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Is white fragility real? Show more Show less
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In July 2020, "White Fragility" topped the New York Times Bestseller list. Though two years had passed since its publication, protests following George Floyd's murder thrust its controversial theory of race back into the mainstream. Written by University of Washington Professor Robin DiAngelo, the book claims that white people sustain racism by refusing to engage with it. The idea assumes that white people consider themselves the "default" race, and actively avoid and undermine challenges to this worldview. As the thesis has gained traction, it has also come under criticism for being reductive and choosing to see entire populations based on race. So, who are the groups forming around this debate, what do they believe and why?

Yes, white fragility is real Show more Show less

This group believes that white fragility is evidenced in our lived experience. Internalised bias is an essential part of the white experience, which drives systemic racism.
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White fragility highlights that only non-whites are "raced"

The debate hinges on the fact that white people are seen as at the default, or normal, race in Western society. Those who diverge from this are "raced" by virtue of having a skin colour that affects how people respond to them.

Context

Dr. Robin DiAngelo established the “white fragility” saying, referring to the defensive fronts that white people exhibit when confronted about race. The concept of white fragility conveys that there is a normal race (white) implying that non-white people are “raced.”[1]

The Argument

We live in a world with white privilege: people in power have built society under principles benefiting white people. As a result, the unspoken norms and standards of modern society primarily focus on the white narrative. A predominantly white culture sets the default race to be white. In doing so, being white is no longer considered a race, but rather as the norm. Non-whites are highlighted to not fit the norm, consequently considered as “raced.” For example, people with white skin may be designated by physical features such as height, size, or hair features. But in a world where skin color is the most prominent human feature, people of color are generally labeled by their skin color or ethnicity.[2] Recognizing white fragility brings attention to how non-whites are always "raced" while white people are not.[3] White fragility comes into play as a defense mechanism for situations of racial stress. A society with books, television, school curriculums, legislation, and media primarily fitting the white narrative establishes a sense of racial insulation. The system fails to provide white people with sufficient knowledge and resources to handle situations of racial disparity. This failure only exacerbates racial tensions, but white culture usually prevails.[4]

Counter arguments

The concept of white fragility fails to account for the various nuances present in white culture. All whiteness cannot be treated with the same privileges; the white demographic still faces variations in gender identity, heritage, religion, socioeconomic status, and reputation. These nuances elicit similar feelings of “otherness” shared by non-white people. In reality, white fragility only applies to a fraction of the demographic insulated from all forms of the “other,” whether being race, gender, status, or religion.[6]

Proponents

Premises

The black demographic has suffered from being treated with dignity, equality and equity in power relations. They suffer constantly at the hands of predominantly white institutions. For instance in 2020, 123 people have been shot and killed by the Police .[5]

Rejecting the premises

However, fully trying to abolish the policing system which is a very important institution will eliminate any cushion from black people killed by black people which isn't a question of the white fragility issue. [7]

References

  1. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-sociologist-examines-the-white-fragility-that-prevents-white-americans-from-confronting-racism
  2. https://time.com/4512430/colorism-in-america/
  3. https://www.cacgrants.org/assets/ce/Documents/2019/WhiteDominantCulture.pdf
  4. https://www.simpsonhousing.org/white-fragility-white-supremacy-implicit-bias/
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/
  6. https://theconversation.com/robin-diangelos-white-fragility-ignores-the-differences-within-whiteness-143728
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/08/gun-deaths-affect-more-white-men-than-black-men/
This page was last edited on Sunday, 27 Sep 2020 at 21:48 UTC

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