Diversity Summit 2017 – Robin DiAngelo

TRICIA ROSE: All right, everyone I’m going to convene us and get us started Good afternoon How are we doing? Can we hear me? Really? Should I break into song? Turn it up louder? I don’t think I have control over that part Let’s see Do I have control over the volume? Oh, OK, well, yeah, well, that helps You know, it does help Please feel free to start eating That’s the first, most important instruction of the afternoon I’m really delighted to be here, and I’m happy that you all are here We’re running a little bit late, so I want to get started and make sure we have enough time for the kind of engagement and serious dialogue and communication that Robin DiAngelo is going to provide So I’m really thrilled that we’re hosting this event again It’s really important to have opportunities to think through issues of diversification, power, inequality, and how they play out in higher education And I’m thrilled that Brown is really becoming a leader in this way But I’m also super thrilled to collaborate with [INAUDIBLE] We just have so much fun doing lots of different things We always are like, yeah, yeah, good idea I don’t think we’ve ever thought an idea was not good together And so it’s fantastic to partner with her on this issue and many other programs She’s had a really powerful impact on the campus, and I’m grateful I want to just tell you a couple of things about CSREA very briefly, and then introduce our fantastic speaker So I’m the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University I’m also the chancellor’s professor of Africana Studies, and I’m in the dean’s office for special initiatives, which means I have three jobs, and they are all seemingly closer to 100% than seems appropriate But they’re all incredibly important work, and they dovetail together beautifully The center, in particular, is a research center at Brown that supports and generates rigorous and accessible– this is something we’re very proud of fostering– rigorous and accessible research on a broad range of issues pertaining to race and ethnicity in America We try to build community among scholars and students working in these areas, and we try to foster generative public conversations, sometimes on difficult, but always on important issues We have lots of different kinds of programming If you go to our website, just put race, ethnicity at Brown in a search engine, and our center will come up But one program we developed since I’ve been director is called the Third Rail lecture series And this is our 2016-2017 annual speaker co-sponsoring with this event of the Third Rail series And the Third Rail series is aimed to address some of the most thorny and contentious issues related to race and ethnicity in American society So we chose the title Third Rail quite intentionally I mean, in general colloquial terms, when we say it’s a third rail topic, it’s to be avoided It produces a lot of anxiety People immediately pull away from it I mean, certainly whiteness and white fragility would fit this description It’s not unplanned cocktail chitchat [LAUGHTER] But the third rail is also a source of energy If you think about– I’m a New Yorker, so for me the third rail was the thing not to fall into the tracks and touch, because you wouldn’t make it home But the third rail is also a source of energy, and it supplies high-voltage power to a train on an electric railway And so if you think of it metaphorically, you can think that if we harness the energy and knowledge of third rail topics in an appropriate way for social good, it might actually take us really where we need to go And today’s luncheon keynote speaker, we’re exceptionally fortunate to have her because she takes on this issue with the kind of grace and seriousness that we need Today she will speak on white fragility and its impact on diversity and inclusion efforts on campuses Robin DiAngelo has been a consultant and a trainer for more than 20 years on issues of race and social justice Her areas of research are in whiteness studies and critical discourse analysis, and she explicates how whiteness is reproduced in everyday narratives and practices She’s the author of What Does It Mean To Be White– Developing White Racial Literacy, and Is Everyone Really Equal?– An Introduction to Key Concepts in Critical Social Justice Education In particular, she’s advanced the increasingly influential idea of white fragility as a critical facet of the way communities resist racial justice efforts And I’ve found this concept generative and quite productive, because it illuminates how it functions both individually, on an interpersonal level, but also structurally

And I remember reading it relatively recently again, and in the context of all of the public narratives about challenging students of colors’ apparent capacity to be triggered by anything, and that somehow they’re the reason that there’s conflict on campus, because they’re upset about equality and injustice and mistreatment And what’s brilliant about white fragility is that it speaks about whites being triggered by the very fact of being challenged So it helps us see that there’s a whole reversal of the project here, and she’ll connect this when she gets here But in any event, white fragility is critically important to our understanding of how race and racism works on campuses And it seems to me, if we’re going to take seriously the diversification efforts in which we’re involved, we can’t simply talk about non-whites We have to talk about the entire picture of the way race is playing out, and there would obviously be no need to talk about diversity without whiteness as a social structure So anyway, join me in welcoming Robin DiAngelo to Brown [APPLAUSE] ROBIN DIANGELO: Thank you so much I got to remember to stand right there Oh, I have a relatively brief period of time with you, so I’m just going to launch right into it and draw your attention to my race I’m white Check me out, everybody And part of being white is that goes against all my socialization I was not raised to think about myself in racial terms Somebody had a race, of course, but not me And I certainly wasn’t raised to think about my race as relevant in any way to my life experience So to be standing in front of you and leading from that is counter, again, to how I was socialized I am very clear today that I’m white And I have a white frame of reference, a white worldview, and I move through the world with a white experience And it is not just a universal human experience It is a most particularly white experience, in a society that is profoundly separate and unequal by race So while I’m always coming from that position, I just want to be really explicit about it today And in a kind of master’s tools dilemma, to decenter whiteness, you have to center it in a different kind of way than the way it normally remains centered Right, through its unmarked, unnamed, and as you were saying, the kind of projecting onto everybody else, but never looking at, who’s the problem, basically And so to center it, but shine light on it, to expose it, is to decenter it And while people of color, from a very early age, have to know my reality in a way that I’m sorry to say I don’t have to know theirs, this may still be useful in that I’m going to name and admit to things that are so rarely ever named or admitted to by white people So that may be useful for you If you’ve ever wondered how on earth we can pull off what we pull off, I’ll lay that out for you For the white folks in the room, I’ve never met a white person who didn’t have an opinion on racism Have you? Let me know if you have If you’re not sure about it, just bring it up the next time you’re around a lot of white folks We all have opinions, and they tend to be really emotional But if we have not devoted years of sustained study, struggle, and focus, our opinions are necessarily limited, because nothing in dominant society gives us the information we need to have the complex, nuanced understanding of arguably the most complex, nuanced social dilemma since the beginning of this country In fact, you can get through graduate school in this country without ever discussing racism, can you not? You can get through law school in this country without discussing racism And you can get through teacher education in this country without discussing racism If you’re in a progressive teacher education program, you’ll have one required multicultural education course The faculty will have fought for that course for 10 freaking years And that’s no guarantee you’ll be discussing racism in that course You might be just discussing multiethnic authors, and how to introduce them So my challenge to the white folks in this room is no matter where you are on this lifelong continuum, is to listen from a place of humility and openness That’s our challenge So white fragility is the inability for white people to tolerate racial stress, and racial stress is basically anything that challenges our positions, what we feel entitled to, our identities And we don’t respond very well

