesn’t address my sore ankle. Neither do I go to a Dr. with a friend of mine and get upset when the Dr. doesn’t address my health issues.

    As I stated, it is unfortunate that your reactions simply reinforce what Ms. D’Angelo was saying and you are too daft to realize it.

    • Perhaps the author’s tone is part of the problem. It’s been politically popular for some time to blame whites for the problems of non-whites. The article comes across as “Not only are you guilty, but denial of guilt must now be added to your sins!”. If enough people miss your point because of your tone, then maybe there is a problem with your article.

      • Sweetl8dy says:

        The Rules of Engagement After years of working with my fellow whites, I have found that the only way to give feedback correctly is not to give it at all. Thus, the first rule is cardinal: 1. Do not give me feedback on my racism under any circumstances. If you break the cardinal rule: 2. Proper tone is crucial – feedback must be given calmly. If there is any emotion in the feedback, the feedback is invalid and does not have to be considered. 3. There must be trust between us. You must trust that I am in no way racist before you can give me feedback on my racism. 4. Our relationship must be issue-free – If there are issues between us, you cannot give me feedback on racism. 5. Feedback must be given immediately, otherwise it will be discounted because it was not given sooner. 6. You must give feedback privately, regardless of whether the incident occurred in front of other people. To give feedback in front of anyone else—even those involved in the situation—is to commit a serious social transgression. The feedback is thus invalid. 7. You must be as indirect as possible. To be direct is to be insensitive and will invalidate the feedback and require repair. 8. As a white person I must feel completely safe during any discussion of race. Giving me any feedback on my racism will cause me to feel unsafe, so you will need to rebuild my trust by never giving me feedback again. Point of clarification: when I say “safe” what I really mean is “comfortable.” 9. Giving me feedback on my racial privilege invalidates the form of oppression that I experience (i.e. classism, sexism, heterosexism). We will then need to focus on how you oppressed me. 10. You must focus on my intentions, which cancel out the impact of my behavior. 11. To suggest my behavior had a racist impact is to have misunderstood me. You will need to allow me to explain until you can acknowledge that it was your misunderstanding. – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-fragility-and-the-rules-of-engagement-twlm/#sthash.E7ZwmtUI.dpuf

      • It is a head-shaking moment each time I see a comment which so clearly demonstrates white fragility below an article which does a powerful job of defining it.

        • Neall West says:

          So, I’m not allowed to agree because it is impossible for me to truly understand. I’m not allowed to disagree because if I do, I’m being defensive and this shows that I don’t understand. I’m supposed to be doing something about it, but no one ever says what that something is. If I try to do anything, I am disempowering people of color. If I don’t try to do anything I’m part of the problem. I am supposed to feel guilt about it, but if I say that, I’m simultaneously admitting fault and stealing the focus for myself. If I don’t publicly feel that guilt, I’m horribly racist. I’m not allowed to celebrate or admire any aspect of anyone’s culture, including my own. People of color and “enlightened white people” can classify and categorize me, but I’m not ever allowed to do it to anyone else.

          I recognize that systemic racism and white privilege exist and are enormous problems and that I have unwittingly and unintentionally benefitted from them. I have no more ability to influence this than you do. Am I supposed to not apply or to withdraw my application for a job if I know that a person of color has also applied? Must I move to a slum and patrol the neighborhood, looking for incidents of racism to decry?

          It’s all a huge Catch-22 and I’ve decided to just try to be a good person equally, to everyone I come in contact with, and do what I think is right in situations where I have the chance to exert an influence. If someone can sort this out and provide a landmine-free path for those of us who want to actively help end racism, I’m listening.

  32. Who are these “most whites” your article generalizes about?
    I’m Catholic. My wife has auburn hair and freckles. Everyone–“white,” black, etc.–discriminates against people with freckles, because “non-whites” consider them white and whites consider them “non-white,” but that’s never talked about. The KKK started as a benevolent society for Confederate widows and orphans, and when it turned into a hate group, it targeted Catholics and Jews before “blacks.” As a member of the “Universal” Church, I’ve grown up in a racially diverse social background, but also understand that ethnic diversity goes way beyond “race.”
    When we share these “individual stories,” it’s to refute the false generalization. It always seems like the people who complain about “white privilege” are, well, privileged, or else criminals. I’ve heard anecdotes of “people of color” being pulled over supposedly when they were doing nothing wrong, but everyone breaks traffic laws, intentionally or unintentionally, from time to time. I was pulled over once, justly and the officer told me he needed me to show up in court to prove I wasn’t “an illegal immigrant or a Muslim,” because of my complexion and hair color, so I sympathize with the oppression of sociological minorities, but the notion of “white privilege” seems to me like another method of the rich and powerful to create division among the various factions they’ve marginalized. The upper and upper middle classes get to continue enjoying their actual privilege, while brewing up mutual resentment between “people of color” and “white trash” by making up this stuff, and if, as a disabled person, I suffer, I still deserve it because of “systematic racism” and “white privilege,” and what “my ancestors did,” even though my ancestors had nothing to do with it.

  33. SophieBlue says:

    This was a very thoughtful article, and for the most part, was right on point. However, I think it is important for WHITE people to be able to say, “I’ve also been hurt, not that way, not *that* systemic way, but I’ve been hurt.” That can be for reasons of gender, disability, class, age, etc. We need to recognize that not every white person comes from a position of total privilege, although the one thing we have is “race.” But this society assaults us daily in ways that aren’t as visible, and if we don’t acknowledge that, we get the sort of reactions we see from Kimberly or Sickofit. Middle School, High School, even college and the workplace and the home can be places where we are assaulted daily, and our skin color/ethnicity/race does not always, or even often, protect us. Once that is acknowledged, it is easier to recognize how race adds an additional or different burden.

    A friend who is Latino can’t drive through Arizona without getting pulled over. A friend who is Indian can’t drive through Montana without getting pulled over. A friend who is Black can’t drive anywhere without getting pulled over. But I, as a white woman, never have to face that. I have to face other things–sexual assault when I was young, and dismissal as insignificant now that I’m old. It’s essential to acknowledge these things, but not hold them up as equivalent to what race does. They injure, but they’re not the same.

    • ladyfilosopher says:

      SophieBlue’s statement is strong and offers space to dialogue. Thank you. I posted before having found your statement. It seems we share the same idea, I think you stated it even more clearly and humanely.

    • I agree that we must acknowledge everyone’s pain and hurt. I’d like add that an acknowledgment of the racial issues in this country does not have to equal denial of your own personal struggles and pain. Meaning you can simultaneously acknowledge and recognize that there is racial disparity and even privilege in this country without fear that somehow your own struggles will be overlooked because you are white. I dare say, as black woman who’s also been molested, bullied, and overlooked, that my singular experiences with molestation, bullying, etc are not singular to my race. It happens every single day to innocent women, children, men, etc. But the point of this piece is that, amidst all of that pain, there is a struggle that is not shared across all races. And that particular topic makes everyone (myself included as a black woman with many loved ones across racial lines) very uncomfortable because it’s not shared. It takes effort, empathy and understanding to have healthy discussions over the topic of race. SophieBlue, you and I could probably sit and laugh and cry over many of the things we share in common and learn to love and care for one another. But to discuss you being a white sister of our country and me being black and what that means to us both takes great understanding, love, prayer against offense and patience. Whether we recognize it or not, whites and blacks have both been hurt by racism in this country. Even though it may seem so, no one truly won. And until we can have open, honest and maybe even sometimes painful conversations of what that has meant to the other side, this will always be an unspoken barrier in our country.

      • Your statement that “no one truly won” moves me to tears. It’s true & it matters. How do we begin to be the change we want to see in the world? I grew up in a small Wisconsin community – and never met a person of color until I grew up & went away to school. But my parents taught me to respect others & treat people the way I wanted to be treated. As a 60 year old on vacation in California, I encountered a black docent at an historical venue and was moved to tears. I acknowledged recognition of the fact of segregational oppression, and apologized on behalf of my (white) race. She then hugged me, thanked me for my response while assuring me that neither of us could change the facts of the past but how much she appreciated my comments. I also believe that each one of us needs to be aware of, and wary of, our own personal prejudices and try not to unleash rude comments on others.

    • Thank you SophieBlue you get it and can state it clearly. It shows a thoughtfulness that the author is saying is hard to get at because of that immediate discomfort in whites.

  34. Horatio says:

    Here is how anti-racists deal with “white racism”. They call for the eradication of white people.



    There are many more examples.

    Sorry, you cannot have anti-whites, (you mean, anti-racists, right?) telling white people that they must go (isn’t that Genocide?),and then cry unfair because white people are skittish.

    I’m sure the Nazi’s found it hard to talk to Jews about the “Jewish Question”. When you propose eradication of an identifiable group as a solution, its no wonder.

    People who are fighting racism must denounce and rebuke these “anti-racists”.

  35. sickofit says:

    Yes, the woman missed his point… Or, she didn’t agree! I think it’s bs to say that rape is not as bad as getting molested, or having a husband call you a b#$%h or C#$t is better than slapping you. Grow up. Getting attacked for the color of your skin hurts like fricken hell. White, brown, black, red, yellow skin. It doesn’t matter! You can’t say it doesn’t count because your people weren’t systematically oppressed. It doesn’t make it the same issue, but it doesn’t discount it. Racism hurts as a human experience. It is not white fragility to say that I am not a part of the bs so leave my name out of it when you speak against or on behalf of the white race. I don’t care how intelligent this man tries to sound. He wasn’t a part of my childhood. He wasn’t a part of my generation. He isn’t my family just because he’s white. EVERY white person did not have a slave, so get off the white people implode inside soap box. I personally implode because I have been hurt, physically hurt, for being white and I’m sick and tired of people telling me it doesn’t count because of what some old white geezers that I have never known, and that have never known me to exist did. WOMEN were systematically oppressed. But that doesn’t count either. Because it’s not the color of skin. It’s just whether you have a penis or vagina. POOR PEOPLE were systematically oppressed! WEAK BABIES were thrown off cliffs so they couldn’t procreate and make other weak babies.. Gotta keep that human race strong.. be happy we are born in an era where we don’t put our disabled in idiot cages and poke them with sticks. For crying out loud, stop speaking for entire races. Just because you’re white… and don’t get me started on who falls under the “white” umbrella, doesn’t mean you share my white experience.

    • ole blue eyes says:

      She choose not to see the point as most white people, white people will never admit that they are privileged solely on the strength of being white…hell white people don’t need to go to college as whites can get the job solely on being white…I have seen it. Yeah…all whites should go to Japan and spend some time there…you will get your wake up call you fucking round eyed racists!

      • You say that white people get a job just for being white, yet my mom was a teacher, and every school she taught at had to tell her that if there were not enough back teachers, she would be fired (no matter of performance) to make room for a black teacher.

  36. You didn’t have to mention you were white, I could tell by reading the article. Talk about out-of-touch; racial essentialism is the cause-du-jour of ignorant white academics attempting to appear “down” when they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.

    Enjoy your personal pat on the back article Mr. DiAngelo, because despite your attempt to intellectualize your essentialism, you don’t really know what the hell you are talking about. smh.

  37. Kimberly Lester says:

    As a child, I grew up in areas that were predominately black. I was literally the ONLY white person in a number of my classes in junior high school. I was ostracized, harassed, pushed, poked, punched, joked, threatened, and made fun of on a daily basis, as were my siblings. When I was 11, I was kicked in the mouth by a boy who would begin sexually harassing me the next year when puberty hit. So, I would just like to interject into the conversation the obvious (but often unstated) fact that racism is not only a white problem; and I have not personally found that blacks are willing to talk about their own racism either, except to declare the reasons why it is justified. You can argue that my experience is less common than others, but that is about as relevant as saying that because in some other countries blacks are not a minority, it shouldn’t bother them that they are in this country. Or that, because many African Americans brought here were already enslaved in their home country, the slavery here shouldn’t matter. And if I were to say that every black person is responsible for the things done to me, that would be as logical as saying that all white people are responsible for what maybe our ancestors did to maybe other ancestors. And to pretend that there is only such a thing as “white fragility” without acknowledging that “black fragility” is far more predominant in this present cultural atmosphere is to stick your head in the sand. So, to be fair, if “white” America is being taken to task for its racism, so, too, does “black” America need to be, and “hispanic” and “asian” and “other” America, or else it’s just yet another form of racism.
    I hate racism, in all its forms. I hate the things done to many cultures by many cultures in the past, and in the present. But I don’t think that it helps to only examine part of the truth, while ignoring other parts. That’s all.

