White People: Stop Microvalidating Each Other’s White Fragility & White Fog

stephanie jo kent
Jul 17, 2016 · 5 min read
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“Is it really that one-sided?”

“Yes.”

White Fragility

Whites “withdraw, defend, cry, argue, minimize, ignore, and in other ways push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium. […This] push back [is] white fragility.”

Most American whites are unaware of white supremacy in everyday life because the system invented by the founding fathers is effective at hiding the ways white privilege works. This means most white people are raised unconscious of the role whiteness plays in overall society. Waking up to this reality is typically painful, which is what leads to the observable patterns of white fragility.

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A continuum of character development from white fragility through white fog to appropriate whiteness.

White Fog

Appropriate Whiteness

When we’re acting from white fragility and in the early stages of addressing white fog, whites buy into the notion that racism is a basic evil and anyone who is racist is an awful person. This is what raises identity threat (DiAngelo) and a deep feeling of vulnerability. Through accepting that harboring racism and white supremacy is an inevitable outcome of being raised in the United States, whites start the long journey to appropriate whiteness. There’s a lot of stuff to root out. Here’s the thing: there is something worse than being a racist. If you care enough to acknowledge and address the racism in you, then you are not an asshole. Yes, being an asshole is worse than being a racist! We whites have all got the residue of racism in us, but we do not have to be assholes about it.

Ending Microvalidations

  • agreeing with (or saying nothing about) an un-racialized perspective of white people or a racialized perspective of any group of people of color
  • agreement, silence, or affirmation of white racial innocence (e.g., “I didn’t know)
  • supporting the idea of individuality as if whites have no white group membership
  • confirming reactions to people of color in authority positions or receiving positive visibility
  • offering platitudes — usually something that starts with “People just need to,” or “Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,” or “Everybody’s racist.”
  • supporting or encouraging reactions against the perceived source of discomfort (i.e., blame the messenger, could be a person of color or another white person) through social forms of punishment such as gossip, retaliation, isolation and refusal to continue engagement

What makes the items in the list a micro-validation is when they occur in a conversation with other whites. Someone (a white person) says something that shows white fragility or affirms subtle, implicit white entitlement or white privilege, and you (a white person) respond in a way that validates, affirms or justifies what the first person said. Together, now, we have participated in white supremacy.

Loretta Ross emphasizes how important it is for whites to learn how to talk with each other about white supremacy because the failure to confront its ideas can lead to terrible consequences. Over the past month, we see the costs of our ignorance and denial of whiteness and it’s interrelatedness with racism, homophobia and transphobia playing out in an escalation of race-based violence. At this moment in history, the only way to counter and overcome a societal descent into the throes of terrorism is to join the new human rights movement. We must learn to turn to each other and call each other in to this struggle, instead of turning on each other out of fear, anger, or hatred.

References

Fighting White Supremacy and White Privilege to Build a Human Rights Movement, Loretta Ross

Learning to recognize an unearned advantage, Mindy Cameron

Calling In: A Less Disposable Way of ­­­Holding Each Other Accountable, Ngoc Loan Tran

Branches of Mentoring, Michael Meade

Dark Allies

Soirée-Leone and Steph are Dark Allies

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