And we push back to block or stop the challenge, and to kind of get back into what I think of as our racial equilibrium, our racial comfort And so the first part is mapping out how we come to kind of be inculcated in white fragility, and then how it manifests So by every measure, across every institution in this country, there is racial disparity I think we all know this, even in spite of our narratives of meritocracy and individualism Every institution, every measure, racial disparity At the same time, what is today’s dominant racial narrative? Well, I’m a former professor of education, so I used to teach in a large teacher training program The program– it was in Westfield, Massachusetts And it was 97% white It was rare for me to ever have a student of color in any class And we were 10 miles from Springfield, Massachusetts, which is 57% black and Latinx And on the first day of class, I would ask my students to write me an anonymous reflection on a couple key questions What are some of the ways your– how racially diverse were your schools and neighborhoods growing up? What are some of the messages you’ve received across your life about race? And what are some of the ways in which your race has shaped your life? And what I’m going to show you is representative of the hundreds of these anonymous reflections I’ve collected over the years from our future teachers in their junior and senior years of university, soon to be certified as highly-educated and set forth to teach in those schools in Springfield “My neighborhood growing up was not racially diverse at all Every family in my neighborhood was also Caucasian Throughout my time in school, I have continually been taught that skin does not matter.” Is that familiar to you? It should be It is the dominant white racial narrative It is definitely a post-civil-rights narrative, not a pre-civil-rights narrative But I see a really big contradiction in this narrative, which is, I’m assuming obvious to you, if race doesn’t matter, why so separate? And from that comes a question for me How do we actually teach that race doesn’t matter in segregation? Well, I would argue that’s not what we teach at all It’s what we tell It’s not what we teach through the practice of our lives So the question that drives my work is, how do we pull this off? How do they pull that off? Sitting in such explicit segregation I would also say that while this is a post-civil-rights narrative, this is apparently the younger generation, that when my generation dies off, there’ll be no more racism, right, because it’s all the old people You heard that one? Yeah No I don’t think this is any more transgressive It’s actually quite a brilliant adaptation to the challenges of the civil rights movement OK, and by the way, this is why I don’t just affirm everybody’s opinion in my classes I know it’s a little counter to the sacredness of everybody’s opinion, but these opinions are not informed, and they function really problematically So racism– let’s just really quickly– is a system It is embedded across all institutions, and it results in the consistent reproduction of unequal distribution of resources between white people overall and people of color overall, with white people as the beneficiaries of that system And that, of course, goes against what dominant culture’s definition is, which is individual acts of intentional meanness And if you don’t do those, you’re outside of this conversation So Marilyn Frye is a scholar who uses the metaphor of a birdcage to kind of push against this dominant narrative of it’s just all about individuals And I think it’s a beautiful metaphor I think a lot in metaphors And so she says, if you walk up to that birdcage and you put your face all the way against the cage, and so you’re taking a very micro or myopic view, you’re not going to see the cage at all You’re not going to see the wires at all Maybe a little bit on your peripheral vision, and you’re going to say, what’s the problem? Why doesn’t that bird just fly away? The little door is open in the cage What’s going on? But if you move back and you begin to take a wider view, you begin to see these bars and these bars and these bars, and you begin to see the interlocking system and nature of oppression, in this case, racism So let’s look at what some of those are Our institutions, our ideology, internalized oppression,

