What is white fragility? How did it start? These are understandable and commonly asked questions. White Fragility is a term coined by Robin DiAngelo, an author and lecturer with a Ph.D. in Multicultural Education. In her book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism, she defines the term white fragility as “the phenomenon by which white people become angry, defensive, or hostile when confronted with the idea that they are complicit in systemic racism.” To fully understand that definition, it’s necessary to also understand the term systemic racism. Systemic racism can be thought of as a form of racism that is embedded as a normal practice within society or an organization. Throughout the book, DiAngelo provides her insights and opinions on how to combat racism in all forms.
Once the terms white fragility and systemic racism are understood, one can begin to explore strategies for anti-racist and anti-white supremacist actions. Below are some suggestions for the first steps:
- Recognize privilege: Owning your own privilege is a first step in recognizing how this privilege has shaped your life and views, which is important in working to empower others.
- De-center yourself: Work in your spaces to center the voices of those who have been historically oppressed as a result of white supremacy.
- Listen: To be an advocate, you must listen to the voices of people of color. It is not your job to speak for others, but to make sure the voices of others are heard.
- Recognize historical and current oppression: Oppression and white supremacy are not relegated to history. Their legacies are present today, and confronting this reality is necessary to truly hear and empower historically marginalized groups of people.
- Learn: It is your responsibility to educate yourself about the country’s history of white supremacy.
- Consumption of information: Consider your sources of news and information, and whether they champion diverse voices.