Social Justice Usage
Source: DiAngelo, Robin J. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018, pp. 1–2.
White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality. As a result, we are insulated from racial stress, at the same time that we come to feel entitled to and deserving of our advantage. Given how seldom we experience racial discomfort in a society we dominate, we haven’t had to build our racial stamina. Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We consider a challenge to our racial worldviews as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as an unsettling and unfair moral offense. The smallest amount of racial stress is intolerable—the mere suggestion that being white has meaning often triggers a range of defensive responses. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation. These responses work to reinstate white equilibrium as they repel the challenge, return our racial comfort, and maintain our dominance within the racial hierarchy. I conceptualize this process as white fragility. Though white fragility is triggered by discomfort and anxiety, it is born of superiority and entitlement. White fragility is not weakness per se. In fact, it is a powerful means of white racial control and the protection of white advantage.
New Discourses Commentary
Racial stamina is a term used by critical race educator Robin DiAngelo to indicate what white people need so that they are able to endure being told that they’re inherently racist, if not white supremacist, particularly by people of color, without taking it as anything short of the unchallengeable God’s-honest truth. It is also what enables white people to engage with those “facts” about themselves, undertake antiracism work, recognize and critically examine both whiteness and their complicity in it, and begin to dismantle them, as DiAngelo has put it, by endeavoring to become “less white” (see also, critical consciousness and wokeness). Racial stamina is the opposite of white fragility and the capacity to endure racial stress and, frankly, being bullied by the woke about complicity in systemic racism.
Antiracism; Complicity; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; People of color; Position; Privilege; Race; Racial stress; Racism (systemic); White; White fragility; White supremacy; Whiteness; Woke/Wokeness
Source: DiAngelo, Robin J. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018, p. 14.
If you are reading this and are still making your case for why you are different from other white people and why none of this applies to you, stop and take a breath. Now return to the questions above, and keep working through them. To interrupt white fragility, we need to build our capacity to sustain the discomfort of not knowing, the discomfort of being racially unmoored, the discomfort of racial humility. Our next task is to understand how the forces of racial socialization are constantly at play. The inability to acknowledge these forces inevitably leads to the resistance and defensiveness of white fragility. To increase the racial stamina that counters white fragility, we must reflect on the whole of our identities—and our racial group identity in particular. For white people, this means first struggling with what it means to be white.
Source: DiAngelo, Robin J. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018, p. 125.
Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion. In recognition of this, I try to follow these guidelines:
- How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant—it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina.
- Thank you.
The above guidelines rest on the understanding that there is no face to save and the game is up; I know that I have blind spots and unconscious investments in racism. My investments are reinforced every day in mainstream society. I did not set this system up, but it does unfairly benefit me, I do use it to my advantage, and I am responsible for interrupting it. I need to work hard to change my role in this system, but I can’t do it alone. This understanding leads me to gratitude when others help me.
Revision date: 1/31/20