constant microaggressions, isolation, embedded in culture, invisibility, the burden of representation I’m going to imagine the folks of color in this room can relate to the burden of representation, always carrying the psychic weight of racialization, where I don’t carry that weight Rewards for conformity– keep white people comfortable, you’re going to get further along Threats, constant threats of violence, deeply embedded in our history, and unacknowledged historical trauma, to name a few And just to give a glimpse, I do believe there’s something deeply and specifically anti-black in this culture and in the white consciousness And that does not mean that all groups of color don’t suffer under racism and white supremacy, but when I want white folks to connect to the racial other, I think for us, black people are the ultimate racial other, and by every measure, tend to be at the bottom So just a quick glance at essentially what Ta-Nehisi Coates would call the organized crime against African-Americans throughout history and into the present So I show this to you to contrast it, again, with the dominant definition, which is that it is simply individual dislike and intentional meanness So in spite of this, I think the most brilliant adaptation of racism post-civil-rights was what I think of as the good-bad binary So post-civil-rights, to be a good, moral person, and to be complicit with racism, became mutually exclusive You couldn’t be a good, moral person and be complicit with racism Racists had fire hoses and they beat people and dragged them away from lunch counters That was a racist, right, and if I wasn’t that, I was a good person And I think it’s made it virtually impossible to talk to white people about the inevitable racism that we absorb, internalize, and participate in I think it’s the root of virtually all white defensiveness Have you noticed any white defensiveness? Anybody? OK Right, so I’ve got this incredibly simplistic understanding of racism You suggest something I have done has a racist impact I’m going to hear a literal challenge to my moral character, and I’m going to need to defend my moral character I know you’ve seen this And I will defend my moral character, and I will do it by basically invalidating that it was racism, in whatever way I can do that So it’s this either-or conceptualization, and we really have to be ever-vigilant today, because it’s so easy to fall into this trap of the people here versus the people here I don’t even want to invoke the names, but I think you know what I mean– this kind of distancing, that progressive whites are outside of this I actually think progressive whites– I’m going to be really honest– are the most challenging And I’m a progressive white, by the way I’m talking about myself, because the degree to which we think we’re good to go, that’s where our energy is going to go to, is making sure you understand that we’re good to go, and not to where it needs to be going for the rest of our lives, which is deep, deep reflection and action So we know how to fill this in, right? Racists are bad, and they’re ignorant and bigoted and prejudiced They’re mean-spirited They’re old They’re Southern They drive pickup trucks, because we can get some classism in there, and they live in Manchester? I don’t know I don’t live around here, but they don’t live in Providence, that’s for sure Right? And your not-racists are good, and they’re educated and progressive and open-minded and well-intended They’re young They’re Northern They shop at the co-op Not Whole Foods Whole Foods is a corporation They don’t shop at Whole Foods But they do love Trader Joe’s, and they’re moving to– [LAUGHTER] They’re moving to Portland, Oregon, really soon OK All right So this either-or, I mean, it’s just– I’m confident that you’ve seen it, and we’ve got to get rid of it It is not an either-or It is an inevitable function of being raised in this culture So in doing this work, I hear the same narratives from white people on the topic of racism over and over

I do have a rather rare job For a living, every single day, I am in front of predominantly white groups, talking about racism And as I listen, it’s as if somebody just handed us a script And actually, they have just handed us a script It’s called socialization There’s a reason these narratives are so predictable And so the image that came to my mind as I listened was of a pier or a dock And that signifies for me how surface and superficial these narratives are And at the same time, a pier or a dock looks as if it’s just floating on the surface of that water, but it’s not There’s a whole structure and foundation propping it up And so I want us to examine that structure underneath by doing some critical discourse analysis of these narratives So let’s see if you haven’t heard these “I was taught to treat everyone the same.” That’s probably the number one So I don’t want to set you up, but I’ll tell you that I often will say to a group, how many of you were taught to treat everyone the same? And almost every hand goes up And then I say, no, you weren’t Right? No one in this room, or any room, was taught to treat everyone the same, in the sense that you could learn to do that You could be told to do it, and I’m sure you were It’s not humanly possible And thank goodness we have the research on implicit bias to show us that So when I hear this from a white person, the bubble over my head is, ooh, doesn’t understand basic socialization, doesn’t understand culture, is not particularly self-aware “I see people as individuals I don’t care if you’re pink, purple, polka-dotted.” Basically, don’t ever say that That’s all I got to say “Racism is in the past.” “Everyone struggles, but if you work hard.” “My parents weren’t racist, that’s why I’m not racist.” “My parents were racist, that’s why I’m not racist.” It doesn’t matter what comes first What comes second must be, “I am not racist.” OK, and you know, so-and-so “just happened to be black.” But it has nothing to do with the fact that no one in our office gets along with her So this is one– oh, that one touched a nerve, did it? OK This is one– I didn’t get a chance to super lay down the difference between prejudice and discrimination, which everybody has, and racism But we can remove the word “reverse.” There is no reverse form of racism It is by definition a system– [APPLAUSE] Right? Thank you Prejudice and discrimination– everybody has that, so used in reverse there is kind of nonsensical And since I have a captive audience, and just so you know, what I say to white folks is, I would suggest that you remove anything that begins with “just happens to be,” “regardless of,” “but at the human level.” Right? Because what we’re doing in that move is basically taking race off the table and positioning some kind of universal experience And there is not a universal experience, not in this culture I might not know what race has to do with the fact that no one in the office seems to like this person, but I need to be willing to look at how her race is shaping the way that I see her And this is where the research on implicit bias just says it is shaping it, whether I’m conscious of it or not So these are all colorblind, right? These are all colorblind They basically say, I don’t see it, and if I see it, it has no meaning Probably the folks in this room are beyond colorblind, right? You recognize it wasn’t realistic It was quite a clever co-optation of Martin Luther King’s work, and its function to deny and protect white racism, basically So what do those co-op shopping types say? I’m going to get us We say stuff like this “Oh, I work in a very diverse environment.” “I have people of color in my family.” “Me? I’m not racist I used to live in New York.” [LAUGHTER] I really have heard this And the bubble over my head is, you walked by people of color and you didn’t lose your shit? You are unbelievable! Like, clearly Clearly OK I told you I like to make fun of white progressives How many of you, in a conversation with a white person on racism, have heard some version of these? Probably everybody, because these are ours, right? So now let’s do a little discourse analysis here