    • Wow, so did you read the article at all? Your response illustrates perfectly the type of disconnect that this article speaks to. “This distinction- between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power- is fundamental”

      Sorry, but your personal experience does discount INSTITUTIONAL racism, and doesn’t approach a response to it. You’ve managed to completely miss the point.

      • JoeNobody says:

        I won’t argue whether or not there’s still strong institutional racial biases because I don’t know, and that’s the point. Articles like these will take pains to discuss barriers of institutional racism, but go to no pains to provide how that is measured and demonstrated.

        If you find that, say, 80% of multinational corporations are headed by “white” people, the assumption of this article seems to be that that some how represents institutional racism. What it likely represents are the residual effects of our history–which we will continue to feel for decades to come because all such things take many years to clear away–but it doesn’t also necessarily represent a current and sustained institutional bias. At best, it represents cultural tendencies that have emerged from racial identities.

        If we wish to get to a point where race no longer divides us, we really have to stop giving a shit about color percentages in positions of power and influence, and instead focus on those particular actions which seem to indicate racial ignorance in specific leaders because trying to force an evenness of numbers only continues to perpetuate the falsehood that there’s any difference between the races. If tomorrow, the United States was suddenly run by a majority of “black” men and women, all or most of whom demonstrated a competency in their roles and an ability to lead, I as a “white” person, would not even remotely feel the need to ensure some kind of white-to-black balance in numbers. I’d be confident that nothing was going to diminish my integrity as a sovereign citizen of the United States, and that certainly, the color of my skin wasn’t going to be an influential factor.

        • “Articles like these will take pains to discuss barriers of institutional racism, but go to no pains to provide how that is measured and demonstrated.”

          That’s like relearning the alphabet every time you have to write or read something. Or relearning basic arithmetic every time you want to solve a new math problem. see how tedious? that’s the point, though, to try to get people back to discussing minutiae while real issues are never resolved.

        • There are actually a number of studies and blind hiring practices that have proven racial and sexual biases in hiring. A number of symphonies now have started doing blind auditions where the candidates cannot not be seen. They have found they are hiring considerably more women and people of color than they did before.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “cultural tendencies” but that sounds like bias. And it is what has been found in hiring studies — that employers tend to hire other people like them – white men tend to hire a high proportion of white men with similar backgrounds – so if they are the ones in power, they tend to stay in power. If women of PoCs were the majority of employers, they would probably stay in power too, as they’s be more likely to hire more of their own, due to unconscious bias. It is human nature that we are most comfortable with people who are like us, and while it isn’t intentional racism, it is institutional racism. That’s the solution to making the big changes – discovering the things we don’t notice we are doing unintentionally and overcoming those unconscious biases — that’s what will make the big difference. It isn’t about bad people doing intentionally exclusionary things (I want to believe there are a minority of people like that), nor is it about putting quotas in place, it is about a heightened awareness of how we make choices, and improving the process and results by overcoming our unintentional bias.

        • I think it is deeply unwise to dismiss the experiences of persons like Joe Nobody. What this person experienced is racist, racial retaliation; it should not be tolerated, and it is, in its small way, the meat and potatoes of oppression: physical and psychological violence. It cannot, however, be properly understood outside of the context of race in America, ie. which is white supremacy, in which whites may ultimately escape racial oppression in their locale, but blacks, and others, cannot, because it is interwoven into everything.

          I suspect that many whites would like to interact with non-whites as if they were non-white, but do not understand how it is that race keeps appearing, in their own self-consciousness, in the self-consciousness of the other party, and in their consciousness of each other. Perhaps because they view the civil rights movement as having opened the doors to universal white-dom, and do not understand how that might be rjected.

          But then odd opinions do appear: for example, the opinion that its a vestige of white privilege that a white person may think that they also deserve to have nice things like rich people do. In this regard, I do wonder if race is used to obscure something more fundamental about social relations: that of capital and labor.

      • Although I appreciate the humility implied in referring anonymously to yourself as “Joe nobody” I don’t think you got the point either. When referring to institutionalized racism you say you “don’t know.” Guess that means you’re not a scientist, but you are also unable to entertain a worldview outside of
        your individuality, which makes you a sort of ‘ideal’ white American. I hope though, that you keep thinking about it.

      • Kendra Marks says:

        “Wow”! Ugh, I love it when people say that, so condescending.
        I think YOU missed the point. If you are a white person living in an otherwise entirely black neighborhood, you are living in THEIR “institutional” reality, their structure, their mini-society within the larger society, and if they don’t like you and choose to persecute you, THEIR institutionalized racism will hold sway as long as you are within their realm, out of the reach of your own society. So, if one of them beats you up and breaks your arm, your position within the structure of white “institutional racism” isn’t going to help you out one. damned. bit. All races, all cultures, create their own social frameworks on many, many levels. You must be 14 not to have figured this out.

    • Ok Kimberly but did you even read the article above? You seemed to have completely, utterly missed the point. Or didn’t comprehend.

    • Yeah, but when you graduated, boy did you reap the benefits!

    • mark beckford says:

      I think the writer was explaining to us as to why whites tend to shy away from the discussion of racism as a whole, not on an individual level everyone has some type of racism, but the worse kind of racism is the establishments that fosters that climate, he laid it out in the article, he stated how whites benefited from the policies, the article was on point

    • I understand what Kim is speaking of. My grandchildren are in a similar situation. They are the white kids in the school. It is not white fragility which they experience;it is white shaming. And the month of February..oh my… All racism,when you experience it,is of an individual nature no matter what the institution.

    • As a Latino, living a while back in an African American neighborhood, I can relate directly to your comment. It was the only time on my life in the USA, that I felt directly threatened. This is something they will not recognize.

    • Kimberly, it IS different in that people of european descent (whites) hold the power structure in this country. You are correct that all racism is wrong, however, white’s don’t/won’t acknowledge that racsim exists for people of color for all the reasons that the author listed, and it IS more important, because while what you went through as a child is important to you, you eventually were going to be an adult and a member of the white power structure that your black assailants were not.

      • I think it is important to remember that America is not a multicultural society, but a dominant and sub-cultural society. It is in its structure, customs, and traditions the remains of an Anglican, Caucasian English colony, and those of other cultures have always had to give up their cultural identities in order to be in any way welcomed to our shores. Yes, we will take anyone, but you must give up your identity and become “American” which means in dress, speech, education, etc. you must model yourself after us (the white folks who control things). This has today barely changed, but because it is so long our ‘normal’ we are blind to it… Somebody has said a whole generation of whites will have to get old and die before we change. I hope that isn’t true. Sad.

    • well said

    • Thank you for this. I grew up just like you. I was the only white kid in my grade, and one of ten in my school for most of my childhood. I was bullied, beaten, and once, had my house set on fire. All because I was a white kid. My mom lost multiple jobs because there was a quota to meet with black teachers, and they need to fire some of the white ones. I admit, that I have had a better life than most., but I hate having to stand here and hear that because I am a white male, that I am a racist, sexist, and overall anti Christ.

    • Michael Cooper says:

      I’m Black and, yes, we had a couple of White families in our predominantly Black neighborhood and they weren’t harassed or ostracized or bullied or made fun of. Black kids in the neighborhood viewed them as neighbors who were White. We did what neighbors do – enjoyed ourselves.

      Everyone please keep in mind that most White commenters (many are trolls) are known for lying about their experiences with Black people. It’s like saying Jim Crow never existed.

    • Django Muphanga says:

      That you need to lessen the impact of the ‘accusation’ by stating that it’s not a one way street puts you bang centre at the focus of this article

  38. I will suggest that whites who claim they don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, to go to Japan and try to spend a bit of time there as a “Round Eye.” Your skin is NOT the absence of color. You will get a FIRM lesson on racism, trust me. And don’t be blond! You will really stand out! And get shoved. And glared and stared at.

    • Only westerners (Americans) who are unsure of their own identity and/or try to be Japanese will meet with anything but ultimate respect from the Japanese. Perhaps going there as a tourist or student is not the best way to attempt to understand a culture so different from your own. Americans (we) have trouble knowing where boundaries lie, and we come from a verbally dependent society, so we aren’t skilled in reading the other signs so important in many other (non-western) cultures.

      • Dude. Clearly your experience there was different, but there is a lot of racism in Japan. Just like we tell white people not to assume that their experience is everyone’s experience, I’d ask you not to assume that your experience is universal, either. ‘Cause it’s not.

      • I think you’re closely correlating Americans to white ‘westerners’ of Europe (or European descent). Americans are not only white. Just say what things are (East Asia, West Asian, African, etc.). No need to group everything else as non-western or non-white. This is why the term ‘people of color’ exists in the first place: to stop labeling groups by what they’re not.
        If anything, we should be proud that the US is in between the ‘East’ and ‘West’, and it’s about time that we look into it and embrace it. Americans are Americans, and we’re quite different from the ‘West’ and ‘East’ if you know what I mean; even if a portion of us look like Europeans. In fact, both North America and South America are freakishly heterogeneous compared to our Old World counterparts.

    • What a coincidence that I stumbled across this conversation!
      I was just having a conversation on Facebook about racism. I explained how, even though Im white Id experienced racism and therefore had the apparent audacity to think that I had, well… experienced racism.
      The example I used was when I was in Japan, I wasnt allowed into a public bath because I was white. The response I got was along the lines of “you think you experienced discrimination because of that”?
      I said well yes, actually. Thats a good example of discrimination.
      Than they followed up saying things like “well that little anecdote as tourist is nothing” and “your life hasnt been impacted by racism”.
      So than I went on to explain how I lived, worked and even went to high school in Japan for a time. How my friend was told to go back to his own country whike walking on the beach with his fiancee. How I initially wanted to become a police officer in Japan, but was told I had to be Japanese. That right there impacted my career, woudlnt you say?
      Finally, I was to told to be quiet and listen. To start reading up on topics like racism, prejudice, discrimination, white privilige, white fragility and so on. I was told I was working within the racist framework that was setup to amplify my voice and drown others out. I was told that I was contributing to the racism.
      Seems to me, that it seems to many, that you cannot discriminate against white people.
      My “white fragility” comes from the simple fact that my opinion and my experiences, dont seem to count for anything on the topic of racism. So why in the seven hells should I want to talk about it??

      • On average, how many people who could be considered white actually move to Japan? In fact, the Japanese probably don’t like tourists or of non Japanese descent (regardless of their race). Your justifications are appalling. Please visit a heavily black community and realize that for 80% of this country, we had unjust enrichments taken away from them and given to white communities instead. I’m glad I am not white nor black and am able to see the history behind black socio-economic factors and biases around racism at play. I can’t imagine the nuero-behavior changes in blacks because of the previous generation of maternal mothers that had to forgo terrible living conditions, slavery and stress. Instead of talking about affirmative action for equality, you’re going to complain about your locomotion to Japan while being disliked for being a tourist, and ignore the undermining democracy we are currently living in because of institutionalized racism. I’m sorry, but did you even read the article?

        • You pretty much just proved his point. You’re taking away his experiences of racism because he’s white. It sounds like you didn’t read the article or his comment. Japan is a xenophobic country and you’ll be treated like trash if you’re the minority. Not everything has to conform to your ignorant american social justice rhetoric. Anyone can experience racism and discrimination.

  39. Ernestine Easter says:

    okay. so I did happen to linger on a comment where someone tried to define racism. and then accused one of the wings of changing the definition???? this is exactly what I am talking about. people who don’t know wtf they’re talking about. Don’t confuse predjudice bigotry and racism. Racism is systematic, political and carefully directed. There is nothing “careless” about disenfranchisement. Please shut up.

  40. Interesting article, but I wonder how many good ol’ white folks would really want to relinquish their “white privileged (power) lives. I think that white people would rather past this “privilege/power” on to their children children before accepting my feedback suggesting that they confront racism… Although, I’m diggin’ the light that Dr. Robin Diangelo is attempting to shine on racism, I would offer this one feedback and that would be to stop using white “privilege” in place of white “power” and then asked the question… who lets go of “power” without a revolution of some sort?

  41. Fascinating article! Thank you so much for this and for your other article on the same topic! I’d love more of these so we can better understand our blind spots. (Also amused by all the comments that prove your point.)

