What is “white fragility”? — you might wonder. Why would fragility be specific to white people?
The scientific method often uses the deductive method — looking at specific observations — trying to come up with a theory to explain these observations in a way that serves some purpose (understanding, efficiency, clarity…) — then deducing interpretations or predictions from the theory back to the specific observables in the world. A term such as “white fragility” could be seen as a micro-theory, that was created with this scientific approach to the world.
White fragility is a recent conceptual addition to the canon of a growing scholarly work on “racism”, that I find little helpful in creating social change on the basis of true heart connection. In fact, I fear that this kind of work will lead to more division and more violence, affecting actually the opposite of what the likely intention is.
Scholar Robin DiAngelo — she has written a monography “White Fragility” — is likely the creator of this term in the judgmental undertone variant of “wrongness-fragility/copyright-white-people”. In the below video presentation of 3.47 minutes she explains the gist of her idea — “debunking a myth”.
Posted in 2018 the video has more dislikes than likes and I can make out a couple of reasons for that.
When I listen to her speaking of what it means to be white to her, I do not get a sense of authentic sharing. I wonder if she feels a slight sense of disgust, when she is speaking. She seems to judge the situation she is describing in desperate need of change, as she describes the racist and socialization of “white people” in general. Aside from generatization being an inaffective method of creating connection with individuals, she seems to lack awareness of how the soviet system handled race and that included the white portion of the population in the states of the Soviet system.
I want to share one prominent example from her to illustrate my findings.
In the beginning of the above video presentation she describes a white person saying in a workshop on race led by a black trainer:
“I don’t see color.”
And the trainer replied:
“So how are you going to see racism? Because I am black. I do think you know that. And I have a different experience than you do. And you are not going to be able to understand that and you are not going to be able to support the parts of that experience that are really painful and problematic, if you refuse to acknowledge my reality.”
“I don’t see color — means — I refuse to acknowledge your reality.”
I hear this phrase as an interpretation of the inner motivation of the white person.
DiAngelo is analyzing, diagnosing, guessing intellectually what the statement of the white person means.
I do not see her asking what the inner motivation of the white person is. Asking would be a practice in harmony with nonviolent communication, where we want to value individual differences and where we want to respect the inner life of each person.
Deep human needs such as choice and respect may likely go unfulfilled, when faced with such an interpretation from a person outside of us — especially when they talk about us without even asking how this is for us.
I can also see how people who value inclusivity and tolerance might enjoy this way of approaching the subject of race. A new and stronger version of political correctness for the 21st century? My hope would be that this tolerance would extend to people who hold a different view than this.
I can also see how people who value tradition and safe borders for themselves and their friends would not enjoy this approach, seeing her approach as an example of an anarchism, communist or worse. I would hope that they might find an open door for hearing some of the needs of the group above.
Making generalizing statements about groups of people is not in harmony with my understanding of compassionate communication and its spiritual basis. The best way of hearing this would be to hear requests in it.
That said, personal experiences from people of all walks of life on skin color or other discriminating elements of outward or inward realities can help us to learn about the suffering that all people experience on an individual level, to truly feel connected to universal human longings.
I suggest to stay curious about the human being beyond the differences and leave generalizations about people to the realm of science.
I would connect empathically to the black trainer, who states his feelings and needs in terms of what does not work for him in the attitude or words of the other person.
Do you want to trust that your reality is appreciated and fully understood?
What do you need?
Connection before correction.