What is a white fragility?

Ah, such an interesting term. I love this one.

White Fragility is a term coined by scholar Robin DiAngelo, which means, in her words, “A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” Basically, she says, most white people live in a bubble that protects them from feeling stress related to race, and when it comes up, they have very little tolerance for that stress. Common reactions are — changing the subject, dismissing the person bringing up racial stress, removing themselves from the situation, becoming so guilty/sad/numb that the conversation can’t deepen and becoming hostile. While some of these reactions may not come from overt racist feelings, they are an outcropping of privilege, the impact is that racism can’t be examined, challenged or changed.

I have some work to do in this area.

Want to learn more? Here’s an article by Robin DiAngelo explaining the term, here’s her book, White Fragility, Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Race, and here’s a funny and poignant little comic about it.