A white person who invokes some version of these narratives is basically giving you their evidence, right? Here’s my evidence In my mind, what is this my evidence of? What am I trying to make sure you understand? Super simple question I’m not racist, right? So if this is my evidence, what is my definition of a racist? And it’s so simple, and yet– I mean, in terms of the question, but it is so rarely ever asked or interrogated by white people So let’s back around to it Clearly, if this is my evidence that I’m not racist, then a racist couldn’t do these things Racists couldn’t work three cubicles down from a person of color Folks of color in the room, could a racist work three cubicles down from you? [LAUGHTER] OK Couldn’t have people of color in their family, and couldn’t live in New York And I could think of at least one person who lives in New York who I think is racist [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] All right So even an avowed, open, “I support white supremacy” person can do all these things You do realize that, right? Racists can do these things So on that level, this is not good evidence But essentially, I think the definition this rests on is a racist cannot tolerate the sight of people of color I mean, look at it Look at this This is our evidence of our lack of racism What other definition of a racist could you hold, if this is what you’re invoking? They apparently couldn’t walk by them, couldn’t work near them A racist has conscious dislike, or actually conscious virtual intolerance of people of color And so right there, we can see it’s a really problematic definition It’s not remotely accurate It doesn’t take into account implicit bias It doesn’t take into account institutional, structural racism And the reason I think, for me, it’s been really important to figure out how they’re constructing a racist is because then I know where to go with them So what do I need to help them see? And I want to play just for a minute with “I have people of color my family.” That’s a little more sensitive What I can tell you is, for myself, one of the most powerful ways I have worked to challenge my socialization into this society has been to build a variety of authentic, sustained, cross-racial relationships Very little in my life set that up to happen in any kind of way that would be natural or easy And I’m not talking “I work near people.” I mean truly in my life at my table And yet, those relationships are not free of racism So let me just ask the folks of color again, do you have any white people in your life who’ve got some racism? Of course, right? And it comes out It comes out in all kinds of ways And we seem to be able to do this with gender So how many of the people in the room who identify– I’m going to use cisgender terms– who identify as women have a primary intimate partnership with someone who identifies as a man? All right, so you’ve got a man in your life, do you? [LAUGHTER] OK, so the day he fell in love with you, all his sexism just vanished, right? Yeah [LAUGHTER] How could he possibly have any sexism? He loves you Oh, and if you’re not sure about your current partner, just think about your ex You’ll get right in touch with it And let me give a shout out to the men If you have a primary relationship with a woman, are there any gender differences you find frustrating? Of course, right? I’m clear that gender is a deep construct, but it is a deep construct And I have been socialized into my gender role, and it manifests across gender And it will for the rest of my life and rest of my relationship We would never say– I would never say, oh, I’m married to a man, so I have a gender-free life Au contraire, right? We understand this But I want you to just notice how we do it with race When it comes to race, if there is fond regard, all race, racism, and significance of race disappears There’s something so specific in the white consciousness to distance ourselves from race OK “Children are so much more open.” This is a cherished narrative

Sadly, I think most people in the room probably understand that the research shows by age three to four, all children who grow up here understand that it’s better to be white That’s hard to say, but no child misses the message, and not a single person in the room miss the message it’s better to be white And it’s not an isolated message It’s relentless I’ll show you some images of that coming up shortly So when we project this romanticized innocence, racial innocence, onto children, we leave them unattended to the message, with no way to resist it Parents of color understand that and are much less likely to leave them unattended, because the consequences for their children are very different than the consequences for mine, who are white, when I let them just internalize white superiority “What do I know? I’m just a white guy.” I added that one I’m not really sure if it’s like a colorblind or a color progressive, but have you ever heard that move? Kind of looks like they’re aware that they have white privilege, and yet it still positions the person as racially innocent and not to be held accountable I think it’s problematic “I already know all this.” Yeah, I mean, I’ve been to Costa Rica, people So– spent a week there The people are so incredible OK This one– you know, when people say to me, you’re speaking to the choir, I mean, I’m going to be honest It’s like, I’ll be the judge of that I actually don’t think the choir– I mean, I am the least qualified person to assess how well I’m doing or how far along I am And so the arrogance of this, I’ll just have to be blunt The lack of humility is incredible to me And so when white people just feel like they already know everything there is to know, I think that’s very problematic, and I don’t think convincing to people of color “We don’t like how white our neighborhood is, but we had to move here for the schools.” OK We could do a whole session on that I’m just going to say, I think it’s disingenuous So these are the white progressive narratives The first set was the kind of “I don’t see color.” And these ones are “I celebrate and love diversity.” Right? They both function the same way They both function to take race off the table, to take racism off the table, and to basically say, I am exempt from this And that’s the question that I always use when I’m trying to figure out something in terms of a narrative or pattern How does it function? This does not function for us to keep going All right, this is a kind of “nothing to see here.” So we want to go under there and figure out what is allowing us to say such things in such a separate and unequal society So I’m going to give you a chance– I’m going to give you only a couple minutes So I would go just to one person next to you, if you can do it, depending on how many are at your table Which of these narratives have you heard, or have you used, if you’re white? Let’s be honest A white person who hasn’t used one of these narratives, I don’t know if they would have been a functioning member of this society So which ones have you used, if you’re white? And which ones, if you’re a person of color, do you hear white people use to deny the impact of race on their lives? So just– I’m giving you a minute to connect to it OK Welcome back Welcome back Welcome back Just keep saying it Welcome back, everybody Yes, yes, welcome back Hey, everybody, welcome back! Welcome back Welcome OK, we’re going to get started If you can see me, raise your hand If you can see me, raise your hand If you can see me, raise your hand Thank you That’s a teacher trick These are the last conversations I ever want to interrupt, but I am on a time crunch, so we’re going to keep going And there’s a couple of key questions that I often have white folks think about I’ll just talk you through them The first one is to think about how racially diverse

