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Author Robin DiAngelo gives presentation about racism

Robin DiAngelo, an author and educator, discussed racism in Fraser Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. // Photo by Natalie Breymeyer
Robin DiAngelo, an author and educator, discussed racism in Fraser Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. // Photo by Natalie Breymeyer

By Natalie Breymeyer


Robin DiAngelo began her speech by telling the white people in the room to not distance themselves from what she was about to talk about.

“We are the problem, and we need to look at ourselves and the role that we’re playing,” DiAngelo said.

DiAngelo, an author and educator, unpacked the subject of racism to a completely filled lecture room in Fraser Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 9. She explained the role racism plays in society, and how white people especially need to recognize that racism is present in everyone.

“I am white,” DiAngelo said. “I move through the world with a white worldview, a white frame of reference and I have a white experience. That is not a universal human experience.”

DiAngelo introduced the concept of white fragility, which is the inability to tolerate racial stress. It can be triggered when one’s own entitlement is challenged.

“We know that we live in a deeply unequal racial society across every single institution,” DiAngelo said.

Children aren’t taught that race doesn’t matter, DiAngelo said. People say it, but it’s not the actual practice in life.

No matter how progressive one is, DiAngelo said that all human beings are discriminatory. Humans are naturally subjective; there is no objectivity, she said.  Humans can only make sense of the world through the culture and society they grew up in.  

“There is no reverse racism,” DiAngelo said. “There is no reverse form of any oppression.”

DiAngelo said white people often get defensive when racism is brought up, and will try to provide evidence as to why they’re not.

“I’ve never met a white person without an opinion on racism,” DiAngelo said. “If you’re not sure, just bring it up at your next family dinner.”

“It really doesn’t hurt us to say the word ‘racism.’ These kinds of words and how we talk about our own experiences are not something to threaten us.”

Western alumnus Terri Kempton

But once people let go of trying to defend themselves, DiAngelo said it can be liberating. After letting go, all one has to focus on is what they can do to improve in the future.

“Safe” and “comfortable” do not need to be synonymous, DiAngelo said. A person can be uncomfortable and still be safe, because a person doesn’t learn when they are completely complacent.

Western alumnus Terri Kempton attended the speech.

“It really doesn’t hurt us to say the word ‘racism’,” Kempton said. “These kinds of words and how we talk about our own experiences are not something to threaten us.”

Kempton is one of the founders of White Nonsense Roundup, a nonprofit organization created by white people to educate and stand up against racism.

The organization was recognized by DiAngelo, who said the responsibility of enlightening white people about racism should not fall onto people of color.

DiAngelo also talked about the white racial framework that is emphasized in society. Movies, television shows and advertisements all contain constant subliminal messages reinforcing racial segregation.  

“There is this relentless message that white is the norm for humanity, and everything else is in deviation of that norm,” DiAngelo said.

Freshman Rahman Barika said he’s seen advertisements in the past that offend his own race and personal beliefs, but he’s never paid much mind to them.

“With this speech, I feel like I can now educate them and address it,” Barika said.

Freshman Abdul Malikford also attended the event.

“It motivated me,” Malikford said. “It was like, the more I encounter [racism], the more I should take action.”

Junior Orlando Montes enjoyed the speech and said it was engaging.

“I felt like it actually educated everyone in the room,” Montes said.

The end of DiAngelo’s speech was met with applause and a signing for her book, “What Does it Mean to be White?”


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