On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Robin DiAngelo on why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism

Share story

Robin DiAngelo, "White Fragility."
Robin DiAngelo, "White Fragility"
Beacon Press

Writer and anti-racist trainer Robin DiAngelo first coined the term "white fragility" in 2011 to describe the ways in which many white people react emotionally and defensively when confronted with issues of race. DiAngelo told MPR News host Kerri Miller that for white people like her, it's easy to go through life without having to discuss issues of race. 

"Day in and day out I move through a world in which I'm racially comfortable," DiAngelo said. "It's rare for me to be outside my racial comfort zone, and generally, that's a situation that I can choose, and in both implicit and explicit ways all my life have been warned not to choose to be outside of my racial comfort zone."

DiAngelo has devoted her career to educating people about race, racism and how generations of American history have led to deep racial divisions that many white people are not used to confronting, but need to be. And this includes white progressives, who DiAngelo says, can be the slowest to engage in self-reflection around racism. And DiAngelo should know — she identifies as a progressive white person.

"So white progressives, we tend to put our energy on, when the topic comes up, establishing our credentials as 'not racist,'" DiAngelo said. "What we need to be doing is engaging in ongoing, critical self-reflection and knowledge, relationship-building, mistake-making, ongoing education, risk-taking, strategic, intentional action. Not just 'Hey, I'm good to go because I'm a nice person.'"

DiAngelo's new book is called "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard To Talk To White People About Racism."