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White Fragility

How can we engage more constructively across race?
New York Times best-selling author Robin DiAngelo considers why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism.

Why does race seem to be the hardest word for white people? Dr Robin DiAngelo – a renowned anti-racism educator – argues that the underlying cause is environmental. White people in settler colonial contexts live in a racially insular social bubble. This environment builds an atmosphere of racial comfort but reduces their capacity to tolerate racial stress. Dr DiAngelo – author of What Does it Mean To Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy – describes this lack of racial stamina as 'White Fragility'.

White Fragility is a state in which white people find even a minimal challenge to their position intolerable. This intolerance triggers a range of defensive moves, including argumentation, invalidation, silence, withdrawal and claims of being attacked and misunderstood. These moves function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and maintain white control. In this talk Dr DiAngelo provides an overview of the socialisation that instils white fragility and offers perspectives and skills that white people can use to build their racial stamina and engage more constructively across race.

This event was held on Tuesday 4 December, 2018 at the University of Sydney.

The speaker:

  • Dr Robin DiAngelo is a world-renowned anti-racism educator from the University of Washington School of Education. She is a two-time winner of the Student's Choice Award for Educator of the Year from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. Her scholarship is in white racial identity and discourse analysis. In addition to her academic work, Dr DiAngelo has extensive experience as a workplace consultant in race relations and racial justice.

    Robin has published numerous publications and books, including What Does it Mean To Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy. Her work on White Fragility has influenced the dialogue on race and has been featured or cited in Salon, NPR, PBS, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. Her book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism was released in June and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list.

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