Reflecting on White Fragility – Seeking Reassurance from People of Color

Another point Robin Diangelo brings up toward the end of her book is how we as white people, when confronted with our own racist actions, quickly want to seek out other friends of color for reassurance that we are still good people. She still does it on occasion. I have done it. For example, when I was called out about the fireworks, I felt justified that my Black neighbor agreed with me. So I shut myself off from listening to the other side until much later.

I hear it from others a lot when I call them out on something. “Well, I have a Black friend and he agrees with me.” That doesn’t mean that your words and actions are okay, though, if someone else is hurt by them. On pages 152-153, Robin says, “But the search for reassurance from people of color is inappropriate. My need functions as a kind of divide-and-conquer wedge. Further, my quest for reassurance upholds racism by reinforcing the very idea that the feedback was an unfair attack and/or that there was a correct way to give it and the person of color in question has broken the rules of engagement. In essence, by complaining to one person of color about the unfairness of feedback from another person of color (no matter how diplomatically or indirectly I try to make my complaint), I am pressuring a person of color to collude with my racism.”

And later on page 153, “In a vicious social cycle, white fragility has functioned to keep people o color from challenging racism in order to avoid white wrath. In turn, not challenging white people on racism upholds their racial order and whites’ position within that order.”

That’s a powerful, thought-provoking set of statements right there. I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way before, but it makes total sent. I mean, how often have you just gone along with something because it was easier than dealing with the fallout from disagreeing?

And again, I point out that even if others seem to agree with what you’ve said, what matters is that someone else was upset by what you have said or done. You need to acknowledge that and deal with it with an open mind.

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