DiAngelo, in chapter 8, “The Result: White Fragility”, extends her discussion on how whites will get defensive when it is pointed out to them that they are using discriminatory language or action. It felt a little redundant to me as she shared more stories.
I am part of a spiritual path that nudges me to look deeply at my own behaviors and attitudes. The phrase, “It is all about me” is one I and my friends will use, usually joking about ourselves, when we realize that we are making someone else’s pain be about us, as though we are victims. The thing is, once you face this tendency in yourself to make everything about you, it begins to loosen its grip.
This is exactly what DiAngelo is promoting when she says that white reluctance to take a look at their racist behaviors stops progress in its tracks. It stops one individual from progressing, but it also stops dialogue between people of different races and social change that reflects equality and justice for all. Have you ever tried to talk to someone about how they’d hurt you and been dismissed as being oversensitive? I have. I came to the conclusion that talking to this person is like talking to a brick wall. So, what is left is to deal with one’s own hurt and resentments with no satisfaction and no solution. It is crippling to a relationship. In the case of racism in a white dominated society, the problem is that one is not alone with their feelings. For the black community, parents watch their brothers and sister and children suffer discrimination and live in fear daily. Small, innocent children get to grow up with this. Imagine the woundedness to their little souls.
I have seen the videos of George Floyd taken from police body-cams and the phones of bystanders. The man was terrified. He had every reason to believe from the moment he was singled out by the police that he was about to die. His panic as they tried to get him into the police car was absolutely understandable. It seemed to me like a man being pushed to the edge of a cliff and being asked to submit to the people who were pushing him. I can also imagine that white people watching might say, “Why didn’t he just do what they wanted him to do? This wouldn’t have happened if he’d only done what he was told.” That is white privilege! We don’t have to be afraid when police officers pull us over or stop us for questioning, other than getting a ticket or being arrested. But odds are really high that for whites that death is not likely imminent. White Privilege – the privilege of not having to be afraid.
But now DiAngelo is talking about White Fragility. This is the stop-gap. When whites put themselves into the role as victim, there is no need for change. The person of color becomes the bully because they made me feel bad when I am a good person. What they, the black people, have been experience is not the issue…the attack against me is the issue.
Just a couple of interesting pieces from this chapter that I want to mention:
- “More than half of whites – 55% – survey sat that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Notable, however, is that though a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say they have actually experienced it.” (Sounds like those who claim immigrants are taking their jobs but have not actually had their jobs taken away by an immigrant.)
- In situations in which the author was called upon as a consultant, she was cautioned that employees who had been to diversity training workshops had experienced trauma and she was cautioned to “proceed slowly and to be careful”. (Would you call this PTSD?) She adds that by employing terms that connote physical abuse, whites tap into the classic story that people of color (particularly African Americans) are dangerous and violent. Thus not only is there no progress, but stereotypes are being reinforced and the situation is made worse.