our neighborhoods were growing up and the messages we’ve gotten about race from our neighborhoods The majority of white people grow up in primarily white neighborhoods And the messages are one, that it is normal to live apart, maybe even natural to live apart And I think at a deeper level, righteous to live apart, when you think about the way we talk about white neighborhoods versus neighborhoods that we associate with black and brown people Right, so a white neighborhood tends to be good, safe, sheltered, clean, abundant, hardworking people who deserve what they have Those are powerful messages And we get discouraged from knowing or exploring black and brown space We get warned So we internalize a sense of ourselves, a deep sense of ourselves, as good people, as deserving people This shapes our identity, and I’m doing it to move white people past this idea, again, that as long as I’m friendly to people of color, I have not internalized anything The next thing I ask white folks to think about is, when is the first time they had a teacher of the same race as they are? And when’s the first time they had a teacher of a different race? And how often did that happen? And of course, that’s a question that people of color also answer, and generally the answer is, if you’re white, from the time you began And you could get through graduate school, rarely if ever in your entire life, looking up and not seeing yourself reflected at the front of the room And if you’re a person of color, your answer is likely to be rarely if ever in my life have I looked up and seen myself reflected Right, that’s the overall pattern There’s exceptions to every pattern So most of us basically get taught by white people who’ve been taught by white people who’ve been taught by white people who’ve been taught by white people who’ve been taught by white people, using textbooks written for, by, and about white people So that white worldview is very, very deep– white as authority, white as role model, white as holder of knowledge And white teachers answer these questions really similarly And so where are we getting our information? Very, very problematic sources And I think I’ll just cut to the chase We see this in the school-to-prison pipeline And this has been empirically shown, that these decisions are made with racial disparity So I just have an image that for me sums this up really powerfully This is from last year’s College Champion Jeopardy! playoffs Those our best and our brightest And that is literally the board at the end of their round, and there’s one category not one of them touched Obviously the hardest category, and nobody wanted to risk losing [LAUGHTER] And I don’t feel that I can do justice to the profundity of this disconnect, this incredible disconnect from our history, because you know what’s under that category is civil war and civil rights, always, as if that happened in a vacuum and it’s outside of my history, or that it isn’t the history of this country OK so Joe Feagin has the concept of the white racial frame, and it’s the academic articulation of what I think of as the pillars propping up the dock, so the deeply internalized framework through which whites make racial meaning And it includes images, interpretations, perceptions, et cetera– talking about segregated white neighborhoods as good and safe is an example– that position whites as superior, and that are reinforced and passed down across society And I’ll just start showing you some images that surround us all every day that I think capture This is on a science website right now What would a scientifically perfect face look like? This is an ad that I was on a Delta flight last year, and this ad was in the in-flight magazine Just look at the racial hierarchy in this ad Look at the Asian women in the middle wearing yellow, and the black women in the back wearing brown And then notice that this is an ad for a purse Look at the hands of the black women Again, you just look for a second, but it’s this constant message of status and hierarchy in relationship to resources

Their hands are empty They don’t have the purse This ad is a little bit older I think it’s incredible It’s for Intel “Multiply computing performance and maximize the power of your employees.” Six shirtless brown men kneeling at this white man’s feet Look at the body language This is a newer example of that This is from The Blind Side I was looking at CNN and they have those little side stories that get your attention, and this one is “Most Beautiful Women from Around the World.” And representing South Africa, which is 92% black country– and I’m just going to use the term now, white supremacy This, for me, is such a cogent example of white supremacy And when I use the term, I mean it in a sociological sense, which is white as superior, as ideal, as the norm for humanity, and everyone else as a deviation from that norm So we often talk about the struggles that students of color have, and we also need to look at what white people– faculty, staff, and students– have internalized about themselves, because there’s a relationship, and it’s the end of the relationship we rarely examine So just quickly, how has race shaped my life? Everything I’m about to say, every other white person in the room can say No person of color in the room can say So I was born into a culture in which I belong in virtually any situation deemed normal, neutral, or valuable– that faculty meeting, that church service, block party, dealing with my daughter’s teachers, her camp counselors, that wedding How many of you have been to a wedding? If it wasn’t all white, it was pretty close Maybe your own Just rarely ever me that carries that psychic weight Represented in the government We know what the presidency, vice presidency has looked like House of Representatives I’m going to show you a series of photos now of the halls of power in the US, and where you see a yellow border around the picture, those are the people of color in the group These are our US senators These are the leaders of the largest US companies US Supreme Court US governors US top military advisors People who decide which TV shows we see People who choose which movies get made People with the most influence over which books we read People who decide which music gets produced People who decide what news is covered Owners of men’s pro basketball teams Owners of men’s pro football teams Owners of men’s pro baseball teams Presidents of Ivy League universities [LAUGHTER] So you’re just going to have to trust me that I wasn’t attached to whether this was a Republican or a Democrat or whatever my feelings are about Paul Ryan It’s that when I saw this picture, I was like, this is what it means to be white This is Paul Ryan and his incoming group of interns To be white is to be included, to belong, to have advantage, opportunity, networking, systems of support, to be separate And now label this with any other group of people who will be at the tables to make decisions to affect other people’s lives Imagine now these are not just our future politicians, but the medical researchers, the professors, the teachers I was raised Catholic I don’t know that there’s a more powerful image than God And even God was white, or is white Jesus and Mary Constant messages that it’s better to be white I’m pulling from these magazines because they surround us We have Halle Berry under “best hair,” but we can see what her hair looks like 2015’s world’s most beautiful woman 2016’s world’s most beautiful woman I was racially affirmed throughout my childhood I’ll just give you one picture that I think sums it up from today And these are the top five Miss Teen USA runners-up, and yes, they are different girls [LAUGHTER] And again, take it in

