NETGALLEY BOOK REVIEW: Nice Racism by Robin DiAngelo

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5/5 stars

If, after all the events of 2020, you still aren’t reading and learning about anti-racism, you’re doing something wrong.

Robin DiAngelo isn’t necessarily the best figure in the world of anti-racism books, but she does fill a vital role: she explains the importance of anti-racism to white people, from the perspective of a white person. As a longtime facilitator and consultant in diversity training, she has seen it all and especially knows how to cut through corporate jargon to get to the real heart of DE&I work. Her most famous book, White Fragility, acts kind of as a Critical Race Theory 101, think of Nice Racism as Critical Race Theory 102.

White Fragility is aimed at those who take more of a “post-racial” approach to thinking about racism. Or would rather talk about how women are oppressed in America. Or who point out that things were tough for their ancestors from Ireland/Italy/Poland/Eastern Europe/etc when they arrived in America. Or who shrug and say, “don’t look at me, I’m from Canada.”

Nice Racism is aimed more at the white person who thinks they’re informed, the woke-adjacent who participated in BLM movements last year, or just anyone who thinks they voted Democrat, so their work is done. Based on the idea that white progressives can be just as damaging, if not more damaging, to civil rights movements (a view espoused by MLK, but you won’t see that quote on Facebook), DiAngelo works to highlight how white people can go beyond empathy and help to support real change.

DiAngelo pulls no punches, explaining how systemic racism has benefitted white people whether they like it or not, and how just being aware of it isn’t enough. From schools to neighbourhood zoning to dress codes, it’s all here. It also provides tangible advice for talking to people about racism and how to combat particular sticking points in these sorts of conversations. I think it will emerge as an important tool for me as I learn more about being anti-racist and deal with the frequent British argument that racism “isn’t bad here, not like it is in America.”

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC. NICE RACISM is out 29 June 2021.

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