Quotes from Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo is the best-selling author of White Fragility and Is Everyone Really Equal? Below are selected quotes from a number of DiAngelo’s peer-reviewed publications, without commentary.

Cheryl E. Matias and Robin DiAngelo, “Beyond the Face of Race: Emo-Cognitive Explorations of White Neurosis and Racial Cray-Cray,” Journal of Educational Foundations, 2(1), 2013.

“Interaction with White people is at times so overwhelming, draining, and incomprehensible that it causes serious anguish for People of Color.

“White neurosis and the need for Peoples of Color to placate White neurosis due to real fears of White supremacy is the interplay of racial cray-cray, a process that plays out in the racial dynamics of urban classrooms. Under the power of Whiteness, the racial cray-cray becomes a socially-sanctioned process of engaging in the lies of White neurosis that everyone is forced to perform.

White neurosis undermines the sanity of People of Color, which in turn produces a state of racial cray-cray that everyone has to navigate. In undermining the sanity and clarity of People of Color, we lose the only remedy we have to White racial toxicity. Below we offer a parable and a poetic letter to illustrate what is at stake in ignoring racial cray-cray”

“Thandeka (1999) argues that raising White children to be White is a form of child abuse because ‘the child learns to silence and then deny its own resonant feelings towards racially proscribed others, not because it wishes to become White, but because it wishes to remain within the community this is quite literally its life’ (p. 24). Therefore, not only is the White child forced to deny race despite seeing race, but she is also reminded that if she ever claims to see race, then she will be ostracized from the community for which she grows up in. If Whites are reared in this manner, then emotional and psychological damage on the White psyche results

[the title of a poem that’s included in the article:]
Infection of Racial Cray-cray and the Death of Reason:
An Obituary to My Brown Sanity

we hope to offer a new approach to racial healing by affirming Thandeka’s (1999) postulation of Whiteness as a form of child abuse and tracing what happens when that abuse goes unchecked

White norms of rationality should not be the standard for which change is measured, for as we have argued, the current state of White emo-cognition and rationality are incompatible and produces the White neurosis we are so concerned about. Rather, as CRT posits, the emo-cognitions of People of Color are a legitimate starting point for measuring progressive changes to White emo-cognitions. This is precisely because People of Color’s experiential knowledge of race, racism, and White supremacy give them a nuanced understanding of the intricacies of racial oppression”

Matlock, S. & DiAngelo, R. (2015). “We put it in terms of “not-nice”: White anti-racist parentingJournal of Progressive Human Services, 26(2).

“Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual race prejudice, which anyone across any race can have, Whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between White people and people of Color…Whiteness refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate White people over people of Color

“Frankenberg (1997) defines Whiteness as multidimensional: “Whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of race privilege. Second, it is a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society. Third, ‘whiteness’ refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed” (p. 1).”

“Racism is recognized as being embedded in all aspects of society and the socialization process; no one who is born into and raised in Western culture can escape being socialized to participate in these relations

DiAngelo, R. & Sensoy, Ö. (2014). Leaning in: A student’s guide to engaging constructively in social justice contentRadical Pedagogy, 11(1).

“If you are reading this essay, you are likely enrolled in a course that takes a critical stance. By critical stance we mean those academic fields (including social justice, critical pedagogy, multicultural education, anti-racist, postcolonial, and feminist approaches) that operate from the perspective that knowledge is socially constructed and that education is a political project embedded within a network of social institutions that reproduce inequality

“When confronted with evidence of inequality that challenges our identities and world views, we often respond with resistance; we want to deflect this unsettling information and protect a world view that is more comforting. This is especially true if we believe in justice and see ourselves as living a life that supports it. Forms that resistance takes include silence, withdrawal, immobilizing guilt, feeling overly hopeless or overly hopeful, rejection, anger, sarcasm, and argumentation

“most of us have very strong feelings and opinions about the topics examined in social justice courses (such as racism, sexism, and homophobia). These opinions often surface through claims such as:

“People should be judged by what they do, not the color of their skin”
“I accept people for who they are”
“I see people as individuals”
“It’s focusing on difference that divides us”
“My parents taught me that all people are equal”
“I was always taught to treat everyone the same”
“I’ve been discriminated against so I don’t have any privilege”
“Our generation is more open-minded”
“I have friends from all races and we are all fine with each other”
“ I don’t think race and gender make any difference – as long as you work hard”
“It’s White males who are the minority now”
“Women are just as sexist as men”

While these opinions are deeply held and appear to be “common sense” truth (and not mere opinion at all), they are predictable, simplistic, and misinformed, given the large body of research examining social relations. Yet, the relentless repetition of these ideas in the mainstream makes them seem true, and allows us to form strongly held opinions without being particularly educated on the issues (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Indeed, where we are members of dominant groups (e.g. if we are men, Whites, cisgender, ablebodied), we will almost certainly have a superficial understanding because that is the primary message made available to us through mainstream society. Where we are members of minoritized groups (e.g. if we are women, People of Color, transgender, People with disabilities), we may have a deeper personal understanding of social inequality and how it works, but may not have the scholarly language to discuss it in an academic context”

DiAngelo, R. & Sensoy, Ö. (2014). Getting slammed: White depictions of cross-racial dialogues as arenas of violenceRace & Ethnicity in Education, 17(1) 104-128. DOI:10.1080/13613324.2012.674023.