Just– Miss Teen USA, right? Of course, of course, we can look at what this does to young girls of color, but I also want white girls to look at what it does to us And here’s the group they were drawn from And you know, this is how it usually– there’s one And knowing my people, I’m going to tell you that probably all those white girls are going to tell you they’re not racist because she was their best friend and she was in the group Right, and that just shows that it’s this very simplistic reduction to fond regard So these are shows many of us grew up with They’re all about ideal friendship They take place across the decades Seinfeld, the ’80s Sex and the City in the ’90s Friends in the 2000s That’s Gossip Girl There’s Girls Every one of these shows takes place in New York City So even amongst diversity, the relentless message to white people is there’s no inherent value in an integrated life So I think perhaps the most powerful way that my life has been shaped by my race is that I could be born into, I could learn, I could play, I could worship, I could study, I could love, I could work, and I could die in racial segregation And not one single person in my life who’s ever guided or mentored me has ever conveyed to me that I’ve lost anything I’m going to say this a couple times in a couple ways, because I think it’s the deepest message of new racism I could go to my grave– that could be my funeral My wedding looked a lot like that I could go to my grave without really knowing– just few, if any, authentic cross-racial relationships And no one has suggested any loss whatsoever to my life In fact, white people measure the value of our lives by the absence of people of color I know what a good school is, and I know what a good neighborhood is And we communicate this So what I’m working on here is pushing white folks way past this idea about individual intentions to look at the deep foundation of internalized superiority that comes out of our pores My psychosocial development was inculcated in the water of white supremacy Left unchecked, it’s coming out of my pores And I’m going to trust that the people of color in the room see it coming out of our pores And so it’s not a matter of good or bad or guilt. But it is a matter of inevitability and then taking responsibility So if we go back to the tropes, I think this is what props up racism today, what Bonilla Silva calls racism without racists Nobody’s racist anymore, and yet we have the same inequitable outcomes we’ve always had So this sets up some really common patterns in white folks And just being conscious of the time, I’m just going to kind of move through these, and you can download this But when any of this gets challenged, when our entitlement, when our sense of identity, when this sense that we are individuals, even me saying what I’m saying, generalizing about white people, will get a lot of white people’s backs up How can you know anything about me just because I’m white? Right? We don’t like that So we react when any of this kind of deep insulation and entitlement is challenged And it’s not weakness The word “fragility” might sound weak It’s fragile in that I can’t tolerate the challenge But the way I will get the challenge off of me actually, I think, functions as a form of bullying I’m going to make it so miserable for you to challenge me, you’re just not going to do it anymore OK, and so if I need to cry, I’ll cry If I need to get my back up and go get a bunch of people to go into an agreement with me, I’ll do that And in that way, I think white fragility functions as a form of everyday white racial control

So I’m not the 1%, but this can keep the people of color in my orbit in their place Can you relate to how many times you’ve just let it go because it isn’t worth it? So it functions quite powerfully OK So what I’m thinking is, should we have people at tables talk about how– so I want you to think about, how do you see this in higher education? And let me give you an example of a hiring committee So you know how hiring committees work The description is written, the people are picked A little bit into it, they realize there’s nobody of color on the hiring committee, so they go find somebody It’s the same person who’s always getting tapped but not getting paid any more money Am I making this up? OK, and so there you are on this committee, and they ask that person to write the diversity question It’s called that You do the diversity question And then when you’re assessing the answers to the diversity question, what this person seeks as a good answer, none of the white people– right, they disagree on what a good answer is And so eventually, the person of color relents and just says, OK, fine And then, whew, everybody is relieved And they finally choose their final candidate based on fit and who will hit the ground running So at your tables, talk through how whiteness, white fragility, and racism is manifesting on that committee What are the dynamics? And what might happen if this person actually shares what they were supposedly asked to be on the committee to share? OK, so just kind of how you– you could use that as a model about how you’ve seen whiteness and white fragility function in terms of hiring OK? All right, I’m going to call you back Welcome back [TAPPING ON GLASS] Oh, that’s good Welcome back Thank you I want to have an opportunity for people to ask questions So I want to leave you with an image of what I believe would radically transform this, if this was under the dock rather than what’s under there now I don’t believe we can get there from the dominant paradigm It functions really beautifully to protect the present racial order And if you like this image, by the way, because I saw some folks taking pictures, you can download a handout that has all this on it from my website So I believe that if whites were really coming from this place, not only would our interpersonal relationships change, but so would our institutions, because we would see to it that they changed So this understanding that being good or bad is not relevant It’s a system infused in everything Whites have blind spots on racism I have blind spots on racism Racism is complex I don’t have to understand it in order for it to be valid White comfort maintains the status quo So discomfort is necessary and important We’re not going to get there from a place of white comfort But I must not confuse that with safety I am perfectly safe What I like to ask white people is, what does it mean to need to feel safe from a position of historical social institutional cultural power and privilege? [LAUGHTER] All right I guess that’s all I had to ask I bring my group’s history with me History matters It’s a history of harm And no, I won’t be automatically granted the benefit of the doubt I need to earn it The question is not if, but how Dominic Coulter’s question is, was or wasn’t that racism? And as soon as you put an either-or, you’ll never agree My question is, how was racism manifested in that situation? It’s in the water All whites are unconsciously invested in this system, including me And most of that is implicit I need to do a lot of work if I’m going to be able to identify that

