White Fragility

Hi. My name is Sarah and I am white. I am from a white community. I am from a place that oftentimes fears people of color. Isn’t that funny? The same people who enslaved an entire race of individuals are now scared of those exact same people.

I am white and I am adopted, which means I have faced some hurtful comments and misunderstandings and I have also felt shame when not knowing anything about my heritage or genetics. But, I have never been turned down for a job based on my skin color. I have never had my life threatened by the police. And I have also never been expected to attend an all black church or African restaurant or to live in an all black neighborhood. So, why are our brothers and sisters of color expected to fit into an all white world AND be happy about it?

Have you, as a white person, ever walked through a black community on accident while feeling uncomfortable? Scared even? Have you, as a white individual, tried to defend yourself as a white person who should also be allowed to start up an all white organization if the African communities are allowed to set up all black organizations? Have you, as a white person, felt personally victimized by the chant that black lives matter and then came back with your own chant of, “All lives matter!”

So, I’m going to be incredibly honest here and admit that I have and truly, I’m not happy about it. I’m enraged that I grew up believing that the “white way” was the only way. And I’m going to take a guess that you have spent a majority of your life doing and believing the same. If you haven’t…awesome. I’m glad you know better, because there aren’t all that many people who DO know better or are even trying to learn to do better. But for those of you who have been living in a white bubble of self entitlement (as I once did), I want to talk to you about white fragility.

White fragility isn’t racist, so go ahead and get the whole, “I’m being judged and persecuted” out of your system right now, because there’s no room for that here. White fragility is a term that simply means, “discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”

White fragility means that when someone of a different race starts up an all *insert their race here* organization, you feel uncomfortable and offended. White fragility means that you don’t go to black neighborhoods because it makes you feel uncomfortable. White fragility means that if someone of a different race thinks you are being offensive, you feel defensive and mad at them for being too sensitive. White fragility means that you think it’s not okay for you to be in a place that feels too uncomfortable, where you are the minority, where you are confronted, where you “don’t fit it”. Welcome to the life of the minority. Welcome to the world of black culture.

When you search for a movie on an airplane, you find one, because the movie selection is for you, white people. When you turn on the radio, you find a station that you enjoy, because the radio is for you. When you go to a hairstylist, you easily find one, because they style for you. When you go to church, you find one that plays guitar and drums and then you hope that people of color will join you in solidarity…but instead of asking them how they like to worship, you feel offended when it’s different from how you believe Christians are meant to worship. When they want an organ and Kirk Franklin songs…not Gungor and Hillsong, you feel somewhat put off and uncomfortable.

Catching my drift yet?

White people feel entitled whether they realize it or not. Maybe you have been in denial; maybe you are shaking your head right now, feeling your insides flaring up with anger. But guess what? This blog isn’t about you. It’s about the underrepresented. The ones who are afraid of being assaulted by the police. The mothers and children who have a higher mortality rate when pregnant and giving birth because their needs are ignored or written off (and not because of some hereditary gene that just makes them more susceptible to death).

I’m a white, American female and I have been given great privilege for no reason other than the color of my skin. No one is saying, “What are you?” to me like I’m some exotic animal from the zoo. For the most part, no one is prying into my ethical heritage just for the sake of being nosy. If you are one of those people who walk up to an ethnically different person and ask, “What are you?” or “Where do you come from?”…please STOP. Number one, it’s frankly none of your business. And number two, it’s extremely rude. Maybe you aren’t doing it with the intent of being disrespectful or offensive, but honestly, your intent means a lot less than your impact. White people OWNED slaves and just because you didn’t personally own a slave doesn’t mean that you haven’t been impacted by a culture that once did.

My voice is heard. Your voice is heard. So maybe it’s time that white people stop with the entitled belief that they need to prove that their lives matter, that their voice matters, that they deserve to be heard. Because guess what….WHITE people have been the ONLY ones being heard for more than long enough. So, calm your fragility down and just listen. We all know that every life matters…but fortunately for you, your life isn’t the one that’s being persecuted based on your skin color.

Get informed. Get uncomfortable. Just like you have been expecting every other ethnicity to do.

fragile and white,

Sarah #honestculture

p.s. if you want to continue learning about this subject, you can check out Taylor Nolan’s podcast on Spotify. Her latest podcast speaks on this as well.

6 thoughts on “White Fragility

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  1. I hadn’t heard the term white fragility before, and while I agree with the concept, I can’t say I’m a big fan of the term. People will hear fragility and think weakness, and an automatic reaction to being called weak is resistance, and there is already resistance up the wazoo. My personal preference would be to talk about it in terms of opening people’s eyes to white privilege, since it seems like that might be a bit easier for people to step back and acknowledge rather than fighting back.

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    1. Definitely truth in what you write. Which is kind of the point though. Feeling uncomfortable to admit being fragile is exactly what white fragility means. And while I DO want to be sensitive and NOT a part of toxic call out culture, I also created this blog to be painfully honest whether the majority likes it or not. 🤷‍♀️ And white fragility is the actual term for what white people often feel. And it is messy and uncomfortable but that’s what every other ethnic group has been feeling, sooo…..I wouldn’t imagine any white person to be a fan of the term. Lol. People of color aren’t fans of being called nigger and no-racial people don’t enjoy being called Oreo and on and on. Those are actual derogatory names while white fragility is the definition of an action.

      Thank you for your input. 😊

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      1. Oh I agree, there’s nothing wrong with making people uncomfortable about shitty things they’re doing. I was looking at it more from the perspective of psychological resistance and what’s most likely to bring about constructive behavioural and attitudinal change, but the underlying issue of shitty attitudes and behaviour is still the same.

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  2. I think half of the problem is the way we talk about “black people” and “white people”. I was taught growing up that skin color was just that, a color and nothing else and that is how I felt about it until I became an adult and heard people talking about black people this and white people that. My skin is not white, and in fact I am Hispanic, most people don’t care but I get asked about it in academia for scholarships or when i have a baby and they then take that information and determine that my life choices (having kids before completing college and such) simply fit my ethnicity and that my ethnicity makes me underpriviliged and in need of help. I am proud to be Hispanic but I don’t appreciate the stereotypes that come with it. I believe that is the way other people feel too. But then there ARE cultural differences and they are probably most notable between “black” and “white” people, and those differences can be scary or uncomfortable and I don’t think there should be shame in that but we also shouldn’t be exclusive because of it. I’m not saying it is easy, slavery and years of separation are not easily overcome but the divisive language and news are not helping bring separated communities together.

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    1. Oh my goodness! Yes! This is so true. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this and I am so sorry that this has been your experience but also not surprised. It is absolutely ridiculous the way stereotypes become imposed on all people of a certain ethnic background. But I think continuing to speak up with authority but kindness will help (I hope) because so many people are just absolutely unaware of what is even going on. Recently a church one of my extended family members attends mentioned wanting to add some diversity to the church and one of the men in the conversation suggested looking at homeless shelters and food banks. *insert outrage* and I completely agree with your last statement. It is a lot to overcome but there’s also a lot of hate taking place, keeping us from closing the gap of inequality. Absolutely be proud of your Hispanic roots. White culture has a long road ahead when it comes to being aware of our privilege.

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