  42. Bryan Reeves says:

    I’m a white man born in the USA. Yup, I’m essentially the most privileged person on Earth – except that I was only born into the suburban middle class … but still. … I’m completely aware of this privilege and deeply sensitive to all the inherent dangers, imbalances, insanities, and awful consequences of arrogance that come with living in this reality. I know there’s rampant racism. I know it’s unsustainable. I know privileging any race does not serve the world. And I’m not afraid to talk about it. In fact, I love talking directly about it. Because how else are we gonna end this insanity? Yes, I’m a privileged white man, and the way forward isn’t to simply end my privilege, but rather that we collectively extend privilege to everyone (both sexes, too). We all deserve to be treated as the exquisite wondrous human beings that we are. In the end, it’s on me to simply offer that privilege to everyone I meet.

    • The most common sense thing I’ve heard about this white privilege/power discussion. What’s wrong with being and feeling empowered about who you are? nothing… Your white power doesn’t need to end, instead it should be extended to all.

  43. Humanity is too sick to survive,it would seem.
    It’s no small wonder we will never properly advance when we let such simple things devide us.
    it just proves the overall immaturity of human kind.

  44. I see you all dancing on the head of a pin about it, but instead of seeing who has got the biggest hang ups about it and trying to see who’se had the sH*ttiest time of it and the worst cards dealt to them, how about someone tries to suggest some solutions? No matter how ridiculous?

    Regardless of how hare-brained they may be – someone suggested banning same- race procreation. OK. It might be an extreme position to adopt, but its a suggestion. What do you want? Is it more about capitalism and money? You dont have any, therefore it must be because you’re non white? Political power? You dont have any so it must be because you’re not white? Highly paid responsible position or career? It must be because you’re not white?

    What is it you want? Do you want the system (whatever that may be) to forcibly take away the political power, the money, the jobs, whatever, from whites, because they’re white? What is the end goal here, apart from everyone saying to each other “you dont live in my skin so you cannot possibly know what its like”…?

    How about some solutions instead of just telling each other that we dont understand it? Otherwise, the whole article is social science self-justifying semantics. I dont expect anyone to feel anger or shame or anything else based on the colour of the skin that they were born into which they can do absolutely nothing about. While being half Puerto Rican and half Brit, I cant say I have ever encountered racism, which will come as no surprise. But by the same token, I will never deny its existence and also I will never do anything to perpetuate its existence either, consciously or otherwise.

    But my US based almost exclusively Puerto Rican family have for the last 70 odd years worked their nuts off and achieved beyond what any of them would have expected to have done. And the family and our friends who are close to us have many shades of skin colour, as they do differing political positions, religions and just about any other way of us being different that you can think of.

    What is the point of this article? To see who can be the most ashamed of being what they are because of the behaviours of their forebears? Is it some sort of competition here?

    • What’s wrong with being and feeling empowered about who you are? nothing… Your white privilege/power doesn’t need to end, instead it should be extended to all.

  45. I agree with Barbara. So many of these comments are examples of exactly what the author was talking about! Can’t you folks even see yourselves in the article?

    For example, Tariku, you are talking about individual racism rather than structural racism. Your comment epitomizes the author’s message, “Whites generally feel free to dismiss these informed perspectives rather than have the humility to acknowledge that they are unfamiliar, reflect on them further, or seek more information.”
    Why not learn something about structural racism (which does exist, by the way) rather than making such an uninformed, silly comment?

  46. What does it mean that rascism is “structured into the fabric of society”? I would say it is structured into the heads of some racist persons, but society? What would it take to remedy this supposed “structural” problem? Our laws no longer discriminate. True, the criminal system and law enforcement often discriminate, but that is not due to structures, but due to prejudiced decisions taken by individual persons. The same is the case for hate crimes and annoyances like blacks being easily suspected of shoplifting. There is no incentive for corporations in capitalism to do anything else than hire the best person regardless of colour. All expressions of racism today come down to individual prejudice and bigotry. Not “the fabric of society.”

    • My friend you are highly mistaken in the assumption that there are no incentive for corporations in a capitalist society to simply higher best person regardless of race… So many of these cases have been uncovered and companies have openly admitted these hiring practices… I can easily name such cases for but I don’t think it would matter in this case. However, if you want to know the truth you can search for yourself and you will come across a multitude of such cases where race mattered a great deal in capitalist “bottom line” corporate.

  47. I’m white and I’ve had MANY conversations, all of them interesting, none of them stressful. Not really so difficult. But my attitude toward talking about race is positive. This simplifies matters enormously.

    • David, you are ridiculous. Even the AUTHOR claims humility on the matter. You have just illustrated her point. But *Praised be to you objective white perspective that sees the humanity of all people beneath him.* Get over yourself. And and you can save your defensive rant.

  48. This is a great read.

    Simply put, in my opinion, this “racial stress”, as outlined in the article, has unfortunately manifested itself into a form of ‘hypersensitivity’ or ‘hypervigilance’ when it comes to dialogue about race in the United States. All too often nowadays everyone is quick to say “That’s racist” when, in some cases, a racially-driven remark isn’t necessarily racist at all.

    As a man born to a woman from The Philippines and a white man from the United States, I live every day with the concept of race because it’s clearly demonstrated in my outward physical appearance. I may or may be not judged according to this, but I choose not to live my life taking this into consideration because my racial and ethnic background is just one fraction of who I am. I don’t have time in my life to concern myself with every single minutia in the concept of American race relations. Yes, there are so many issues behind it. But if I continue to wonder where I stand in terms of race, I wouldn’t be able to live a full life. There are so many other concerns that I have right now in terms of who I am and my connection to this world where I live.

    Having said this, my belief is that the vast majority of those who have become extremely offended by comments made in the societal conversation behind race DO NOT KNOW what it is like to be racially offended. On top of this, what makes the situation even worse is when what exactly is racist is decided for me by this hypersensitive group. Unless someone has lived a life in which race issues actually matter, and someone has actually been confronted in daily life with at least one racially-motivated incident, I don’t need to be told what’s racist. To me, it’s this group who needs just as much education as those who are legitimately racist with racist beliefs.

    • Similarly, you don’t get to tell someone they are being hypersensitive about racism in their lives. You have probably never stumbled across the research that shows that companies hire people with white sounding names over people with foreign or black sounding names, even when the resumes are identical. I’d imagine you have some degree of white privilege of you are half white though. Having non-US ancestry most definitely does not prevent you from having white privilege because it’s based off what you look like. Not to mention the fact that people of east and south-east Asia generally experience positive racism (ie: expecting a Chinese person to be very smart). I’m white, fwiw.

  49. I get what you’re saying, regarding the sheltered life we live, here in white America. We’re all so busy working, trying to win the white race and die with the most toys, while being slaves to the family grind, etc. (admittedly, my perspective)

    Competitiveness may have started innocently enough, as a way to motivate new humans to work and succeed, but the mechanism has been usurped, and now results in jealousy, anger, wars and using any device anyone can, to get ahead of “the game” (the battle, the fight) and stay there (so hopefully it doesn’t have to be raced again!), including racing the human race against itself.

    Perhaps we should globally outlaw same-race pro-creation. With the development of “artificial” intelligence, we may be facing human erasism anyway.

  50. barbara says:

    OMG!! These comments prove the article! LOL!! Talk about a blind spot.

  51. The definition of racism is being changed by a small group amongst the left. Now we are told its no longer about people having racist attitudes towards people of different races or behaving badly towards people from racial minorities but about structural racism and benefiting from a system of race oppression.
    Now we are being told white people are racist even if they do not have racist attitudes or act in a racist manner.
    Racism is a horrible thing and racists are terrible bad people so if all white people are all racist then all white people are bad people regardless of their attitudes or actions.

    • The simple solution to this problem is to not care about the opinions of those that will despise you….no matter how much you grovel. Problem solved. Give it a try.

  52. Christian Gregory Sweeney says:

    No- I’m not fragile. I just have lots of experience with REAL racism. I was once adopted by an African American woman- and let me tell you, as a “little white boy” in an African American household, I learned what it was like to be judged for my skin color. The mother was fine, but the rest of the family HATED whites. For awhile after she took me home, her family cut her off. When they finally started coming around, lord did they give me hell. I learned from a young age of the irrational hatred some African Americans have for “whites” and I never forgot it- and to this very day, black on white racism is still a heavily taboo topic.

    Look, I’m a lowly individual- I don’t control the system,
    I don’t treat people differently because of their ethnicity,
    and if I ever found out that a coworker or friend was being paid less or being treated worse than me solely because of their “race” I’d raise motherfucking hell, even if that resulted in me going to prison or a mental institution- what offends me is when the topic of racism is brought up, and people use words that refer to us collectively as a race. That’s when I know the person I’m speaking to hasn’t a fucking clue what racism actually is and they are, ironically, a part of the problem.

    • Bryan Graham says:

      “what offends me is when the topic of racism is brought up, and people use words that refer to us collectively as a race. That’s when I know the person I’m speaking to hasn’t a fucking clue what racism actually is and they are, ironically, a part of the problem.”

      So if she said “white people that have never been the ‘underdog'”, would this somehow change the message of the article? As a matter of fact, she said,

      “Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. ”

      Meaning the author is acknowledging that people like you exist. I’m acknowledging that I have family members that hate white people, for various reasons. I’ve also experienced racism to the point where I was physically assaulted by white kids, twice. I’m also acknowledging that people like you exist, and I’m sorry for what has happened to you. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have let you go through that pain.

      However… this article is not addressing individual problems with race – it’s addressing systematic racism as a whole, so of course she is going to collectively refer to racial groups as a whole.

  53. nu noToro says:

    I am not sure how to respond to some of these comments. I have been in this black man’ s body for 47 years now and I triple dare anyone who is not black to get a very good make up artist to make you look like a convincing looking black person and exist that way for one month. Try to do normal things like get a job, a loan, go to the golf courses, go try and get a Motel, if you are in New York try and flag down a cab etc… Get back to me when you try this experiment for one month and tell me what you think. LMAO. Some of you have absolutely no clue nor do you have empathy and you need to expand your knowledge about history.

    • Corey D. says:

      “..It’s a stalemate.” No, actually it’s not! There are literally dozens of scholarly articles, blogs, and essays on every conceivable sub-topic related to Bigotry, structural racism, racist cultural assumptions and simple racial/cultural faux pas. So it’s really your own refusal to do the “work” or just plain laziness, that’s standing in the way of you having a deeper understanding of these issues.

    • And you’re convinced it all comes down to skin? Just skin? There’s nothing else that might figure into this is there?

  54. I am white, and I gave up on trying to understand racism a long time ago. All I do now is say, “Sorry. My bad.” and, as the article mentions, I walk away, because I have no way of understanding what it is to be a person of color in this world, and any attempt to understand is met with an indignant, “figure it out yourself.” Are there reasons for people of color to be indignant? Yes. Should I expect people of color to answer my questions? No. Should they expect me to understand where they’re coming from if they won’t tell me? No. So, there’s the stalemate. I just try to vote for candidates who will be racially fair and just and leave it at that. Not much else I can do about it.

    • Corey D. says:

      “..It’s a stalemate.” No, actually it’s not! ONLINE there are literally dozens of scholarly articles, blogs, and essays on every conceivable sub-topic related to Bigotry, structural racism, racist cultural assumptions and simple racial/cultural faux pas. So it’s really your laziness and refusal to do the “work” that’s standing in the way of you having a deeper understanding of these issues.
      “I have up trying to understand racism a long time ago…”
      Your own statement proves that you haven’t Really tried at all!

    • Go to Japan and stay for awhile and you will get a FIRM understanding of what it is like to be a “person of color”. You skin is not an absence of color. I had a blond friend who was asked to leave a store, because her appearance caused too much disturbance among the customers. There is a racism for you too.

  55. I commend you for your bravery in speaking about being white. I do statistics related to race and hiring, awards, vacation hours, firing, promotion, etc. I’m always always disgusted with what I see in the cold hard numbers. Racism has gotten worse in the last decade despite all these Federal efforts. We are not Post-racial no matter who is the President.

    Interestingly, Obama is now focused on Hispanic demographics due to their electoral votes. You can say he’s less interested in African American progers these days. Really sad.

    • Danielzinho says:

      50% of black males don’t graduate from high school. Who’s fault is that? Wonder why the unemployment rates are so high?

      • Bryan Graham says:

        Cite that, please.

        I’m calling horseshit that 50% of black males don’t graduate from high school. In my own class of 2007, the vast majority of my classmates graduated, including black males.

        When you throw out random bullshit like that, nobody wants to take you seriously.