Good intentions and self-image are not enough Feedback from people of color indicates trust They’re taking incredible risk across power to give you that feedback, given the history of harm So let go of how you get it It takes courage to break with white solidarity So how do I support other white folks who are trying to break with white solidarity, rather than punish them? Given socialization, it’s more likely that I’m the one that doesn’t understand what’s going on Can you imagine if white people were coming from that place? White males, I would love to have come from that place also But when it comes to racism, the way society is set up, I get to be the determiner From all that I’ve showed you, all that socialization, we’re the ones that are unbiased, and we’re the ones who get to decide whether it’s real or not So finally, racism hurts, even kills, people of color 24/7 Interrupting it is more important than my ego, my self-image, my feelings And I really believe that if we were coming from this place, we would be in a very different situation And so when white people ask me what do I do? I just say, whatever it takes to internalize this so that it’s real for you So that’s what I will leave you with, and then I’ll open the floor to questions, comments, et cetera [APPLAUSE] I don’t think it’s on And I’m hard of hearing, so And while she’s fussing with it– whew SPEAKER 1: Is that on now? OK, thanks I can’t tell how loud it is So thank you so much for the talk, which was both incredibly informative and wildly interesting and entertaining and fun to listen to, which I really appreciate, because it’s not an easy thing And I need some advice on how to deal with the universalist arguments, because what I am finding is that people are coming up with really intellectually highfalutin, but they think robust, responses to diversity efforts and their implementation on campuses by saying things like, identity politics is really divisive It feeds a politics of resentment You can have rational communication across difference that focuses on commonality and doesn’t emphasize grievance It’s not just kind of complainy universalism, it’s backed up with Hegel and Habermas and [INAUDIBLE] and all these kind of high theory approaches to understanding dynamics of power, post-Enlightenment thinking, how that informs political theory and democratic processes And so it’s not your kind of run-of-the-mill, why don’t we all just get along? And other than saying you require an incredible degree of hubris to imagine that the human experience is only understandable through these German philosophers, I am struggling with coming up with a convincing response that doesn’t just indict people, but maybe– I don’t know Maybe it just needs to be indicted But that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately ROBIN DIANGELO: And it’s the million-dollar question, right? Basically, how do you move forward white people who hold the power? And to be honest, people of color certainly can collude with their own oppression, and so they can be used in those ways But let’s focus on the majority is going to be white people And when people of color collude with racism, it still holds up white supremacy, right? So none of that is accounting for power Power, I mean, that’s the bottom line, right? So if you could try the question of, so how do you see that functioning in– you know, how do you see it function? How does it function to not do identity politics? Where have we not done it and what has been the outcome? So maybe if you could just keep moving people towards, what is the outcome of what we’ve been doing? And what would shift if we tried a different theoretical lens? Sometimes I use a Marxist theory analysis, so I’ll say– analogy– how many of you ever take Marxist theory? And maybe five people raise their hands Did you pass? You know, yeah Did you become Marxists? No So you weren’t required to be a Marxist to pass the class OK, but you were required to grapple with Marxist theory,

achieve some degree of mastery, and probably your final project was, apply a Marxist analysis to this situation Whether you agree or disagree with Marxism, not really relevant A Marxist analysis is going to generate different questions, and therefore different responses We have not yet applied an anti-racist analysis Let’s try it And then they can just let go It’s not brainwashing You don’t have to– OK OK Yeah SPEAKER 2: Hi Thank you so much for the talk So as I was listening to you, what kind of came to mind, and currently something that I’ve been having some conversations about, is these ideas of safe spaces and trigger words in university campuses And I think on this campus, there’s been, as far as I know, two big lectures on freedom of speech at the university And so what I’ve been thinking about is that there’s this confusion of the academic debate in a classroom setting, where the professor is quite aware of what the intentionality is there, but then this idea of safe spaces and trigger words are conflated with that, and thinking that, like, oh, that’s going to prevent that kind of academic, scholarly work from happening And I really feel like it comes from this place of not interrupting that white-dominated space And so I wondered if you had kind of a response to that, of folks who are telling– you know, who are speaking about safe spaces should not exist That’s not productive And trigger words are counter to the university’s mission, for example ROBIN DIANGELO: So these tend to be white people kind of using it as a way to say, look, we can’t have these difficult conversations, because it can trigger some white students, and they’ll feel bad SPEAKER 2: No, no, no So safe spaces and triggers have been some, I think, forms of trying to recognize the fact that students of color often feel put to the side or unsafe in different spaces around the university But the fact that safe spaces or trigger words would exist are actually being presented as counter to freedom of speech at the university ROBIN DIANGELO: Yeah Well, one, I don’t think you can ever create a safe space, and certainly not that’s mixed, right, because the very things that will feel safe for one set of people is going to be exactly what doesn’t feel safe for another, right? So for white people, what feels safe is no conflict, no challenge And that’s exactly what will feel inauthentic, often, to students of color So this very idea that you could create a safe space that’s universal, we’re back to not accounting for power Where I go to, I remember back when, you know, you can’t talk about LGBT issues, because you have to respect people’s religious backgrounds, all of that You do have a mission to create an environment where everyone can learn I mean, you can fall back to that And a hostile classroom climate is not a space where everyone can learn And there’s a deep history of harm around these expressions And I think the key is, can you get people to examine what they think and believe, as opposed to just state it as if it’s fact? And, you know, it takes faculty having the skills, and can I just say it? Most faculty are white– am I right?– and do not have the skills And it’s kind of a, if I’m for social justice, I automatically do social justice We don’t need to have a class on that It’s integrated in everything because we’re all good people that are for social justice This is usually how it goes So there’s also the piece of faculty not having those skills and still being seen as competent and qualified I actually don’t think you’re competent or qualified if you don’t have those skills These are, again, really going to be heavily resisted, but those are just some avenues in that I think about I saw a hand right there with a response to what I said OK, go ahead Yeah, I think it– I think– yeah Go ahead SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE] If you want to live in a more integrated community, how do you do that without also contributing to gentrification and displacement? Do those go hand in hand? Like, if a white family wants to move

