PFLAG Denver board member Mia Furtado, the speaker at the October meeting, challenged her audience to confront “white fragility” in a thoughtprovoking presentation. The queer community has historically been guilty of neglecting queer voices of color. In a broader context, so have we all.
Mia recommended a web-posted article, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People about Racism,” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. To condense and paraphrase:
While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group. We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good, and this becomes our identity.
Challenges to this identity ̶ to our concepts of individualism/meritocracy, of white authority and white centrality ̶ become highly stressful and even intolerable. Not often encountering these challenges, we withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. I term that push back white fragility.
This concept came out of my on-going experience leading discussions on race, racism, white privilege and white supremacy with primarily white audiences. It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldviews.
The antidote to white fragility is on-going and lifelong, and includes sustained engagement, humility, and education. We can begin by:
- Being willing to tolerate the discomfort associated with an honest appraisal and discussion of our internalized superiority and racial privilege.
- Challenging our own racial reality by acknowledging ourselves as racial beings with a particular and limited perspective on race.
- Attempting to understand the racial realities of people of color through authentic interaction, not through the media or unequal relationships.
- Taking action to address our own racism, the racism of other whites, and the racism embedded in our institutions—e.g., get educated and act.