Wednesday watch: White fragility

As our culture and media evolve to allow more open discussion about racism and give people a platform for calling out offensive behavior, we’ve seen an unsurprising backlash. People get up in arms about being targeted for their racism, and act as though correctly labeling their actions as racist is worse than the racist acts themselves (just ask the governor who is continually embarrassing my home state).

AJ+ YouTube channel Newsbroke does a terrific sendup of this phenomenon with a satirical workplace training video on protecting the feelings of white coworkers who can’t handle being confronted about their own racism.

 

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Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

5 thoughts on “Wednesday watch: White fragility”

  1. I can’t understand this blog post. What exactly is the point? that there are better ways to make a point than being confrontational? Yes, there are. Not to get all Christian on anybody, but remember Jesus at the well with the woman taken in adultery, when he told the crowd something to the effect that let those of you without sin cast the first stone. The joke is: so then a huge rock comes hurtling through the crowd and hits the woman. Jesus turns to her and says: “Aw, Mom….” (You have to have some background in Christianity to get this one.)

    My point is that instead of throwing stones (being confrontational–as if anyone is without racism), a little humility and treating everyone with kindness and courtesy goes a long ways. Racism is rooted in all of us the way a dandelion is rooted in the earth. When I used to did dandelions, I thought their roots went into the heart of the planet! Saying to oneself or others “I am not a racist” does as much good as shooting Roundup at the moon–it just falls in your face and makes you sick. After almost 52 years of being married to an American Japanese man (from Hawai’i–which is not the same as being black), I’ve seen ugly incidents, and I can’t say that I didn’t get upset. I just tried not to show it. Skin color and “racial characteristics” all depend only on where our ancestors traveled and came to rest. The last I heard, we all have one original mother, and she was from Africa and she was black. Hi, cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was there anything here that advocated getting “confrontational” or any way the people responded (in this satire) to racist comments that was unreasonable? It certainly doesn’t help our society to just ignore racism and pretend it isn’t happening. We can’t make progress if we don’t acknowledge the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Is there any way to tell someone that what she or he has said is racist that is NOT confrontational? I have yet to find one. My belief is that racism started with “stranger anxiety”–i.e., this person appears different from me and my family/tribe/group, and therefore may be dangerous. I certainly don’t suggest ignoring racism, but I think it’s far more complex than a lot of people realize. I like the theories presented by V. Y. Mudimbe, in his book The Idea of Africa (in which he explains one theory (well-researched) that “racism” was deliberately created in the middle east a couple of thousand years ago to allow those “less equal” than certain others to be subjugated by the “more equal” with a clear conscience. By the way, if your original post in this string was satire, it didn’t read as satire to me.

        My husband, the American-Japanese guy from Hawai’i, was firmly against the old notion, current when I was a kid of the U.S. as a “melting pot.” He thought every group has value and should keep their own cultural ways if they wanted to, and everyone ought to be treated with dignity. Fortunately I believed the same and had many great adventures with him and our ‘from-around-the-world’ group of friends.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The post itself wasn’t satire, but the video is.

        I agree with you both that people should be able to maintain their cultures and be treated with dignity. Wherever you think racism comes from, it needs to be addressed. I would certainly want someone to tell me if I were to say something that is offensive. It doesn’t have to be done in a “confrontational” way. I tend to think asking questions and getting people to think about why they said something is often productive. But I’m also not going to tell people of color what the “right” way is for them to deal with racism in their lives. If something is making someone feel uncomfortable/hurt/devalued/etc., they should be able to confront that issue.

        Liked by 1 person

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