“in the context of cross-racial dialogues that are explicitly about race and racism, what feels safe for Whites is presumed to feel safe for people of Color. Yet for many students and instructors of Color the classroom is a hostile space virtually all of the time, and especially so when the topic addressed is race… In practice, the expectation that safety can be created in racial discussions through universalized procedural guidelines can block students of Color from naming the racial violence they experience on a daily basis, as well as the racial violence they may experience in the discussion itself.

“when the request to situate oneself as knower in order to examine positionality in relation to knowledge is re-interpreted as ‘the right to my opinion,’ positionality and its relation to the production and legitimization of knowledge is denied. In this way, historically marginalized experiences and perspectives are dismissed or trumped via ‘just as valid’ dominant perspectives, in effect re-centering Whiteness.

violence is much more complicated than the imposition of physical force. When we refer to the discourse of violence, we include normative social discourses, as well as assaultive speech (Matsuda et al. 1993), and violent imagery – all of which our participants utilized in the dialogue. In this context, we argue that the discourse of violence manifests through the expectation of safe discussion spaces as defined by Whites. The demand for safety harnesses violent imagery as a means by which White students project racist ideologies onto racialized people, and in so doing, reinscribe White supremacy.

White solidarity can be conceptualized as the tacit agreement of Whites to support one another’s engagement in the processes that maintain White supremacy. Sleeter (1996) describes this solidarity as White ‘racial bonding,’ referring to ‘…interactions in which Whites engage that have the purpose of affirming a common stance on race-related issues, legitimating particular interpretations of groups of color, and drawing conspiratorial we–they boundaries’ (149). In the discussions, White solidarity manifested through explicit support of other Whites’ claims of victimization, as well as the implicit consent conveyed through White silence and the absence of social censure”

DiAngelo, R. (2012). Nothing to add: The role of white silence in racial discussionsJournal of Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 2(2), 1-17.

“Abstract: This paper analyzes a common dynamic in interracial discussions on race: white silence. Using whiteness theory as the frame, I explicate the common white rationales for silence in discussions of race and challenge each of these rationales from an antiracist framework. These rationales include: “It’s just my personality—I rarely talk in groups”; “Everyone has already said what I was thinking”; “I don’t know much about race, so I will just listen”; “I don’t feel safe / don’t want to be attacked, so I am staying quiet”; “I am trying to be careful not to dominate the discussion”; “I don’t want to be misunderstood / say the wrong thing / offend anybody”; and “I already know all this.” I argue that regardless of the rationale for white silence in discussions of race, if it is not strategically enacted from an antiracist framework, it functions to maintain white power and privilege and must be challenged.

“Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual “race prejudice,” which anyone across any race can have, whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power among white people and people of color

Whiteness refers to the dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over people of color (DiAngelo, 2006a); whiteness is the relationship of dominance between whites and people of color. This domination is enacted moment by moment on individual, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels (Frankenberg, 2001).”

“Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels. Whites are theorized as actively shaped, affected, defined, and elevated through their racialization, and their individual and collective consciousness formed within it”

“Our personalities are not separate from the society in which we were raised. All whites are socialized in a white dominant society. Seeing one’s patterns of engagement as merely a function of a unique personality rather than as sociopolitical and coproduced in relation with social others is a privilege only afforded to white people (McIntosh, 1988)”

“The white claim that one does not know much about race is particularly problematic because, while it positions whiteness as “innocence,” it simultaneously reinforces the projection of race onto people of color— they have race, not us, and thus are the holders of racial knowledge. In so doing, we position ourselves as standing outside of hierarchical social relations—as if the oppression of people of color occurs in a vacuum. White obliviousness is not benign; it has material consequences because it allows us to ignore the impact of racism on people of color while enjoying its benefits at their expense.

Schroeder, C. & DiAngelo, R. (2010). Addressing Whiteness in Nursing Education: The Sociopolitical Climate Project at the University of Washington School of Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 33 (3) 244-255.

“…the question is not “Did racism take place?” but rather, “In which ways did racism manifest in this specific context?”

“Antiracism education defines racism as a multilevel system of inequality profiting white people at the expense of people of color, and recognizes racism as embedded in all aspects of society and the socialization process; no one who is born into and raised in Western culture can escape being socialized to participate in these relations. Racism is not fluid within the United States in that it does not flow back and forth, one day benefiting whites and another day (or even era) benefiting people of color. The direction of power between white people and people of color is historic, traditional, normalized, and deeply embedded in the fabric of US society”

“While workshop content was centered primarily on racism and privilege, other axes of oppression, such as sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and anti-Semitism, were included to help participants understand the common dynamics of privilege and oppression and how they operate across areas of difference.”

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