        • Daniel Jordan says:

          How about because that is what the data show? Your experience in one setting has nothing to do with national trends. We do need to change the language from “drop-outs” to “pushed-out.” Most of these youths would stay in school if school were designed to support them.

          • Bryan Graham says:


            Only Nevada is below 50% graduation rate for black males. Unsurprisingly, in a lot of states where black males have low graduation rates, so do other races. There are notable exceptions, mostly in the midwestern area where there’s a significant population of black that lag behind white males.

            More importantly, that proves the “50% don’t graduate” bullshit lie that was said earlier, which by the way, you tried to defuse with “that is what the data show”, even though that’s clearly false.

            Again, stop making shit up if you want to be taken seriously.

          • Bryan Graham says:

            Meant “disproved.”

  56. Jason S says:

    Is it not racist to evaluate a viewpoint based upon the race of one expressing it? If a white person expresses their opinion on race, and a black person expresses the exact same opinion, is it not racist to think differently about the two identical expression simply based upon the race of the person that’s expressing the idea? We’ve all seen this happen, and it’s precisely why some feel the need to declare their race before posting their view, and it’s BS. And attempts to redefine racism are a defensive tactic to thwart challenge, one used often by theists who change the definition of god accordingly.

    • O. Smith says:

      Excellent article and some great comments as well. It is indeed very frustrating to deal with white fragility. But I am thankful for people like the author that are willing to work on the problem of racism in our society. It is true that racism is used as a tool to divide people and it divides our country. Therefore the willingness to work on it is not only altruistic, but is also patriotic.

      • “Therefore the willingness to work on it is not only altruistic, but is also patriotic.” I disagree, I think that the willingness to work on the problem can be incredibly self-serving. The author’s testimony as to why you should “work on the problem” highlights this as she conveys only positive effects for herself, thereby recentering whiteness.
        This article by Sara Ahmed explains this in greater detail: http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol5no3_2006/ahmed_nonperform.htm

        • I read part of the paper at the link you posted. It doesn’t really benefit a school to have a policy against racism that every other school (or whatever institution) has as well. It doesn’t set it apart or give it “good press” or anything because it is required by law that each school has one. The quote from the spokesperson doesn’t mention a policy at all. I don’t see how celebrating a well-written policy is mutually exclusive to acting on that policy. Anyway, I don’t have time to read further, but you are conflating the individual vs systemic problem. You accuse the author of using non-performative words, even though she is saying she has already done the work. That’s how she obtained the knowledge. This is a first-person, first-hand account. Then you compare that to a committee coming up with a legally-mandated statement that will not likely change anything across a system of individuals working and learning there. So, while Sara Ahmed may have a point, it certainly doesn’t apply to this article.

  57. “The antidote to white fragility is on-going and life-long, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education.”–> Such a great point! Racism may not end tomorrow or even in the next 30 years, but when we begin to acknowledge the system of oppression–lives will change. Great article!

  58. Michelle says:

    This is true regardless of who is the majority, and who is the minority, whether race, religion, disability, etc. The attitude from the majority privilege side is discomfort and avoidance, a refusal to see ones own privilege, and a refusal to accept the hurt it does to the other.

  59. White people have no race to identify with. No cultural values. If white people say their race is good at any particular trait then other races see it as a negative trait. White pride has been associated with the KKK and Hitler’s aryan nation. Yet this is a white problem?

    Because every other race is a lower percent of population, every other race can take pride in any attributes they wish because society views them as the underdog against the white man.

    America is The percentage of non-Hispanic white people in the U.S. population is 63%. That is 197.7 million white people out of 313.9 million Americans. 2 out of 3 people.

    Everyone born in America is American. But other than white people, others can have a racial identity along side of it.

    I can’t celebrate all the white inventors and scientists or powerful men or brilliant artists, there are too many.

    • Waysword says:

      And the fact that you probably only need the fingers on one hand to count all the non-white (and hell, non-male, for that matter) inventors and scientists of whom you have heard kind of serves to prove the point made in this article, don’t you think?

      • Jason S says:

        The fact that you probably only need the fingers on one hand to count all the non-white (and hell, non-male, for that matter) inventors and scientists of whom you have heard could also be used to validate arguments that are nearly opposite this article as well. Correlation does not imply causation.

    • It may be useful to clarify at first that you are speaking solely of white people in the US. Saying “white people have no race” sounds like you’re talking about ALL the white people in the WORLD, along with ALL the people of all other races in the world.

  60. Anonymous says:

    I’m white, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never felt discriminated against. I’m female. I’m queer. I suffer from health problems society often doesn’t understand or accommodate. I think about all the sadness I feel when my emotions are validated and stories of discrimination are outright denied, and I transpose it onto black people. Every moment of feeling discriminated against knows no race, gender, sexuality etc. We can all have violence and hate against us swept under the rug. We are all human. A small minority are rioting but most just feel sad. You have black affluent people on the news saying “I’ve never experienced what they have” but do they really understand the struggles of poverty? When we just dismiss others and get defensive, we don’t listen to them. And there are some people that don’t understand the humanity of others at all.

  61. A lot of these apply to minorities as well. E.g. segregation, good bad binary. People tend to associate with similar, both in thought and appearance, individuals.

    Also, individualism matters. Putting someone in a group based on appearance alone and deeming them “privileged” erases their history, not the other way around. There is no such thing as a “group” as a sole entity, groups are merely aggregations of individuals. The individual is the only real thing, the group is a construct.

    I think the hardest part about talking about racial issues is it seems both sides, regardless of what they are, always seem to be steadfast in one belief or another, unwilling to give any chance to the opposing view. Usually both are without significant data, or if they have it, it is cherry picked to fit their worldview. On top of this, a good/bad binary is made in thinking the opposing side, regardless of what it is, is “misguided” or “wrong” objectively while both are using unfalsifiable power structures as their justification of their worldview. No defining view can be deemed “more right” in such cases, rather, both end up squabbling about unempirical and unprovable feelings, often times playing the oppression Olympics, in which no one wins and everyone loses.

    An honest and fruitful discussion about race can only occur when both sides are willing to consider all data points and only use what is provable, ignoring any feelings along the way. Only then can true understand be achieved.

  62. Mike Wood says:

    After 47.3 K shares onto facebook, that platform suddenly deems the article to be ‘unsafe’ and determinedly refuses to post it to facebook. Not other articles from Goodmenproject, just that one. White Fragility in action perhaps..?

  63. Sheila Wilson says:

    I posted this article on my Facebook page, and an hour later it was deleted by FB, with a message saying this site was ‘unsafe’. For whom? What the hell?

    • Presumably it pissed off a lot of your friends, who reported it. (Probably because they were white and they made them uncomfortable so they reported it as racist.) Facebook decides what posts are inappropriate mostly using algorithms, not people. (With over a billion active Facebook users, it’s not like they have a choice.) Unfortunately, no algorithm is perfect and completely safe from manipulation. I’m not sure how much Facebook’s algorithms weight the content on posts versus the number of reports, but it probably has a hard time differentiating posts about racism from racist posts. Some things that are easy for humans are not easy for computers. Sorry this happened to you.

  64. Greg Thrasher says:
  65. CardboardMan says:

    Nice post. Interesting photo. The photog, David Shankbone, was also rolling audio that day.

    Here’s the file:


  66. Michael Paone says:

    Why do you describe yourself as “white?”

    • melkuphd says:

      I would be interested in reading the author’s response, but I thought it was helpful for the author to identify himself as white for two reasons:

      1) It is often useful to acknowledge the lense through which one may be viewing “diversity issues” (other issues as well, but these issues in particular.)

      2) It is unexpected for a white person to identify themselves as such, and to do so highlights some points discussed in this article (i.e., individualism and psychic freedom).

    • melkuphd says:

      …herself, that is…

  67. Jake Foley says:

    Would seem to be more realistic to discuss class. As all races and workers in this country are being screwed by capitalism. Minorities and African-Americans in particular are first in line to be discriminated against because the capitalists need the surplus army of the unemployed. Keep a group of people in poverty and it is a hell of lot easy to create ill will towards them. And of course the oligarchs love to have one group point the finger(s) at each other than at them….

    • You literally are thinking the exact way I am thinking.
      The black community is the first critical casualty of mindless capitalism.
      But make no mistake, other races are starting to feel the squeeze.
      The middle class today is struggling with poverty.
      If people of all races do not start having this conversations and start listening to one another, the real enemy, “mindless capitalism” will devour America and Americans.

      • I would disagree with that comment that the black community is the *first* “critical casuality of mindless capitalism”, and that “other races are starting to feel the squeeze”. I would say that many other races have felt the “squeeze” already (ESPECIALLY Native Americans, who seem to be swept under the rug, not to be talked about), but the (very real) black causalities are more popular to talk about.

        • Truth. I’m Latina, from an area with a lot of migrant labor AND a large Native presence. It’s really complicated to get across that Natives and Latinos are NOT favored to the poor whites in the area, because many presume there are magical affirmiative action things going on that don’t happen, and that it is only laziness that leads to the majority living in poverty.

          I was talked into believing the, “if you let anyone help you because of your race, you’re betraying white people” crap for several years. When I finally got desperate enough to continue my education to swallow my pride, I found out that Magical Easy Money that white people told me was unfairly out there didn’t exist. There was some earmarked money for jumping through the right hoops, but it was all for incredibly stereotypical fields, like restaurant management, agricultural work, mechanics, and engineering.

          There is nothing wrong with any of those carreers, but when you’re told, “OMG you BROWN people have it so easy,” and then you find out that there IS no money to help you outside of very narrow fields, it is a bit confusing.

          • Rebecca says:

            Hmmmm. Isn’t our president of color, Attorney General of color, Chief of Staff of color, Oprah W., of color, along with many, many other noted, successful people of color? To point, opportunities are clearly available to smart, motivated individuals, of all races. Real discussion should be the stigmatism associated with class differences. Do not speak of white arrogance to a person, born with, nothing, of Native American Indian blood, who worked their entire life, played by the rules, payed taxes and treated all humans with dignity. I think the author of article is arrogant, privileged and suffers from class elitism.

      • Jason S says:

        I was thinking the same thing the throughout the entire read. You could almost substitute ‘white’ for ‘financially well-off’. Of course those two things are not synonymous so I call BS on this view.

    • thesingingchef says:

      You’re making this into a zero-sum game. It’s not an either/or situation, i.e., we either talk about racism OR we talk about the disastrous fallout of western colonialism’s history, OR we talk about sexism. Accepting that we’re a fairly recent but complex species on this planet and that we are just now beginning to have a conversation about engagement with one another rather than dominance over one another is a good thing. It doesn’t need to be reduced to binaries.

    • Alejandro Rivera says:

      I’m a Mexican Ph.D. in Sociology in a big US university and I have to reply to this irresponsible article that contributes to the ethnic tension that is raising in the U.S. based on media lies which sow discord.

      1) “U.S…is deeply divided by race”:
      False, the U.S. is not divided by races but by ethnic groups, cultures and religions. Examples are the Hispanic and Jewish communities, which are integrated by differences races and mixes. And there is no such thing as White people; there are Irish, Italian, German, etc. differents and separated communities that don’t have any kind of lobby or institutional representation or even ethnical conscious as individualism, materialistic and liberal culture has broken these communities into individuals. Why Italians, Irish or Spanish people cannot be a minority? Who decided to categorize them as “white majority”?

      2) “Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system”:
      False, this definition is too recent and it’s arbitrary based on ideologies such as Gramsci ideas or Frankfurt School theories. For social scientists there was always been two differences definitions; racism and institutional discrimination based on many things such as origin, nationality, language, culture or race among others characteristics. No all social scientists used this twisted concept of racism but dubious “academicians” like the polemic Tim Wise.

      3) “Whites… benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group” “system of unequal institutionalized racial power” “This systemic and institutional control” “These acts are part of a larger system that we all participate in”:
      False, there is no such structure in the U.S. and the prove is that there is no one single empirical evidence or investigation that show this, as you don’t show in the article, meaning that this is just a theory or even a hoax.
      Some polemic and dubious academicians say that this “structure” or “system” happens with the Jewish community while many anti-Semitic people use the same term “controlled by their group” to blame Jewish community for supposedly controlling the mass-media, finance, politic and education.
      But the truth is that these institutions are controlled by the monetary benefit and self interest behaviors without looking for the color, culture or ethnic group. America doesn’t work like a tribal monarchy but through neoliberal capitalism. People in power see just potential consumers and workers, not color.
      German or Italians came after the abolition of slavery and they faced, with Irish and Spanish Basque people mostly among others ethnic groups, a hideous racism too. They didn’t and don’t benefit from the past English racist system.

