Black Dignity / White Fragility --An Extended Review

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Author: Rebecca C. Hong
Date: Spring 2020
From: Christian Scholar's Review(Vol. 49, Issue 3)
Publisher: Christian Scholar's Review
Document Type: Book review
Length: 2,876 words

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Austin Channing Brown. I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. New York: Convergent, 2018. 185 pp. $25.00, ISBN 9781524760854.

Robin DiAngelo. White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018. 169 pp. $16.00, ISBN 9780807047415.

On September 6, 2018, Amber Guyger, a white female off-duty Dallas police officer entered the home of Botham Jean, an unarmed 26-year-old black neighbor, and fatally shot him to death. Guyger testified that when she entered the home of Jean, she was "scared to death" and shot him with the intention to kill, believing he was a threat and an intruder in her home. Jean was sitting in his apartment, on his couch, eating a bowl of ice cream when Guyger entered and fired two shots that fatally killed him. In recounting the night of the murder during the trial, Guyger became emotional and broke down in tears several times, expressing how she hates herself, hates having to live with this every day of her life, and asks God for forgiveness.

In White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo provides the historical backdrop of black men being tortured due to claims of white women. In the recent murder of Botham Jean, the fear of an unarmed black man in his own home led a white woman to take his life. As an antiracist scholar, trainer, and writer, DiAngelo challenges white people on their discomfort and fragility in relation to confrontations or discussions around racism. She writes,

Whether intended or not, when a white woman cries over some aspect of racism, all the attention immediately goes to her, demanding time, energy, and attention from everyone in the room when they should be focused on ameliorating racism. While she is given attention, the people of color are yet again abandoned and/or blamed. (134)

While Guyger did not explicitly mention in her tearful testimony that her fear of Jean was due to the fact that he was a black man, black communities and people of color have witnessed the repeated killings of unarmed black people at the hands of white police officers. This same script reinscribes the discomfort of white people and white systems around discussions of race. DiAngelo unapologetically calls out white tears used to halt progress on combating racism, tears that re-center whiteness, white guilt, white victimization, and white distress as forms of power and control of the situation. This discomfort is precisely what DiAngelo challenges her readers to confront in her book.

It is no wonder that Austin Channing Brown states in her book I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness that white people can be exhausting. Channing Brown weaves her own personal story with the sober reality of the challenges of being black in America when racism and white supremacy continue to undergird systems and institutions. While Channing Brown is clear that she is not condemning white people, she also...

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Source Citation
Hong, Rebecca C. "Black Dignity / White Fragility --An Extended Review." Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 49, no. 3, 2020, p. 281+. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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