Nice Racism | Robin DiAngelo

Summary of: Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm
By: Robin DiAngelo


In her book ‘Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm’, Robin DiAngelo examines the concept of ‘nice racism’ – a subtle but harmful form of racism perpetuated by well-intentioned white people. This book summary highlights how white progressives, despite their professed commitments to diversity and social justice, inadvertently contribute to racial harm through their actions and attitudes. Readers will learn about the inherent privileges that white people possess, the myth of individualism, and the importance of decentering oneself and learning from feedback.

The Ugly Truth About Nice Racists

Nice racists often do more harm than overt racists. White people who pride themselves on being “woke” and liberal can unconsciously perpetrate racial discrimination.

When we think of racists, our minds conjure up images of far-right extremists like the Ku Klux Klan, but the truth is that some of the worst perpetrators of racial discrimination are those we’d least suspect. The “nice” racists, those liberal people who pride themselves on being “woke” and liberal, are often the worst offenders. They might join diversity committees or hang out with Black people to prove they’re not racist. They might use “compliments” that are racist microaggressions like noting how “articulate” someone is, just because they’re Black. They might move into neighborhoods and gentrify them, displacing black residents.

Most nice racists don’t see themselves as racist, but they are, and their actions do more harm than those of overt racists. Their good intentions do not solve the intractable problems of racism and white supremacy. The reason they don’t see it is simple: they’ve grown up in a world where racist messaging is everywhere, where they’re told subconsciously that they’re superior, that they earned all the advantages they enjoy in life, and that Black people would prosper if they only tried a bit harder.

But the truth is that these are all lies and myths that they need to unlearn, starting with the fact that being “nice” isn’t enough. Pride in being “color-blind” or “not seeing color” is not the solution to the problem. We need to be actively conscious of our own prejudices, actively educate ourselves on systemic inequality, and actively work for change. Otherwise, racism will persist in insidious ways, and overall progress will be slowed.

It’s time to face the undeniable fact that even those of us who consider ourselves to be progressive or “nice” can perpetrate acts of prejudice and must take responsibility for the harm we cause. Only by acknowledging this truth and taking action to unlearn and act differently can we actively work to bring about a paradigm shift.

Nice Racism and the Myth of Individualism

The concept of nice racism persists because of the myth of individualism. The idea that racism is a personal issue for some and not for others is deeply flawed. The privileges enjoyed by white people are inextricably linked to centuries of policies that have perpetuated white supremacy. This reality is hard to accept because it forces individuals to acknowledge that their resources and success were obtained unfairly. Giving up the myth of individualism is crucial for dismantling one’s own racism.

The Complex Relationship Between White Privilege and Oppression Through Poverty

In this book, Robin DiAngelo discusses how white people can experience racism and oppression while still benefiting from white privilege. Growing up in extreme poverty, DiAngelo and her family were discriminated against, but her white skin gave her more opportunities to climb out of poverty. However, the racism she internalized as a child still shapes her behavior, making her collude with white supremacy. DiAngelo emphasizes the importance of centering race in discussions of oppression to better understand the complexities of intersectionality.

The Danger of Nice Racists

The book exposes the danger of nice racists, who lack the humility and willingness to confront their own racism. The author shares a story of a Black executive who was unfairly fired for calling out her boss’s racial bias. White people tend to be ignorant of the experiences of people of color due to their segregation, lack of real-world knowledge, and exposure to a media culture that centers white experiences. This ignorance leads to inaccurate assumptions, such as underestimating the wealth gap between white and Black families. In addition, white people rarely have to answer to Black people, which means they have little experience in dealing with the discomfort of being called out and held accountable for racism. Instead, they hide behind insidious “niceness,” which hinders progress in tackling white supremacy. The book’s message is clear: addressing racism requires a willingness to deal with conflict and respond with humility, even if it’s unpleasant.

The Deceptive Nature of Color-Celebrate Credentialing

The practice of using people of color to prove one’s non-racist stance, known as color-celebrate credentialing, is a misnomer. Author Robin DiAngelo posits that this is a common tactic used by well-meaning “nice racists” to prove their progressive status as white individuals. Unfortunately, proximity to Black individuals cannot be used as a measure of one’s racism. The behavior actually tokenizes and objectifies Black people while allowing white individuals to ignore the importance of true, lasting relationships and integration. This deceptive practice derails conversations about racial justice and must be addressed in order to move forward towards a truly inclusive society.

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