Social Justice Usage
Source: DiAngelo, Robin. “White Fragility.” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3), 2011: 54–70, p. 54.
The state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves [in white people]. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar.
New Discourses Commentary
“White fragility,” invented by critical race educator Robin DiAngelo, is a contrivance of critical race Theory and critical whiteness studies that insists that white privilege has made white people too comfortable with the racial status quo to be comfortable having their unjustly advantaged position challenged. In practice, “white fragility” is a way to force white people into compliance with the tenets of critical race Theory and a demand for adopting an “antiracist” disposition. (DiAngelo instructs that antiracism is itself a “lifelong commitment to an ongoing process” of self-reflection, self-critique, and social activism—i.e., that requires constantly searching for one’s complicity with the allegedly racist system and the white supremacy it supports and seeking to do better, including by, in her own words, being “less white” – see also, critical consciousness and wokeness.)
Under the doctrine of “white fragility,” white people lack the “racial stamina” to endure the “racial stress” of being called a racist or being accused of being complicit in a system of white supremacy (see also, white complicity, white comfort, white equilibrium, and white innocence). As DiAngelo observes, white fragility manifests when white people, after being so accused, exhibit negative emotional reactions, argue, disagree, remain silent, or go away—rather than “engaging” fully, by which is meant agreeing and adopting the critical race mentality on these issues.
In actuality most white people (as well as most people who aren’t white – see also, people of color) understand terms like “racism” and “white supremacy” under common-parlance definitions as “prejudice on the grounds of race” and “a political goal to give all power and opportunity to white people.” These, DiAngelo specifically and explicitly rejects. Most people also understand racist ideas to be morally wrong and believe people who hold them to be bad people who do not warrant the respect of society. Thus, they are justifiably upset and unhappy about being branded with these terms, even though they don’t mean the same things in Critical Social Justice. DiAngelo also recognizes this. Indeed, she indicates in White Fragility that this awareness that these accusations are extremely morally and emotionally loaded is one of the reasons white people are so fragile and difficult to talk to about race and racism then accuses white people of lacking the resources, including racial humility and racial stamina, to endure necessarily challenging engagement about race and racism (see also, white woman tears).
The doctrine of white fragility gives white people so accused no options except to agree and take on a full critical antiracism stance or prove their racism by refusing to. In that sense, white fragility is perhaps the most sophisticated kafkatrap employed by Social Justice as an ideology. To explain, a kafkatrap is a situation in which one is accused of something in such a way that both one’s confession to it and denial of it are able to be interpreted as proof of one’s guilt (the term derives its name from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, in which the protagonist Josef K. is subjected to a series of these in a kangaroo court environment).
Of some interest, a more responsible concept relating “fragility” to being indoctrinated in an ideology could potentially carry merit, and for genuine ideologically committed white supremacists, under the real meaning of the term, “white supremacist fragility” might also be a worthwhile concept for study and application. That is, using the concept of “fragility” to describe the anxiety and anger people indoctrinated into an ideology experience when they encounter any dissent or counterargument could make of it a useful concept. (Indeed, a certain “woke fragility” would almost definitely make sense and describe a widely observed phenomenon.) Unfortunately, the ideology of Social Justice assumes that “whiteness” itself is an ideological position of vested interest in maintaining and protecting its own privilege, social position, and systemic power (see also, racism), and then makes the further mistake of connecting having “white” skin to the alleged ideology of “whiteness.” It then commits the error of misinterpreting negative responses to unjust accusations of racism as proof not only of racism, but also of an deep-seeded unwillingness to change (see also, white comfort, white equilibrium, internalized dominance, and status quo). In practice, then, even to the degree that white fragility has any merit as a concept, it has no viable utility in application because the definitions involved are too fraught and imprecise.
Active ignorance; Antiracism; Complicity; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; Critical theory; Engagement; Ideology; People of color; Privilege; Privilege-preserving epistemic pushback; Race; Racial equilibrium; Racial humility; Racial stamina; Racial stress; Racism (systemic); Social Justice; Systemic power; White; White comfort; White complicity; White equilibrium; White ignorance; White innocence; White silence; White supremacy; White woman tears; Whiteness; Whiteness studies; Willful ignorance; Woke/Wokeness
Revision date: 2/25/20