      4) “Segregation: Most whites live, grow, play, learn, love, work and die primarily in social and geographic racial segregation”:
      False: U.S. was constructed with the “melting pot” society, believing that multiculturalism without forced integration would work contrary to searching a directly homogeneous society such as the catholic and ethnically mixed south America. This “melting pot” has failed and people live segregated because there is no one homogeneous culture in the U.S. And I have to correct you: Culture or ethnic group is different from race. Culture means experience, behavior, relations, contexts, conditions, geography, religion etc. African American people with Italians, Irish or Hispanic people are different each other and they want to leave with people of their culture. And not, “white” people are not to blame, but all of you.
      Finishing correcting the main errors and fallacies of your article I have to say that the “white privilege” thing, until these day, hasn’t any serious fact provided by any university but unproven theories and subjective personal opinions. People talk about an invisible “structure” or “system” of institutional racism but everyone fails to provide an explanation only showing two examples a) Police racial profiling and b) cultural or media expectation. These two don’t account for all intuitions in order to talk about “white privilege” or “institutionalized racism”. There are people who talk about Redlining, but this theory has been debunked too. On the other hand minorities, some with more benefits than “whites”, benefits from affirmative actions or positive discrimination which provide them with advantages in access in higher education and jobs, subventions etc.

      • Alejandro – are you a Mexican grown up in America PHD or did you come to the US as an adult. As a Sociologist who grew up in the US, I have to disagree with everything you have said. The US is fundamentally divided by race to the point that it became an issue in the very writing on the Constitution and the agreement that slaves would count only as 3/5th of a person. The very understanding of liberty and freedom was made concrete by whites comparing themselves to the lack of liberty and freedom that blacks represented. In this I point you specifically to Orlando Paterson’s and Paul Gilroy’s work on race. I am certain I do no need to point out to you the difference between race and ethnicity…. And as for the American melting pot, are you familiar with the saying that “American was meant to be a melting pot but black people were never meant to be part of it; black people were meant to be the wood in the fire under the melting pot.”?

        • American says:

          The true reason we have racial tension in America is due to the fact that we allow our government to label us. EuropeanAmerican, AfricanAmerican, LatinAmerican, and so on. Take our heritage label out of the equation and lets all become what we are. AMERICAN’s.

        • “… the agreement that slaves would count only as 3/5th of a person.”

          The 3/5 clause was put into the Constitution because the slave states wanted to count all of their blacks as citizens for purposes of representation but were not going to allow them to vote to help choose those representatives. They were afraid that if they could not count them, then the North would dominate in the House as well as the Senate. The North didn’t want to count blacks towards representation at all because they knew the South would not let them vote; that would give the South a majority in the House with the majority of the people in those States having no choice in the matter. The 3/5 number was selected to even things up. Without this, there would have BEEN no United States, and eventual freedom for blacks in the South would have likely been delayed for generations past the time of the Civil War (which would not have occurred). Distasteful as it was, the 3/5 rule accelerated freedom for blacks by bringing the South into the Union.

      • Yes.
        I heard a black man say in the last election cycle that he “was sick and tired of hearing about the black position”. He said that you never, ever hear about the “white position” on anything simply because it doesn’t exist.

        Your statement about the US being all about capitalism is essentially correct. This system is one of the cruelest systems ever invented but it has the potential to be insanely lucrative for those willing to learn to play it well.

        • “[Capitalism] is one of the cruelest systems ever invented”

          Consider all of the people who died in the famines in China after the Communists took over. Think of the 10’s of millions or more who died in famines or purges of entire ethnic groups and regions in Russia after the Communists took over there. Look at what happens in North Korea now. Communism and socialism have killed far more than Capitalism ever has.

      • Denial

      • Brandon Wiese says:


      • Lamar Jackson says:

        Sorry Doctor, but your view is highly uninformed. The fact that you disregard white privilege and think that Irish ,Italian and Greek shouldn’t be considered white (because you clearly don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge the concept of white-skin privilege) negates anything else you have to say. Read up on a subject before you pontificate, otherwise, you’re just embarrassing yourself.

      • Alejandro, did you study race relations at that “big American University?” When you walk down the street do you have to open your mouth and speak before people know you’re Mexican? And even then, how often do non-Latinos assume you might be Colombian, Puerto Rican or Dominican? Well, when a black person or brown skinned person walks down the street, no questions are asked, that person is viewed FIRST as black. THAT is how America is divided. Race relations and ethnic conflict are NOT THE SAME. Ethnic conflict has much broader criteria beyond visual markers such as skin colour. Most Jews, Irish, and Italians have the VISIBLE ability to assimilate because they have white skin, and many also turned their own discrimination toward darker skinned people because of white privilege and white supremacy. The point is our capitalist hierarchy is based on visible whiteness and blackness being on a spectrum, Blackness at the bottom. How many colors can melt into whiteness before it isn’t white anymore? None. That’s why white supremacy depends on racial purity or assimilation and that’s what the author is discussing.

      • I’m a white Colombian PhD from a “big American university” in African Diaspora Studies, and I just have to support the comments of everyone here that are speaking against all of the extremely problematic comments made by Alejandro. What other have said is spot on and there’s a lot more, but I can’t help at being very worried about what is being taught in Sociology departments at “big American universities”…if this is what all his cohort mates are taught and regurgitate, and if he identifies as “Mexican” I really hope young Latino students can see beyond the lies Alejandro is trying to perpetuate. I really just can’t believe that someone like this is probably teaching Latino kids and teaching them to hate themselves and/or be white supremacists like many other Latinos.

      • You are the reason for this article.

    • Jake— race is linked with class. Class differences between poor and rich whites became minimized in focusing on racial identity. Italians, Jews, and the Irish who were once non white became white as they moved into the middle class and adopted middle class anglo culture. They often were the most anti-black because associating with black people would jeapordize their new “whiteness”. In anothet end affluenr blacks are often assumed to be poor just because of their race. Discussing capitalism is irellivent because the whole settlement of the US and the introduction of slave labor was built on capitalism. Race AND class needs to be discussed because race and class have always historically been linked in the US.

    • Michael says:

      Sure, race and class are tangled up in very complex ways, and many of the same observations this essay makes could apply to class differences as well. But they’re not the same thing and class doesn’t always trump race. All other things being equal, who’s more likely to get stopped and frisked, or even shot, by police when walking down a dark street: a middle class black man in jeans and t shirt or a working class white man similarly dressed? That’s just one example.

    • Universal Truth says:

      A very good point, but the article was about something more specific a true. The articles title picture explains it all.

    • Dennis Fritz says:

      One tell-tale sign of white fragility among liberal, progressive, or even leftist white people is that when the subject of race comes up, they immediately want to talk about class instead. Talking about race often makes white liberals and leftists just as uncomfortable as it makes white conservatives. By shifting the focus from race to class, white liberals and leftists are able to return to their comfort zone.

      • Thank you for saying so! It is almost as if this chain of responses was crafted as an illustration of the author’s main point, which is that white Americans, even progressives, frequently deflect attention from questions of race (about which they are relatively ill-informed because they have been trained to feel that race only resides in and with people of color) in order to retain a sense of rightful control of the narrative at hand.

      • Dennis: Yes, exactly!

      • Thank you! I was wondering when someone was going to point that out! Everyone already had their biased views before finishing the entire article. The picture gives a great description of these comments. Let’s not talk about the direct issue let’s dance and prance around it!

      • OMG 100%
        If only more people understood like you do. Most of these people commenting are saying exactly what the article said they would say hahahaha i can’t!

    • georgethebushpig says:

      The author should have included another pattern: the white dodge pattern. Let’s pull a class discussion so that we bury the race discussion. “The color line is the power line, is the poverty line” Asian Dub Foundation .

  68. Yes, so I would also like to know what a white man is to do? How should he face the world after reading this article because just like every other person on this planet he did not choose the color of his skin. He did not get to chose the family he was born into. It is no ones business what color my skin is, but I am trying my hardest to raise my children to see a person for who they are not what they look like. That is all.

    • JCHoulihan says:

      Yes, Erin, and while Dee constructs seminars, the rest of us are left to do precisely what you are saying: construct decent enough lives. As my coalmining grandfather did — with all of his “unsophisticated,” untutored, un-phd’d self – but deeply decent self. That is all, and all that you can do is human.

  69. A good seminar exercise would be to take DiAngelo’s discussion, and this comment section, and analyze the comment section through the lens of DiAngelo’s theory. Participants can discuss where they think the comments reflect the theory well, and where ideas forwarded in the comments are actually not supported or contradict the theory.

    The useful contradictions to explore are not so much the explicit “I disagree” statements, but the subtext on supporting arguments offered.

    Personally, I read it and thought it was good, but am not sure if its exhaustive or if all the conceptual categories really work. That’s why I want to do this exercise. However, DiAngelo’s theory probably has some ontological strength, simply because he is basing his categories on actual seminars on racism, and the feedback at those seminars.

    In other words, his ideas don’t come out of his butt, or culled from his armchair, but are the attempt to make sense of real reactions that repeat across multiple, varying audiences, yet probably all sound remarkably similar and follow a common arc. When you start to notice a theme, that’s a researcher’s Aha! moment. So his next step was to pull out those themes, and then try to analyze them.

    I find it helpful, though I remain open to additional information that might strengthen or prune elements of his argument.

  70. OK, so what’s a White man to do?

  71. JC Houlihan says:

    For the most part, I read this article and thought good points, interesting, Then, I get to a line like: “Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either not consciously aware of . . ” and I say– what nonsense. Find a middle class person out there — of ANY color — with any sense of entitlement or superiority — there is nothing but struggle for most of us. I don’t have time for this. I am struggling to make a living — and bottom line, as long as my civic self is squared away — then that is all I am prepared to do. What action would this writer like me to take as white old woman working an 80 hour week to just get by??? Are you kidding me? Unlike the author, I am not MAKING A LIVING AT THIS. Most of her points may be spot on, but if she expects this to fall into the purview of action for most middle class, working class, and struggling class whites or other (I would venture to say that includes Asians and Blacks and Hispanic), she is out of her mind. So, what does this accomplish except to add to academic arguments??? And I agree with the comment – in a host of great comments here – that she unilaterally taken it upon herself (as a white woman???) to redefine the definition of racism. Again, I say. Where is the point for action??? This is a non-actionable and cultural accusation that can’t be answered in any meaningful way except one prescribed by her.

    • She hasn’t unilaterally taken on a redefinition of racism. The fact that you think that, means that she needs to make clearer that what she is doing is nut-shelling and repackaging 100 years or so of sociology and anthropology as well as more recent cultural theory. She isn’t making it up- she’s sharing the existing literature. She probably realizes that most people don’t have access to this information, so she’s trying to make it accessible in an article form. I only learned most of this from working on my Ph.D., in which i spent 10 hours a day (when I wasn’t coffee breaking) reading the literature. I spent 5 years doing that. And that’s why I recognize that she’s sharing, not declaring, a “redefinition” of racism. It’s not even a re-defining- the existing, average person does not have a sophisticated understanding of how race works.

      To your other point about the difficulty of figuring out how to take action or make a difference, you have a great point there. Solutions are way harder to come by than explications. I will quote another commenter, Raymond Moser I believe, in this thread who I think has it exactly right:

      “Find a small group of people who believe in changing the world through concrete action. Believing in a power greater than your self is crucial. Above all, the goal is to be a better person who can grow relationships with a variety of people who “feel the same.”

      • JCHoulihan says:

        Congratulations on you Phd. I also have one, but don’t engage in calling other people’s viewpoints unsophisticated. You did not give my points a close reading. Now my degree would teach you how to give close textual reading.

        As I said, there is no “actionable” point here. And, as long as my civic self is squared away — as long as personal actions are clean clear – then I have NO interest. I have no time, and no money. You don’t seem to get my principle point that her claims go too far when she makes statements about white people (maybe she should confine herself to white academics) have some inner sense of superiority — NO ONE in the working and middle class has a de facto sense of superiority today. Where exactly is the research that supports that supports that statement. The only people who seem to have a sense of superiority are the academics who get paid to make these arguments. I made no claim to want to be a better person. I am already extremely decent person. What I want now is to survive. In addition, she has made a circular argument to which no one can disagree because she has set the terms of disagreement already — as white fragility — and to do that — to imprison people in the terms of your argument is essentially disrespectful and not a dialogue. Who are you to decide that people need have a sophisticated sense of anything??? or that sophistication is something valuable. You have lost your way.

