White Fragility: A Conversation on Race and Racism

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Introducing a new series discussing ‘White Fragility’ with perspectives from various Christian leaders.

What comes to mind when you hear the term “White Fragility?”

The term is striking, unnerving to some degree. Maybe intimidating. What response does such a term stir? Anger, defensiveness, denial?

This is what inspired Robin DiAngelo, who wrote the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She is a scholar who has studied diversity and racism for many years, but has more recently become influential in evangelical circles and that is part of why we are hosting this conversation.

White Fragility has to do with how quickly white people respond with anger and defensiveness in conversations about race. DiAngelo has found in years of diversity training and research that white people respond to these discussions with strikingly similar responses, like the white man who pounded his fist at one seminar, exclaiming out loud, “A white person can’t get a job anymore!” (p. 1). Yet, he is completely oblivious to the fact that 38 of the 40 employees gathered were white. “Why,” DiAngelo asks, “is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why doesn’t he notice the effect this outburst is having on the people of color in the room?” (p. 1)

From the author’s introduction–a perspective on history:

“The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal. Yet the nation began with the attempted genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of their land. American wealth was built on the labor of kidnapped and enslaved Africans and their descendants. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, and black women were denied access to that right until 1965.” (p. xiii)

Chapter 1: The Challenges of Talking to White …

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