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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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Chapter 2: Unique Challenges of Race Education


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I just see us all as part of the human race, not necessarily different groups of people. Whether people see it or not we are all the same with one objective, to survive. My neighborhood is mostly white. My family doesn’t talk about race because we have a lot more important things to do than worry about the color of people’s skin because I like all people. (ASR)

My neighborhood growing up was not racially diverse at all. Every family in my neighborhood was also Caucasian. Throughout my time in school I have continually been taught that skin does not matter. (ASR)

My neighborhood wasn’t very diverse at all, mostly white middle class. From my parents and schools I have been taught to be tolerant of other races and to accept others for their differences. (ASR)

Racism is among the most emotionally and politically charged issues in society. This makes it challenging to discuss for many reasons: widespread miseducation about what racism is and how it works; a lack of shared language and frameworks for discussing racism; deep institutional and economic investments in the maintenance of racism; ideologies such as individualism, meritocracy, and colorblindness; fear of losing face or self-concepts; and an emotional attachment to protecting (rather than expanding) our worldviews. ← 19 | 20 →

At the same time that most whites have a very limited understanding of race and racism,...

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