      • JC Houlihand says:

        Just re-reading your response, Dee, and finding it just as infuriating as the first time. I did NOT make a point about the “difficulty of figuring out how to take action or make a difference”. Unbelievable. My point was that there was nothing actionable in the argument. All that is there is academics self-pleasuring. So worked 10 hours a day in this field? Really? And you don’t recognize a closed loop argument? When anyone who disagrees is essentially labeled as unpalatable — or in your view “unsophisticated.” Here’s this. My coal mining grandfather and union leader standing up for the rights of many new ethic groups in the mines, including black Americans. Not sophisticated. But decent. That was all. Give me the decency of the common man/woman. And then no response on her claim of an inherent sense of superiority based on someone just being white????? What nonsense. Where is the research that supports that!

      • The point was not that the author of this article was redefining the word ‘racism.’ The point is that the article is utilizing a popular revisionist definition that was created by a white social scientist in 1970, Pat Bidol, and popularized by other white social scientists for the purpose of being a provocative tool for simplifying theories of racism. None of this is a problem until you say 1) that racism had to redefined because it’s definition was created by white people trying to control society; 2) the new definition is the only acceptable definition, and all other definitions are tools of oppression; or 3) anyone who challenges the goals, intentions, methods or success of this new definition is a closeted racist

  72. This is a very interesting article, thank you. I think it is interesting to apply these same ideas and principles to Christianity, being male, homophobic, or any other divisive cultural issue. As people change and our society attempts to evolve, the social norms held very closely get challenged. Often people in the majority or the more accepted through time classification find it very hard to realize that the way it has been is not the way it is always going to be.

  73. Dylan Cornelius says:

    Great essay! I wonder how much of the barrier (to understanding and overcoming racism) is related to the probable reality that this essay requires a relatively higher degree of intellect to fully comprehend than the ‘average’ and median IQs in the population. Since such thinking may be unattainable to a fairly broad percentage of the population (the ones most likely to easily fall into racist thinking and stereotypes), we must continue to promote a culture of kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness.

    • See Dubya says:

      Given that IQ is normally distributed the mean and median are equal for all fundamental purposes. Your use of both measures of central tendency indicates that you misunderstand simple measures of statistics and is quite ironic in that you positively correlate agreement with this article with IQ. I shall not hypothesize the opposite but I will kinda giggle at the unintentional funny on display.

  74. You seriously wrote the best article ever. I am Black, I dont expect any White person to ever understand what it is really like for us I just want them to acknowledge that things truly arent equal for us and that just because the Civil Rights Movement is over it doesnt mean that we dont still experience struggles just because of our skin color. WE KNOW ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARENT RACIST but when you experience blatant racism it opens your eyes a lot more to when people are doing racist things that they dont even notice. No race is perfect of course and never will be, but if people were more like this article and not scared to attempt true understanding instead of just throwing around opinions with no intention of learning from eachother we will be on the road to ending racism, dumb assumptions and stereotypes!

  75. And of course it’s in the m o d squad.

  76. You said “I do not get why it’s so hard to think that for one second, your actions and life might have negative unintended consequences” Is an interesting statement and EVERYONE then should be aware of this.

    My problem is that as close as I am to friends who are of color, I’m finding that at times, I second guess myself as to what I say or do. My doing this frustrates my friends.

    I have lived my life in a way that I look at people as individuals but then I come across articles like this that tell me that I’m racist and don’t realize it? I know I’m not racist and I don’t care to live a life where I have to watch everything I say or do because someone is on high alert, watching and listening.

  77. Woo this is a saddening comment thread.

    So much “woe is me” and “Black people aren’t nice enough” and “how are we supposed to have a conversation??” and “Black people are racist too!”

    I do not get why it’s so hard to think that for one second, your actions and life might have negative unintended consequences. It’s like…caring for the environment. I do little things all day that I don’t think about (like taking a shower that’s a bit too long or throwing away cardboard or fertilizing my lawn with chemical fertilizers) that make the world a worse place to live in for other people. That’s how racism works. The article explained that well though, I just don’t get why it’s so hard to let go of the “I’m an awesome person” rhetoric that seems to be on loop in some people’s heads, even for one second.

    I mean I do actually get it get it, but seeing it play out is mind-boggling. I’m not gay or trans, but I know how to have a conversation with them about it…when I want to talk, 99% chance I need to close my lips, research, and examine myself and my life first. Also, if I want to have a conversation with someone, I’d better have a relationship with them already to lay the foundation of civil discussion on. Workplace relationships and friends-of-friends don’t count.

    It’s my responsibility to do the work instead of asking someone who already has the weight of a social Ponzi scheme on their shoulders to teach me or cater to my sense of well-being.

  78. I just wanted to say that I thought this article was stellar and enjoyed reading the respectful, deep conversation that followed among the other readers. I have nothing else to add except that I am certainly “listening” and “learning”.

  79. I would really like a no holds everything on the table civil discussion about racism.

  80. Talk about timely president mugabe reused today to speak to a room of journalists because as he stated he didn’t want to look at any white faces. So maybe he hates white folk for good reason. Does he hate all white folk who have tried to help him? Is it always so sweeping? And he is the president of all the folks in his country. Perhaps we should all just start with civility towards each other and call it a day. For the human species that may be as good as it gets. And yes making sure equal opportunity does exist but if you screw that up you can’t call race and expect everyone to fall all over themselves for you.

  81. “Racial Arrogance”

    I remember getting on a hospital elevator to visit my father in the hospital….two older white women made sneering faces at each other when I stepped on (I am Asian-American and I caught their looks out of the corner of my eye)…. it was really galling their open disrespect, but I assumed that they grew up in a different world from me….

  82. So, the message to white people is:

    “The system coddles you. It lets you be lazy and ignorant. Other races have to do the real hard work while you reap the benefits.”

    That sounds awfully familiar. Where have I heard language like that before? For some reason, I’m hearing Ronald Reagan’s voice in my head….

  83. “In our 14 months in Hong Kong, I learned some brutal lessons about racism. First, it is not the preserve of whites. Every race displays racial prejudice, is capable of racism, carries assumptions about its own virtue and superiority. Each racism, furthermore, is subtly different, reflecting the specificity of its own culture and history.”

    This may have been written more than ten years ago, but I have always found Martin’s article to be spot-on when it comes to racism.


    I find the race discussion (when predominantly referring to the situation in the US) to be too narrow, as it only refers to white vs “people of colour”. Two minority groups (both non-whites) could be equally racist/discriminatory to each other.

    Note: I often balance my personal experience as a Malaysian living in the UK (on the receiving end of racism), with being an indirect perpetrator back in my country, as we have pro-Malay economic policies and privileges (to the detriment of other minorities). It remains a challenge to point out to my fellow Malays that we oppress people in the same way that we are marginalised in other countries.

    • See also the case of the Rwandan genocide and counter-genocide. Two groups of people essentially indistinguishable from each other, who could not even tell each other apart except with identity cards, who slaughtered each other over racial difference.

      • It’s interesting that you used Rwanda as an example, because the rift between the Hutus and Tutsis were artificially created by Belgian colonialists (through eugenic methods of skull measurements, then promoting one group to be superior over another, giving them jobs as civil servants etc).

        Divide and conquer is a preferred method for the British too, splitting us Malays in villages, Indians in plantations, and Chinese in mining.

        Globally, poorer countries rich in resources have been colonised, divided and milked for profits by the “white man”. Martin’s other point is equally important; racism by white people remains the only one with a global reach. Other minorities remain entrenched in their own localised contexts.

        I can see why it’s hard for “people of colour” to digest equal opportunity messages from anyone perceived to be agents of the West. It was only a generation ago that my grandparents had to work for white folks, and made to feel that their own language is inferior compared to English.

  84. ladyfilosopher says:
  85. I’ve been following The Good Men Project for a while and am very happy to see Dr. Robin DiAngelo on here! For further reading I’d highly recommend “What Does it Mean to Be White?” Especially to those who feel strong aversion to this article. I found it hard work to read but feel I faced a little of my white fragility and deepened my understanding of racial dynamics. So I’m very thankful for that.

  86. I think its pretty adorable that people living in a country that legally affords them so much at the expense of so many around the world and most likely living in the global 1% (I’m assuming a salary of at least 34000 USD) think of themselves this underprivileged. So, since all of that accounts for far more privilege than the amount of melatonin in your skin, I’m not really in a rush to have a conversation about race, especially since these petty squabbles means I’m not even afforded the right to have my own opinion in these conversations.

  87. Wow. This is the most effective representation of the invisibility and yet ubiquity of White Privilege I have ever had the pleasure to read. Watching the comments cause people to spasm in discomfort only reinforces how effectively this undermines their perspective of their own privilege. I am at a loss to find words of praise which can do this article justice. Please accept a hearty WELL DONE and detractors may need to check their own perspectives at the door.

  88. I think this whole black white thing is really overblown and misplaced . My experience is that classless people, read trailer trash black or white, are who I cannot make a connection with. I find those people cannot string a logical conversation with out resorting to cliches together to save their souls. It’s like talking to rocks. Seriously i’m not being elitist, racist or class-ist. You just cannot lump all blacks and all whites together and say this is what racism looks like.

  89. I also like to point out that whites did not have any kind of economic privileges in terms of job security, generous pensions, good working conditions, etc., before the Great Depression. White workers were beaten and even killed by the police during the labor strikes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Even after the passing of the GI Bill, you still had a good number of poor white people particularly in the southern part of the USA . Coal miners were paid script until the US Supreme Court told the coaling mining companies that they had to pay real money to the miners. You look at the states being run by Republican governors right now, the whites except the rich ones, are not benefiting from the failed Laissez-faire policies that started back in the 1980s.

    • Great points G

    • ladyfilosopher says:

      But white people (especially men) felt they could ‘aspire’ in those days. When they found out that rising was not part of their future they felt doubly betrayed because despite being a member of the priviledged group they were not priviledged enough. Doubly hammered. Not much different than the situation with rape: a women suffers rape in a different complexity than how a male who is raped. The male adds to the patriarchal shame that ‘now’ he might even be gay.

      Racism is part of the search for hierarchy and discerning value through biology. That is the same criteria for sexism where masculine characteristics are valued higher than feminine. Heaven forbid that a male harbour ‘feminine’ modes of being a person. People who do the jobs of caring (denoted as feminine ) get paid less, across the board. Please note the % of ethnic demograph working in these sectors of care. RACISM is evil but even more evil is the need to devalue ANY person.

      • See Dubya says:

        It’s quite incredible how you can expound on the thoughts and motivations of groups you are clearly not a member of. Those who preach “listening” certainly don’t practice what they preach. Or does listening only go one way?

      • Lady, you said “But white people (especially men) felt they could ‘aspire’ in those days” No they didn’t. Often times men where MOST were uneducated, didn’t have that aspiration. Industrial America had far more labor force men then what we call white collar. Much of that labor force, as was pointed out in another response, were jobs where men’s life expectancy was greatly reduced.

        People also forget The Irish. Like many immigrant groups in the United States, the Irish were characterized as racial Others when they first arrived in the first half of the 19th century. The Irish had suffered profound injustice in the U.K. at the hands of the British, widely seen as “white negroes.”


        And of course what thread is complete without introducing this topic? “hat is the same criteria for sexism where masculine characteristics are valued higher than feminine. Heaven forbid that a male harbour ‘feminine’ modes of being a person.”

  90. I would like the editors and/or mods to explain to me why my posts were removed? You have my email.

  91. If whites have such privileges then why are the majority of them are unable to be allow to form unions and have good paying jobs due to the jobs being send overseas or import workers replacing them at their jobs, unable to find another job because of their age, etc., for the last 35 years? You have rich white people like Bill Gates, the Koch Brothers, Albert “Chainsaw ” Dunlap destroying the lives of thousands of blue collar white people.

    In addition, many white kids at many colleges and universities tried to form European culture clubs to learn about their own ethnic backgrounds but the school administrations and many minorities start screaming racism and don’t want the white kids to learn about their own European cultures because once you learn about your racial and cultural background, it is power that no one can take away from you. Back in the 1960s and 70s, people of Polish descent were subject to anti-Polish jokes and because of it were ashamed of their culture and many of them change their names. Discrimination and racism is not limited to people of color.

