Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm – by Robin DiAngelo – independent book review – Non-fiction

Although I cannot describe this as a “fun” book to read, there is not a single point that author Robin DiAngelo makes that I did not agree with. She is insightful, thoughtful, and wise in her observations and advice. And impressively self-aware as a white woman working in this field. Awarded five stars on Goodreads.

This book builds on the foundation of DiAngelo’s earlier and equally-valuable book, WHITE FRAGILITY. In this one, she looks in greater detail at all the ways in which progressive, well-intentioned white people work AGAINST dismantling racism, even when they aspire to do anti-racism work.

So, what kinds of actions or reactions do we white people employ in anti-racism discussions? Here are JUST A FEW:
• Criticizing generalizations made about WHITE people, even though white people have made generalizations about people of color for centuries.
• Believing that being “nice” to people of color is the same as being anti-racist.
• Shifting conversations about race-related oppression to talking about our own experience with other forms of discrimination like gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
• Claiming we cannot possibly be racist because we have a friend of color, or people of color in our family, or are actively involved in efforts to end racism.
• Assuming that people of color have the same experiences we have.
• Instructing people of color on how best to fight racism.
• Insisting our own success results from our individual abilities and hard work, with no connection to our white privilege.
I’m sure, like me, you recognize at least some of these reactions and DiAngelo offers many more in this book.

Robin DiAngelo, PhD
Photo from her website

Since I believe racism is THE central, unifying thread running through United States history and the most difficult and complex issue we face as a nation, I felt compelled to read this book. But while ending racial discrimination is an essential and worthwhile goal, this book makes it clear, once again, just how pernicious our white supremacist culture is. Our only hope for transforming is, over time, for more people to read and reflect on this book and others like it.

You may be interested in my review of DiAngelo’s earlier book, White Fragility.


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