Some people criticize reading White Fragility because it’s written by a privileged white woman. What could she possibly know or understand about racial issues?
When you read the book, she takes you through her studies and experiences that have taught her what she knows and shares. She also notes that she is still learning. And as she says, some of these ideas are probably easier to stomach coming from a fellow white person than it would be from a person of color.
She also does it in a way that is blatantly honest without screaming in your face about it. I admit that when someone comes at me in an accusatory manner, I am more likely to shut down and not listen. I think that is human nature. But as she also points out, that in and of itself is part of white fragility.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have seen in my various groups or otherwise in my feed where the snark has been strong. I often wonder if a different approach would have been more effective than what I and other may dub as attacking.
But then I have to take a step back for a moment. It is exhausting to have to explain yourself over and over again. It is exhausting to constantly bang on a brick wall, hoping to jar a piece loose. Eventually, you are going to let out those frustrations and possibly come across as snarky. I’ve done it more than I care to admit. And if I feel this exhausted just months into talking about it, what about those who have been dealing with it their whole lives?
What I’ve been trying even harder to do, especially if I feel like I am being attacked, is to take a step back and reassess the situation. I’ll kind of paraphrase from a common cognitive behavioral therapy technique.
- What was actually said?
- How did that make me feel?
- How did I interpret what was said?
- What were my original words/actions that prompted what was said?
- What was the likely intent of what was said?
Only then with that kind of reflection am I able to move on and perhaps continue the dialogue. It’s not easy. I struggle hard with it, and not just in the arena of racism. I am a very open person, so it comes at me from many directions at times. My sensitive nature means I am often hurt. But as I age and mature, I am better able to deal with it and find something constructive in it.
So think about how you approach your conversations. How can you vest make yourself heard? How can you take what is said to you and find a way to reflect on it and make it useful to you?
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