Reflecting on White Fragility: Our Excuses

We don’t like to hear that we have racial prejudices. It doesn’t sit well with us because we equate them with being bad people. Racists are the stereotypical people who bring violence, like the KKK, right?

Part of our work is realizing what our racial prejudices are and actively working at not acting out on them. We also need to acknowledge that we all exist on a continuum of racism. We will never fully get rid of it, but we can sure seek to be at the lesser end of it.

I really appreciated this from author Robin Diangelo. Life really is not as dichotomous as we would like to think it is. Everything really does exist on a sort of continuum. What matters is where you fall on it and the steps you are taking to keep moving, hopefully, in the right direction.

I also appreciated Robin acknowledging that even though she has come a long way, she still occasionally exhibits some racist behavior. We all do. We need to become more aware of it, though, and keep trying to do better.

That is why I have opened up myself on here with my reflections as I go through this book. It really is eye-opening and makes you really stop and think.

I live in a city where racial tensions are high because of repeated altercations between the police and Black people. It’s embarrassing to be constantly in the national spotlight because of it. At the same time, I think it is a good thing because it is exposing a lot of problematic areas and behaviors. Change is potentially going to happen. More discussions are occurring between people. And I hope more people start reading this and other books.

I’m going to start giving this book to people to read, especially when I hear some of the excuses about why they think they do not need to have these discussions or take a closer look at themselves.. I’ve even made some of them in the not-so-distant past. Here are some that Diangelo covers in chapter five:

  • “I was taught to treat everyone the same.”
  • “My parents were not racist, and they taught me to not be racist.”
  • “Children today are so much more open.”
  • “Race has nothing to do with it.”
  • “Focusing on race is what divides us.”
  • “I don’t see color.”
  • “Race doesn’t have any meaning to me.”
  • “If people are respectful to me, I am respectful to them, regardless of race.”
  • “I work in a very diverse environment.”
  • “I have people of color in my family/married a person of color/have children of color.”
  • “I went to a very diverse school/lived in a very diverse neighborhood.”

I’m sure you can find at least one familiar statement. More are covered in the chapter. And all are problematic in that they seek to exempt us from having any participation in the problem and to dissuade further conversation. As you break these apart, you’ll find yourself moving along that continuum and hopefully have better conversations, better understanding, and more action toward dismantling racism.

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