2019 NCWIT Summit: Robin DiAngelo – White Fragility

During the 2019 NCWIT Summit, we sat down with several plenary speakers, workshop presenters, and other change leaders from the NCWIT community to discuss their perspectives on valuing diversity, changing systems (as opposed to “fixing” underrepresented individuals), recognizing bias, and more. The end result was a series of short videos that not only captures what drives these change leaders in their inclusion efforts, but also highlights research-based recommendations from the vast collection of NCWIT resources.

In her Summit plenary, Robin DiAngelo discussed how hard it can be for White people to “see the racial water,” that is, to become conscious of the constructions of whiteness and White racial identity that stand in for “normal” in a society that is deeply divided by race. Here, DiAngelo shares some of the factors that motivate her to focus her academic work on the ways whiteness can undermine efforts to move toward greater social justice. For further exploration of the tendency of different forms of discrimination to interact and overlap – and possible approaches to addressing these impacts – see this NCWIT blog on The Importance of Complexity in Attending to Intersectionality.


ROBIN DIANGELO: I recognize that the more perspectives you have at the table, clearly, the more creative and innovative you’re going to be. I think that’s a given. For me, honestly, it comes down to ethics and integrity. It comes down to what is just and what is right, regardless of the field. It is not acceptable to me to collude with someone else’s oppression. I know acutely the pain and shame and humiliation of oppression. I think most women do. I know what it is to live in fear of threat and violence and danger. And to think that I contribute to upholding those experiences for another group of people, that’s not acceptable to me. That is what drives me. Yes, there’s the business case, but I want to align what I profess to value with the actual practice of my life. And, honestly, most white people live in racial segregation.

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