Last weekend, while visiting a friend's home, the discussion ventured into racism in the workplace.
I was told that when the topic of discrimination was raised—and particularly, around hiring—white people in positions of power became very defensive. They couldn't conceive of themselves engaging in racist acts.
This didn't surprise me. That's because I had read University of Washington affiliate associate education professor Robin DiAngelo's 2018 bestselling book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.
She pointed out that this brittleness serves as a shield to maintain the racial status quo.
"I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of colour," DiAngelo wrote in her book.
According to her, that's because their "defensiveness and certitude" make it difficult for them to acknowledge when they uphold and perpetrate racism. They see racism as individual acts committed by racist people, rather than recognizing how white people are socialized to have a sense of superiority and how that leads to systemic discrimination.
In effect, they don't even know the true history of people of other cultural backgrounds—and this ignorance underscores their dealings with them.
All of this leads many white people to be prone to tuning out discussions about racism, even though it's killing people of colour. DiAngelo emphasizes in her book that this is because they're not conscious of their own "whiteness".
Below, you can see DiAngelo's talk in Seattle when White Fragility was launched.