In this course, Robin DiAngelo, the best-selling author of White Fragility, gives you the vocabulary and practices you need to start confronting racism and unconscious bias at the individual level and throughout your organization. There’s no magic recipe for building an inclusive workplace. It’s a process that needs to involve people of color, and that needs to go on for as long as your company’s in business. But with these tools at your disposal, you’ll be well on your way.
Skill Level Beginner
(calm instrumental music) - White fragility is meant to capture the defensiveness that so many white people display when our world views, our identities, or our racial positions are challenged. And it's a very familiar dynamic, right. I think there's a reason that that term resonated for so many people. I mean even if you yourself are displaying white fragility, it's fairly recognizable that, in general, white people are really defensive when the topic is racism and when they are challenged racially or cross-racially. So the fragility part is meant to capture how easy it is to trigger than defensiveness. For many white people, the mere suggestion that being white has meaning will set us off. Another thing that will set us off is generalizing about white people. Right now, I am generalizing about white people and that questions a very precious ideology, which is most white people are raised to see ourselves as individuals. We don't like being generalized about, and yet, social life is patterned and observable and predictable in describable ways. And while we are, of course, all unique individuals, we're also members of social groups and that membership is profound. That membership matters. We can literally predict whether my mother and I were going to survive my birth and how long I'm going to live based on my race. We need to be willing to grapple with the collective experiences we have as a result of being members of a particular group that has profound meaning for our lives. We live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race. I think we all know that. How we would explain why that is might vary, but that it's separate and unequal is very, very clear. (calm instrumental music) While we who are white tend to be fragile in that it doesn't take much to upset us around race, the impact of our response is not fragile at all. It's a kind of weaponized defensiveness, weaponized hurt feelings, and it functions really, really effectively to repel the challenge. You know, as a white person, I move through the world racially comfortable virtually 24/7. It is exceptional for me to be outside of my racial comfort zone and most of my life, I've been warned not to go outside my racial comfort zone. And so on the rare occasion when I am uncomfortable racially it's a kind of throwing off of my racial equilibrium and I need to get back into that. And so I will do whatever it takes to repel the challenge and get back into it. We make it so miserable for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable and often unaware racist patterns that we cannot help develop from being socialized into a culture in which racism is the bedrock and the foundation. We make it so miserable for them to talk to us about it that most of the time they don't. And we just have to understand that most people of color that are working or living in primarily white environments take home way more daily slights and hurts and insults than they bother talking to us about because they're experience is they're going to risk more punishment. They're going to lose the relationship. They're going to have their experience minimized, explained away. They're going to cause the person to feel attacked or hurt, and in that way, white fragility functions as a kind of everyday white racial control. None of that has to be intentional or conscious, but that is how it functions. And there's a question that's never failed me in my efforts to unpack, "How do we pull this off?" How do so many of us who are white individually feel so free of racism and yet we live in a society that is so profoundly separate and unequal by race? And the question that's never failed me is not, "Is this true or is this false? "Is this right or is this wrong?" But, "How does it function? "How do these narratives that I tell, how do they function?" When I tell you, "Well, I'm just an individual, "why can't we all just be individuals?" When I tell you, "I was taught to treat everyone the same." When I tell you, "But it's focusing on race that divides us." When I tell you, "But I have lots of friends of color." Those narratives have not changed our outcome and they function to take race off the table and to exempt the person from any further engagement. And in doing that, they function to protect the current racial hierarchy and the white position within it. It doesn't have to be what I'm intending to do, but it is the impact of those narratives. (calm instrumental music)