Discovering the White Fragility Syndrome

I was called out early last Saturday morning on twitter after asking a question. I replied nastily, which I don’t do often and I never am glad I did. I was responding to someone suggesting I appear to be experiencing White Fragility.

Even with my retort, the woman described that there’s actually a thing called White Fragility and suggested I do some research. As much as I dislike getting criticized, I absolutely love getting this kind of feedback.

White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

That all said, I dove right in and have been reading as much as I can. I’ve also tried discussing this with anyone who is interested via twitter but, crickets. Who could’ve ever imagined sharing information with white people about a condition they were born with and in to, would be met with relatively stiff resistance (so far).

There’s a lot of great work out there and, rather than hack up the definition, here’s a few. Dr. Robin DiAngelo is the researcher who coined the term and who, by all accounts, is the leading subject matter expert:

The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility
White Fragility, Overcoming Racism — academic paper by Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility: Why it’s so hard to talk to white people about racism