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What Does It Mean to Be White?

Developing White Racial Literacy – Revised Edition


Robin DiAngelo

What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race? In the face of pervasive racial inequality and segregation, most white people cannot answer that question. In the second edition of this seminal text, Robin DiAngelo reveals the factors that make this question so difficult: mis-education about what racism is; ideologies such as individualism and colorblindness; segregation; and the belief that to be complicit in racism is to be an immoral person. These factors contribute to what she terms white racial illiteracy. Speaking as a white person to other white people, DiAngelo clearly and compellingly takes readers through an analysis of white socialization. Weaving research, analysis, stories, images, and familiar examples, she provides the framework needed to develop white racial literacy. She describes how race shapes the lives of white people, explains what makes racism so hard to see, identifies common white racial patterns, and speaks back to popular narratives that work to deny racism. Written as an accessible overview on white identity from an anti-racist framework, What Does It Mean to Be White? is an invaluable resource for members of diversity and anti-racism programs and study groups, and students of sociology, psychology, education, and other disciplines. This revised edition features two new chapters, including one on DiAngelo’s influential concept of white fragility. Written to be accessible both within and without academia, this revised edition also features discussion questions, an index, and a glossary.
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I extend my most heartfelt thanks to the numerous friends and colleagues who supported me in this project. Jason Toews, for the hours of astute and vigilant editing you generously donated; my colleagues Anika Nailah, Özlem Sensoy, Holly Richardson, Carole Schroeder, Malena Pinkam, Lee Hatcher, William Borden, Kelli Miller, Ellany Kayce, Darlene Flynn, Deborah Terry, Jacque Larrainzar, Darlene Lee, Sameerah Ahmad, Nitza Hidalgo, and Kent Alexander for your support, insight, and invaluable feedback. Thank you Amie Thurber for your perceptive and detailed reading of the final draft and help with the discussion questions. Thank you Brandyn Gallagher for your insight and patience in working to raise my awareness of cis-supremacy. Thank you to Dana Michelle, Thalia Saplad, and Cheryl Harris for all I learned from you in the beginning of this journey.

Thank you to all of the scholars whose work has been foundational to my understanding of whiteness, particularly Peggy McIntosh, Richard Dyer, Charles Wright Mills and Ruth Frankenberg. Any errors or omissions in interpreting or crediting that work are my own.

A special thank you to Robin Boehler—a fellow white ally—for the countless hours we spent debriefing our training sessions and working to put the racial puzzle together. Your support and brilliance were invaluable. ← ix | x →

Thank you Todd LeMieux for all of your design and graphic work, Andrea O’Brian for your Frames of Reference illustration, and Katherine Streeter for the beautiful cover art.

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