    • i think your examples actually reinforce the hierarchy and system of privilege that the author addresses.
      there was an article i read a while ago that i wish i’d saved and could fully remember; it was a discussion on the concept of “whiteness”, and how it is related to socio-economics and power systems (class, status, etc.) more than “race” alone. what you’re talking about is exactly what that article identified.

      • Wealthy white people uses race in order to divert attention the class, status, political, social, and economic status quo in this country. They are also trying to whitewash American history regarding these same items.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          I actually think that educated people who understand social theory know that class, sex, wealth, ability, political and socioeconomic status intersect with race to create a really complicated mess of privileges and oppressions.

          I don’t think anyone with any sort of education on the subject uses racial privilege/oppression theories to make the other privileges/oppressions disappear or to divert anything.

          This is VERY complicated stuff. It’s not simple for anybody. But intersectionality theory can help us see the nuance in privilege.

          • You have highly educated people using racial privilege/oppression theories to make other privileges/oppression disappear and to divert anything.

            When there is talk of economic inequality, the wealthy people tried to divert it by saying things that if you become rich or if you were poor, it was because it was God’s will. Or they would say things like people are not rich because they are too lazy, or if you raise the minimum wage, it will destroy jobs or that labor unions are to be blame for destroying the economy. They would alway come up with new theories or stupid/dumb arguments about how it is that they are not the ones to be blame for screwing up the world.

      • ladyfilosopher says:

        The Heart of Whiteness by Robert Jensen might be interesting for you

        • Another good book is Nell Painter’s _The History of White People_. (The author is an African American woman, by the way, if that makes a difference to anyone.)

  92. wellokaythen says:

    If the argument is that white people are often ignorant about the power of racism, then I say that’s absolutely true.

    If the argument is that white people may not see racism even when racism is right in front of them, then I say yes, that can be very true.

    If the argument is that white people are always wrong when they think racism MAY be blamed too much, sometimes, in some cases, then I respectfully disagree. If white people are always inherently wrong about the reality racism if they disagree at all with the current social scientific model, then that makes this not really a rational discussion at all.

    Let’s just think logically for one moment.

    Let’s say I look for something in a specific place but I don’t see it. There are at least two possible explanations for this, and each should be explored if you want to find the truth:

    1. It’s invisible to me.


    2. It doesn’t exist.

    If we forbid possibility #2 from discussion and never even consider it, then we are not really thinking logically anymore.

    • agree, 100%. well said.

      • Careful now, you two. If you’re both white and you agree with each other on this, then you’re guilty of the sin of racial solidarity. What a horrible sense of entitlement you two have, thinking that you can apply logic any time you want. 😉

    • wellokaythen – the problem is that many times the option “It doesn’t exist” is chosen DESPITE an entire group of people having the ability to see it very clearly. The denial of the validity of what others see and feel is where the conflict arises.

  93. Andrew Pollom says:

    I’ve written about whiteness and racism for The Goodmen Project before. This is one of the best explanations I have read. It really lays out very clearly, articulately, honestly- where we as white people struggle in this conversation. It is an important message to share, to read, to struggle with, to know.

    In response to two of the respondents: Scotty, I assume from your comments that you identify with the white community. I do as well. Your thoughts on language are truly important, but I would share this one observation. When we engage in conversations about racism, I understand the struggle with the term “racist” and agree with the historical weight of this feeling. However, as white people, privileged and not subjected to the system of racism as discussed in this piece, we need to be aware of our own individual or group attempts to change or control the language that is being used. If you do not agree with the use of the term “racist” in the dialogue, then when you discuss it, use a different term. But to suggest that it should not be used in the general dialogue because it makes us as whites uncomfortable, is use of our privilege and oppresses the conversation. In being humble, as the article suggests, we must be open to trying to understand why a POC might use the term “racist”. Your perspective of that term is a privileged perspective and while other POC might share your opinion of it, it is something that we need to keep in check. My two cents. I do appreciate your thoughts on this article though and applaud your efforts to be involved in the dialogue.

    Jen- simply put, sometimes white people shouldn’t need to speak. Listening might be the best step. I had to realize in my own development that when I was nervous to speak or afraid to say something because of how the POC I might be engaged with would react, I did not have something really worth saying to begin with and so listening was the best thing for me to do. The socialization of our whiteness suggests and privileges us to believe we have something necessary and important to say and that our voices should be heard, especially when it feels like we are challenged or accused. But again, taking the humble approach of simply listening, as suggested by the piece, might be all you need to really do right now.

    • veggiejosie says:

      Andrew, people who object to the term ‘racist’ are not the ones trying to change something. The P+P=R definition is a revisionist definition created by social scientist for the purpose of making whites feel uncomfortable. I don’t think that whites should feel comfortable about the state of race relations, so I don’t object to the new definition. However, I also do not think it is okay to dismiss rational criticisms of this new definition. I can understand the frustration that drives people to the revisionist definition. I do not think white people should correct POC who adopt the P+P=R, because the definition is of some use and I don’t think it’s their place to criticize the efforts of POC. However, I do object to anybody (such as the author of this article) that berates and belittles the people that are not moved by the P+P=R argument. Of course they’re not! It’s a logically flawed argument that could be effortlessly avoided if we weren’t so caught up on our need to shame people!

      • Competing theories to the P+P=R assertion do a worse job of explaining race relations than P+P=R. P+P=R explains conflicts across cultures with differing ethnic groups. P+P=R can also account for intra-class conflicts which other theories cant adequately explain. If you are someone else can offer a competing theory that doesn’t fall to Occams Razor far before P+P=R then maybe we can work off of that theory.

        • You’re missing the point entirely. She didn’t criticize the theory of P+P=R. She criticized anyone who says the semantics of the theory can’t be criticized. She criticized anyone who refuses to acknowledge that its use of poor semantics needlessly damages the credibility of the theory to the people who most need to understand it. The simplicity of P+P=R is not an academic necessity, it’s a rallying cry. If you aren’t trying to reach thinking people you’re not an activist- you’re a crusader. You’re not better than anyone you’re trying to ‘fight.’

          Occam’s Razor is of no logical value in this setting (and most settings). Occams Razor is useful as a generalization when you have multiple possibilities that are otherwise equally probable. It tells you nothing more than gambling odds. There is no rational correlation between the complexity of a theory and the probability of it being true. Ironically, this misuse of Occam’s Razor is related to another natural phenomenon of human society, viz., that the simplest theory to understand is almost always the most popular (usually until its proven to be completely untenable).

  94. Zillamod says:

    I think you are overthinking this. Descendants of white settlers and immigrants have displacement issues that root back to somewhere. That somewhere is Europe where a fistful of monarchs led a certain way. What is not being said in any of these discussions is touching the euro-anglo inadequacy baggage. Royals are still considered the only human beings by loads of post-Euro settlement societies. Why do certain Americans aspire to live in spiritual squalor and commit savagery with absolute impunity against people they aspire to own? They want to be kings of some pile of dirt. That’s what kings do. They came here as commuted serfs and indentured servants under the boot heel of a king who barely recognized their humanity. They are reenacting the dramas and abuses they were trained into from history. Why is that?

    It would require them to look at their own wretched and dispicable roots from whence they came. They have been artificially shamed into trying to compensate for not having land and not being a king. There are worse things than not being a king and not possessing land or people. So perhaps get over the artifice of strife your are contriving here with “other races” and stand up to your own pain. Don’t be a coward. Admit you believe the dirt under your feet is not promised to you and the fecund idea of “private property” doesn’t extend to the people you think you can step on. Deep down you may not believe a monarch has any entitlements to anything they didn’t get the honest way. Neither do you, if you get honest with yourself.

    • Wow

    • very interesting statements. though i wouldn’t necessarily use the same words, i agree with your frame of reference. that said: i don’t think that the author “over thought” this at all. i think that there are many angles to examine this from, and they are all legitimate; i see the entire discussion around race, power and privilege more as a diamond, and less “either-or” (ie. in order for me to be “right”, you have to be “wrong”). every facet connects and casts light on the issue.

    • John Anderson says:

      I knew a Dean at a college who was faced with two students caught fighting. He expelled them both. I had asked why he had expelled them both. He said that he couldn’t determine who started it and why should he punish the one guy just because he had won?

      How long has war been around? Even the Native Americans warred among themselves. They took property from each other. You assume that the people the Europeans took the land from were the people who originally claimed it. That might not be true, but even if it were true, if these people initiated wars with others to gather resources, but lost; wouldn’t they be in essence agreeing that this is a legitimate way to acquire resources. Why would it suddenly become illegitimate because they lost resources?

      In other words are we punishing people because their ancestors won a fair fight?

    • We use a thing called “war” for settling these questions. Another one is coming……they always do.

  95. What an absolute long winded overintellectualized wad of rubbish.

    I have one parent who is black and one parent who is white. I can tell you from years of experience the black people are way more racist and hateful towards white people than the other way around. I cannot believe what I’ve heard and observed blacks say about whites… and the hate they’ve directed at me.

    • I grew up in public housing and have decent relationships with people who treat the subject of race PERSONAL and SERIOUS. History lessons and intellectual discussion won’t help you grow through your own negative BS. Find a small group of people who believe in changing the world through concrete action. Believing in a power greater than your self is crucial. Above all, the goal is to be a better person who can grow relationships with a variety of people who “feel the same.”

    • Mary, blacks even attack other blacks particularly those blacks who tried to get a good education and want to develop their minds intellectually. Funny how some blacks don’t like other blacks being too intelligent (or being uppity) and yet these same blacks complain that white people don’t like blacks who are too intelligent..

      • ladyfilosopher says:

        Neither do whites: ‘know it all’s are never appreciated; , nor some men when in contact with intelligent women. What you are commenting on is actually the chauvanism of IGNORANCE in general. When one’s identity is based on not being validated by the dominant group, any member of that oppressed group who wades ably in the well of general knowledge (managed and distributed by the dominant group) will be criticised if not outright ostracised. (NB e.g. Finding Forrester film narrative ). That is known as ghetto mentality, no matter what or who that ghetto holds. (NB: 1st ghettos were for the Jewish population). Black culture has been hammered by the White MALE intelligence tests since their onset. I, as a women, feel the same hammer in the MALE dominated model of work and academia.
        In short, the power of an ignorant collective exists in all forms and in all categories.

      • This will more then likely not get through moder’n but …. I have witnessed light skin blacks vs dark skin black. So yes, there is racism within ones own race.

        Take “Hispanics” which is a made up word by whites who are to lazy to recognize various cultures yet the collective Hispanics accept the term.
        Puerto Rican vs Mexican … They are very much racist against each other.

        • There was an episode on the TV show Rescue Me where the NY Fire Department guys had to attend a racial/cultural sensitivity class and the class fell apart because the firemen did not like the video and each fireman complain about how his ethnic/racial group got discriminate against other racial/ethnic groups. It was hilarious.

    • Mary, what you describe black people doing is displaying individual prejudice. And you are right, anyone can do it. The difference is that the prejudices of the dominant group (white people) become enshrined in society as “normal.” Racism is not the same as individual prejudice, black people don’t have the power to make their prejudices into de facto law. Racism is a system.
      An interesting read is the Twitter hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite. Contrast it with #AliveWhileBlack. Actions that are considered minor when done by white people (loud music, loitering, skipping school, public intoxication, jay-walking) are treated as dangerous and lead to criminal charges when done by black people in poor neighbourhoods. Should black people have to be more law-abiding than white people? You would be bitter, sad, and angry, too.

      • veggiejosie says:

        Mo, I don’t think anybody here is refuting the truth of the racial prejudice institutionalized in our society. The debate here is about the fabrication of conflated theories dismissing valid rational criticism of prominent social theory. It’s not about the prejudice white people face being less hurtful than the prejudice black people face– that’s both subjective and completely situational. The point is that both of these things are wrong, and if you’re not willing to admit that then you aren’t approaching this topic honestly. If I see that you don’t have the intellectual honesty to admit simple, facts you stand virtually no chance of influencing my opinion about anything that I am not already prepared to agree with.

      • Captain UnderPants says:

        I love it when people like you redefine words to make it fit your world view.

      • “privilege” “nuance” “intersectionality”

        All these weasel-words to describe what everyone has understood for millennia: Tribal loyalty.

        You…have none.

    • Well put, Mary. Also, who is the “we” he keeps referring to?