into a more diverse community, are you contributing to that? ROBIN DIANGELO: Those are really hard, deep, complex issues, right? But often, there are ways to move into environments that certainly minimize that impact, but that’s not usually what happens And it’s not really authentically, I don’t believe, why white families are moving into those neighborhoods, other than the cultural capital of saying “I live with diversity.” But are they actually building relationships? Are they supporting small businesses that are owned by people of color? Are their children going to the local schools? Usually not So I don’t think the only way to have a more integrated life is just where you live It’s also, what are you involved in? How do you get yourself out of your comfort zone? But if you move into a neighborhood that’s predominantly people of color, how are you doing that? And there’s some really good writing and kind of ideas about how to do that in a much more conscious way SPEAKER 4: I think we only have time for maybe one more question I better defer it I was going to ask it, but I’ll happily defer SPEAKER 5: Hello Thank you so much I work with Native American students, and I have this question, as I’ve looked at racial equity models And I’m interested to know how you would look at this, that sometimes when you’re asked, as a person of color– I’m going to speak from Native students– to educate all the time non-Native, so as a student and in the academy, you’re constantly educating your professors, your classmates, all the time And is this a subordinate position, to be educating non-Natives– or whites, in this instance– all the time? And if it is a subordinate position, and my idea is that I’m constantly giving, I’m giving you my knowledge, my patience, my time, my energy, and you’re absorbing it, especially the progressive– you know, progressive people, they’re taking it in– but what do I get out of that? And is it that there should be a co-teaching or a co-learning? And then the kind of the follow-up is, as people of color, are we supposed to be learning from white people in this process, or is that not my job to do? Is that for you to sit with? So it’s the, am I taking a subordinate position by constantly educating when you’re not doing the work that you need to, even if you’re progressive? And then, am I supposed to be learning something alongside you? ROBIN DIANGELO: OK, so my sense, and I saw [INAUDIBLE] look disappointed, and you had a reaction to what she said And I’m happy to have you, if you wanted to speak to that question, and then I have my thoughts I just wanted to– SPEAKER 6: That’s a great question, and the answer to that is no People need to do their own homework Your life force and energy, you decide Every time you give it away like that, you’re not able to give it to family, friends, and to yourself for self-care That’s really, really important And I just wanted to add, I think it would be– because you are a white person speaking about this, so of course that puts you in a position of authority And I enjoy your work, so is it not about your work But it’s really important to constantly remind people that if yours was a black face or a Latina face, this would have been experienced completely differently by the people in the room And so really making it clear that because I’m white standing here, that’s also part of the whole systems of oppression, I think is important ROBIN DIANGELO: Thank you SPEAKER 7: And I just want to make a quick comment, because the white-black frame for me, what’s the loss that I hear in your presentation is the loss of the individual truth when you’re white, when black folks show up Because you’re not white until there’s black people there When there are no black people there, you are Cheryl or Johnny or James or the grandfather’s descendant, whatever When black people show up, then you’re white And I just make a comment of sitting in a doctoral program at Harvard with a white– only black woman, two black men– a white woman who said, there’s no racism in my community We don’t have any black people there So my last question– Harvard doctoral– so here’s my question,

just not for you to necessarily answer it but for all of us to contemplate that How do you deal with those two paradoxes? You’re only white when I’m there, and I’m struggling with being Cheryl, rather than the first black, the only black, the exceptional black, the typical black, the no-good black, because I am defined by being black in some context And the second piece is, how do you, in a dispassionate research university, deal with content that is emotionally charged off the chain, and we never talk about the application of emotional intelligence and strategies? And then lastly, my best friend is white that helped raise my kid So we have these conflicts about our generalizations across the lines ROBIN DIANGELO: My sense is that– I mean, those were powerful points that you both made that I don’t necessarily feel that I have to respond to, other than maybe the way I try to get white people to understand that race is profound from the moment they’re born is in those kinds of questions, looking at our neighborhoods And I hope I modelled– I mean, it was a relatively short period of time, but model how I keep trying to move them away from this sense of it’s about individuals, and it’s really about from the time we open our eyes, and even where we open our eyes and how we got there and who owns the hospital we’re opening our eyes in and on and on and on, we’re being shaped So a huge commitment of mine is to get white people to understand that And yes, the way I’m heard– and this is that master’s tools dilemma, right– as I stand in the front of the room, I am reinforcing the authority of the white voice And because white folks will hear it more openly from me, to not do that– for me, to not use this position to challenge racism is to really be white And you know, so it’s a both-and And so I acknowledge that and I thank you very much And everybody else, thank you so much TRICIA ROSE: Thank you, Robin Thank you very much [APPLAUSE]