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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 18: Antiracist Education and the Road Ahead


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I am embarrassed when I think back to what I wrote on the first day of class. Like virtually everyone else, I said that race didn’t matter and that I had not been affected by it. To be white is to say that race has no meaning and in the next sentence say that my neighborhood was all white. White privilege means you have the power to surround yourself by people like yourself. Reading the reflections, it became very apparent that I was blinded to my whiteness and what it meant. I have come to see that we believe that race isn’t an issue because we have never been in a situation where we are not dominant. We have never had to be on the receiving end of racism. To be white is to never have to feel “not normal” in our society. On the other hand, people of color are constantly being defined by race. A very common theme in the reflections was the statement that race has not affected me and I am not racist. This comment most definitely comes from the mouth of a white person, because I can’t see any way that a person of color could make that statement. Whiteness allows us to make that claim without ever having to prove it. We prove just the opposite through the practice of our lives. To be white is to sit in the...

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