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“White fragility” is a phrase coined by author Dr. Robin DiAngelo. She explains how certain patterns make it difficult for many white people to understand racism as a system and that leads to the dynamics of white fragility. Even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive actions.
The word fragility means the quality of being easily broken or damaged. We have to rethink that word choice or we may get stuck on the notion of white fragility. White fragility keeps you in a space of wanting to be centered, affirmed, and comforted, even when learning about and examining racism.
Many white people are awakening to the reality of systemic racism in the United States of America. White Fragility being #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List, is very telling about where the white community is (or isn’t) in their anti-racism practice. I am seeing a lot of performative allyship, optics, and white fragility in many of the predominantly white yoga spaces and in other communities. I have not heard much about people self-reflecting and doing the deeper work of self-inquiry or self-study.
Reasons why we need to stop saying,“white fragility” are as follows:
1. White people are not fragile.
If you become defensive around conversations about race, perhaps it is your ego fragility showing up. Surrender your ego attachments and defensiveness. You may experience a lot of fear when talking about race; fear of losing privilege and entitlement, fear of your belief system being shattered. The phrase, white fragility, perpetuates the racial myth that white people are fragile and Black people are not. It furthers the belief that Black Americans can withstand more pain than white people. It furthers the myth that white people need to be protected from black people. Black people are strong but we are also human. We are resilient but we feel deeply: we feel pain, sadness, heartache, helpless and vulnerable, sometimes daily. It is time for white people to get uncomfortable.
2. White fragility allows you the choice to stay in your comfort zone.
It is necessary and time to push yourself out of your comfort zone everyday, in every way. White fragility allows you the choice to stay in your comfort zone. I have experienced people I love get stuck in that fragile place. “Good, nice,” yet fragile, white people uphold systemic racism everyday. Even in the midst of witnessing someone else’s pain, one's resistance to the truth and defensiveness protects whiteness. Many hold onto the idea that Love Wins, and you don’t actually have to do any work. In order to make space for your soul to grow, you have to experience discomfort. It is in the fire of life challenges and discomfort that transformation takes place. Pause your reflex to automatically go to what is comfortable and habitual or to avoid conversations about race. Move through white fragility; you start the practice in the discomfort. To cultivate an anti-racism practice, begin by examining your racial biases, conditioning, values, and beliefs. Think critically about how you may have internalized anti-blackness.
3. Reflect on the following: Was White Fragility the first book you reached for to learn about race? If so, why? Did you promote it before or after the current racial uprising? If so, why?
Anti-racism practice urges us to examine and reflect on our own biases, conditioning, values and beliefs. There is a conditioning in our society to read about marginalized people, black and brown people, through a white lens. Our history is taught from a white perspective. It’s important to think critically about which authors we typically read, who we tend to follow and learn from, and who we promote and elevate. One must ask themselves, why is Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s book about race sold out? Why has it been at the top of the best sellers list? Why are we centering her voice? If we are working to elevate Black voices and Black authors, then why would so many continue to promote this book? It’s an honest practice of noticing if we are perpetuating white supremacy, even when it comes to writing about race. No one understands race more than a Black person. Black people have been writing about race for years. You can read books about race by the following Black authors: Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Crystal Fleming, Austin Channing, Bryan Stevenson, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Michelle Alexander, Layla Saad, Michelle Johnson, Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, Ruth King and more.
You can go back and read Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, W.E.B Dubois, James Baldwin, bell hooks, and more.
We are all indoctrinated to elevate whiteness and it is a constant practice of separating ourselves from it. Anti-racism work requires you to be vulnerable and courageous. There is no time for white fragility, black lives are in danger. Begin thinking critically about racism in the spaces you inhabit and the choices you make daily.
Take action, do the work of dismantling racism and transforming racism from the inside out.