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Mary

      As another bi-racial person I can sympathize. I’ve heard second generation Filipinos make fun of first generation Filipinos because of their accents. I’ve heard a light skinned black friend complain to her grandma because black people were harassing her because she was light skinned.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I don’t think enough people reading this article appreciate the brilliance of this kind of argument from an intellectual/political perspective.

      I congratulate the author on the power and elegance of the logic presented here. From the very start, by the very nature of the article, any dispute or criticism of the article immediately comes across as a psychopathology. There is a wide range of psychopathological reactions listed in the article, any one of which could be deployed to detonate any dissent. The reactions have the ring of being DSM-V categories, and using Capital Letters for each of them is a master stroke. Capital Letters have been all the rage for centuries now, and you can see why. They seem More Scientific, More Official, and Virtually Indisputable.

      This is ontological seamlessness on a scale rarely found outside of Marxism or evangelical religion. This has the potential to be the basis for a political juggernaut. In that sense I think, however much I disagree with parts of it, that there is an impressive coherence and invulnerability created in this piece.

    • In Los Angeles City and County, you got Hispanics and blacks going after each other for control of the city and county. The racial hatred even extended into the criminal underworld where Hispanics gangs have driven out the black gangs and are trying to drive out the law-biding blacks. Additionally, you have black and Hispanics working for the State of California filing discrimination suits against each other.

  96. As a white person, over the years I have found that there is simply no good way for me to talk about race with a person of color. I am very aware of the privileges I’ve experienced as a white person, and (having relatives in the deep South) I’m aware that racism is alive and well and ugly as ever. But, in trying to have a meaningful and nuanced conversation about race, it is just very difficult for a well meaning white person to say anything that won’t sound clueless or patronizing. Also, conversations about race can end up feeling very accusatory, where the well meaning white person becomes a proxy for everything evil that white people have ever done, and gets attacked for all kinds of systemic problems that that indivual has absolutely no control over or ability change. I have no magic wand that will fix other white people. I’m just one person. The only thing I can do is to try not to be racist in my daily life. I realize I don’t deserve a medal for that so ehy even talk about it?

    So basically like most well meaning white people, when the topic comes up, I just blandly agree with whatever the person of color says, and then I run for the hills. I am not sure what else to do (suggestions?)

    • wellokaythen says:

      I’ve asked the same kind of question many times on the GMP, in response to several articles along the same lines and have never gotten a very good answer.

      Let’s say I disagree with what the article says. Maybe I think white privilege theory is good at explaining many things but not necessarily everything. I would like to have an objective intellectual discussion, even a slight disagreement about white privilege without being branded as fragile or reactionary or in denial. Can anyone explain to me how to do that?

      So far it seems like the theory demands that either I accept the whole thing or else I am ignorant.

      • See Dubya says:

        What would be fun is when 2 people of color make contradictory statements about the same subject. They cannot both be true. Yet one must concurrently accept them both. Gregory Bateson’s double bind in action!

        Someone dropped a proverbial intellectual cat with a piece of buttered toast on it’s back.

        • wellokaythen says:

          I was once in a racial sensitivity workshop in which the facilitator basically told an African American woman that she was ignorant of the full extent of racism, because this woman had the audacity to say she didn’t think that racism was as big a factor in her life experience as the workshop leader expected her to think. She didn’t say what the facilitator expected her to say, so therefore she was some sort of ignorant race traitor or something. (The facilitator who was so affronted by this self-identified as white. I don’t know if that reinforces the theory or challenges it.)

          In the “quantifying privilege” exercise, this African American woman scored “too high” on the scale, so the facilitator had to interrogate her about her score and try to convince her to revise her score downward. (I was at the high end of the scale, and no one ever asked me if I was being accurate. Must have been because of how I look….)

          If you think there’s a problem when white people question racial privilege ideas, just imagine what it’s like when people of color don’t fit into the model.

        • why can’t they “both be true”..?
          i think that’s the root of the problem with our society; we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything is black or white; it’s not possible to for us to honor the complexities of social justice issues from that single lens of “right” or “wrong”.

    • I agreed with you Jen about well-meaning white people get attack when they have no control to change the situation in the country. Some Afro-Americans I have met use racism to mask their own prejudices against other minorities and whites and use racism as a tool to control, harass, and intimidate people when they become supervisors and/or managers and then they start crying racism when people no longer tolerate their behavior and take them to court.

      • G, judging from your comment I can see why you would be attacked. To single out “Afro-Americans” in your example is irresponsible. While I won’t deny that SOME people use their skin color to get ahead, how would you measure that ONLY African-Americans utilize such practices? I think your example could be applied across the board and to stereotype in such a manner gives credence to everything the author described.

    • ladyfilosopher says:

      the best advice I heard here on this site was for us to listen, simply listen and let those who are less priviledged speaking know that we hear and are attempting to join them in the distress that a system larger than each individual has caused upon another.

      Jensen gave a talk in a bookshop which is on YouTube.
      The Anguish in the the American Dream .

      • John Anderson says:

        @ ladyfilosopher

        I think what they’re saying is that we listen to those who corroborator our worldview and disregard the other voices. As a mixed race individual who moves in many circles, I’ve challenged the belief of white privilege. I’m half white, but everyone in the white neighborhood I grew up in knew I was half Filipino (I look more white). I never got any white privilege. When I went to the Filipino clubs or Asian areas, I suffered discrimination because I was half white and looked it.

        Some would argue well it wasn’t systematic. Sure it was. Go to a martial arts school and have people assume you can’t be as good because you’re half white. Look at the want ads that ask for Spanish speaking people. Business’s are systems too, but a Hispanic growing up in a bilingual family will have an advantage over the non-privileged white person who grew up in a single language household.

        Privilege whether it’s racial or gender based fluctuates with the situation. Too many people believe that if a person is privileged in most cases than they must be privileged in all cases. Privilege is dynamic not static.

    • If blacks keep attacking white Americans who tried to help them out, the white Americans might become racists or they decide they are no longer going to fight for minorities’ rights when their own rights are being violated by the very same people that they are trying to help.

    • It’s difficult to ‘guide’ Anglo Americans regarding how to have a well-meaning, thought provoking conversation with people of color without ‘pissing us off’. As an educated woman of color, I have experienced my fair share of racism/sexism. The only analogy I can think of to explain to you WHY people of color react the way they do would be akin to a vampire being exposed to the sun. Only knowing the pain and repercussions of being in the sun. Just as ‘institutional white superiority’ is institutionalized within you; so is ‘institutional racism’ (or from the analogy provided, the pain of “being exposed to the sun”) engrained in us. My suggestion would be to educate ’em when they’re young (color and non-color alike) and bringing others and going into one another’s communities (i.e., churches, parks, schools). How else will one know ‘how the other half lives’?

      • E.F. Coleman says:

        Well’s its very condescending to just agree with the person of color, as a person of color I know we as well as any other person we can be wrong. What I’ve found with white’s uncomfortableness with talking about race is they feel guilty and shame for the things their ancestors and fellow white people have said and done. They usually want to say and want blacks to see ” I’m not like them, I like black people I’m one of the good ones.” Akin to “some of my best friends are……”. Since my significant other is white to make up for inequities in history, he has to take out the garbage. We’re all just people, not very complicated.

    • Having these conversations with other white people is a start. These conversations aren’t meant to be pleasant, and unfortunately, they are unapologetically uncomfortable. But that is what racism is. By acknowledging this, you are at least moving in the right direction. You are not trying to dictate how the conversation should progress, or interrupting and silencing the poc with why what they are doing is not working (tone policing/whitesplaining). The true onus is to learn. Read, research. Speak to others and be an ally. But realize that the conversation will always have to come from a poc, it is a chance to use a voice that is silenced daily.

  97. Thank you for your article. We do still live in segregated communities, and we are missing out on creating sincere relationships with people who could deeply affect our worldview, stimulate our growth as humans.

    I think these messages to the white population are always somewhat ineffective for the word choice. “Racist” is a word with such strong connotations of violence — immediately people think of the violence of segregation (Birmingham comes to mind), concentration camps in Nazi Germany, slavery. And there is a difference between violent, active racism and the latent racism of ignorance, of neglect to foster diversity in our personal lives, or sheltered existence within Caucasian communities that causes unintentionally racist remarks or political views. These are both wrong, both affect race relations, but they are distinct from each other – morally they are different in the extent of evil (killing Jews in concentration camps is not equal to saying something out of ignorance that precipitates racial stereotypes). I think people see the difference in these behaviors, but our language to describe them isn’t different. Of course white people react out of anger when accused of “‘racism”‘ when it is the same word used to describe active, intentional, violent, murderous hate. This then obfuscates the whole discussion, making it easier to ignore the entire critique at all. This isn’t what anyone wants. We need to talk to each other. I am not saying that these behaviors aren’t racist; I am saying that that word is so stained by its historical context that it means too large of a gradient of behavior. Whites should be less aggressive and reactionary; unity in discussion should be the goal.

    For the discussion, I think it would help everyone in the conversation to create a vocabulary that better describes what it is we are discussing. We have a long way to go in racial equality in the United States, a long way to go in integrating our society. I think our words matter, and I wonder how we can better talk to each other.

    • We also are having more gated communities where rich people are walling themselves off from the rest of the population or trying to break away from their cities and forming their own cities so they don’t have to deal with people of different ethnic, religious, political, economic, and racial backgrounds.

      • I totally agree with what you are stating here, G. This may mean cutting the proverbial “head off of the snake”. IJS.

      • I disagree. My gated community is pretty much equally devised by race…to include black, white, Asian, Indian. All our kids play together, and neighbors gather equally. We are equal by combined family incomes.

    • ladyfilosopher says:

      The terms ‘racist’ , as too ‘sexist’, state simple facts of how value is attributed to people. Racism distinguishes among people according a false, yet self serving, category of race, same as sexists attribute value according to gender.
      The damage the believers in these ‘-isms’ have perpetrated cannot and should not be erased, especially if it is done to lighten the topic. I do not ask the butcher to change his name to sidestep the horror that is also associated with butchery. I buck up and confront that my meat eating habits have a downside. I face the darkness and honor the souls of those living beings which have sacrificed their lives to my purpose. The darkness of racism and sexism has to be acknowledged to have a REAL formative and sincere discussion and reformation in the psyche.

      • veggiejosie says:

        Except that you are the one unilaterally revising the definition of ‘racism.’ This isn’t debatable, that is a fact. The term racism dates back to the 1930’s where it referred to the belief in the innate genetic superiority and inferiority of entire races of people. That definition is still the accepted definition of racism, i.e. that is the most prevalent meaning of the word. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that (white) social scientist started arguing for the revisionist definition of P+P=R. Suggesting a revision to a word based on newly prevalent meanings is fine; definitions change. However, demanding that everyone accept the narrow, revisionist P+P=R definition, because a small group of white social scientists in the 70’s determined that it is more powerful to their cause? No one is obliged to do that, and more importantly no one is going to do that UNLESS THEY ARE ALREADY INCLINED TO AGREE. Think about it. What is the point of this conversation? Is it to condemn white people? To shame them? Or is the purpose of this conversation to change society for the better? To get people on board to fight the institutionalized prejudice that is rampant in our Using the accepted definition of racism is not lightening the topic.
        Don’t like the English definition of racism? Use a different word then. Invent a different word if you have to. The English language is not for you to change on whim of comfort, regardless of past wrongs. Revising it is an attempt to attach the negative connotations of racism, manipulatively, when and where you feel warranted. I understand that it’s exceptionally frustrating to listen to white people whine about black racism, but changing the definitions of words does nothing to fix this problem. All it does is ensure that whoever agrees with you will always agree with you, and that whoever doesn’t agree with you never will.

        • PursuitAce says:

          Maybe you have just hit upon the real reason. Making sure no one agrees. Division creates an environment for control.

      • You have a good point, but connatations matter. How are u gonna say that the white man who asks a young black student if he’s the first person in his family to go to college is the same as the white man who beats the hell out of a young black student for being black and going to college are doing the same thing? They are both born of prejudice, but they are not both equal in their hate.

    • racish. google it.

    • A common misconception in this country is that white wealth is built on land and natural resources that were stolen from blacks. This is not entirely true. White wealth is built on knowledge inherited from their ancestors, and was used to unlock the wealth that blacks had been unable to unlock. Those who think that blacks have acquired enough knowledge from whites , and now can tell them to go back to Europe are in for a nasty surprise. Unlocking wealth is a lot easier said than done.
      Ask Mugabe.

    • molly arthur says:

      I like Eddie Gaude’s term racial habits….


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