Warning: I’m a white guy reviewing this from my perspective. Totally understand if you want to skip this review or call me out on my crap.
If you have ever taken, and internalized, seminars and/or courses on racism, specifically addressing white supremacy, much of this will be familiar. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t read it. Robin DiAngelo does a great job breaking down the substance of what makes white people so angry when it comes to addressing racism, while talking about how harmful our anger is. She addresses the many ways our feelings, emotions and reactions get in the way of examining social reality and personal complicity, while giving apt historical examples as to why exactly this is.
Even though I had heard a lot of this before, I still learned a lot, especially when it comes to racial aversion. This was something my family practiced a lot: the unwillingness to address race for fear of addressing our own complicity. My parents did a lot of good with me regarding race but I still had no idea what systemic racism is until I was in my 20s. And there’s no excuse: there was ample material then and even more now with the vast expansion of the internet.
On top of that, Dr. DiAngelo breaks down the ways in which our attitudes, even well-intentioned ones, frequently lead to micro aggressions. I cringed when I saw many of my behaviors outlined. She makes it clear that there is no way to “achieve” being non-racist, no matter how “progressive” we may be. I know there are times I don’t speak out because I am afraid of saying something dumb and am either participating in white solidarity OR am worried more about protecting my status in the world than addressing racism.
If I have a quibble with this otherwise thorough and readable (though not easy to read) book: I wish she had addressed anti-blackness more. The chapter was one half what anti-blackness looks like, with the other half being a screed against the movie The Blind Side. While she’s not wrong at all on her take on the movie, anti-blackness is so pervasive and so easily reinforced by body and attitudinal stereotypes. It would have helped for her to unpack that more because I don’t think many white people realize how much their prejudice is rooted in contempt for the black body.
At any rate, no matter where you are on your antiracism journey as a white person, this is still worth a read for self-examination. There is no plateau until white supremacy is fully eradicated.
An aside, and this is coming from how poorly I reacted to my own initial seminar on racism as a white person: I can’t imagine what being an antiracist educator is like. Especially if you’re black. The way Dr. DiAngelo described her encounters was both familiar and horrifying. A necessary job but an awful one all the same.