This review essay examines Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (2017) by Reni Eddo-Lodge and White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018) by Robin DiAngelo. These books are contextualized within a rich legacy of literature conceptualizing varying histories and manifestations of racism based on the documented experiences of people of colour. In White Fragility, DiAngelo recounts her role as a white educator and diversity consultant that regularly hosts trainings to talk to white people about race in the United States. Written in the tone of a
workshop manual, the text centres around the notion of ‘white fragility’, a concept coined by the author to describe a uniform defensiveness that white people respond with when discussing racism and, in particular, when asked to confront their own implicit biases. In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Eddo-Lodge chronicles her experience as a Black woman navigating mainly white spaces that trivialize the violent legacy of the British empire and disregard contemporary manifestations of structural racism. The author highlights the labour, exhaustion, gaslighting, and violence she faces in conversations about race with white people. In this review, I question how DiAngelo’s concept of ‘white fragility’, contextualized within Eddo-Lodge’s account of British colonialism and her personal experiences, can be understood as an ongoing strategy of whiteness rooted in the European colonial project. Furthermore, I consider how this application of the concept allows for the interrogation of who and what specific ‘antiracism’ efforts serve, and why it may be important to consider these elements in the context of the George Floyd uprisings and the Covid-19 pandemic.
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white fragility, whiteness, colonialism, antiracism, multiculturalism