White Fragility | Part 1

There are a handful of white mothers in our church who have a unique task: raising children of color. Many white parents of kids of color simply raise their kids without considering race and the implications that race has on development and growth. These mothers, however, have seen the value in understanding their whiteness, the races of their children, and the implications of these two realities. These mothers formed a book and discussion group for white mothers of kids of color and their first book and discussion was Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. These are their reflections.

Alyssa Johnston is a foster, biological, and adoptive mom.

I am a mother to black children and I am racist. If you are white and are reading this, you are racist too.

Reading these sentences probably made you feel all sorts of feels- confused, angry, uncomfortable. You might have questioned my character and felt as though your character was being attacked. You may have wanted to stop reading this all together or defend yourself and say something like “you don’t even know me!” or “I don’t see color; everyone is equal in my eyes.” This is white fragility. White fragility is when white people become highly fragile in conversations and situations regarding race. “Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we are either unaware or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We consider a challenge to our racial worldviews as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people (pg. 2).”

Generally speaking, when we think of the word racism, we think of discriminate acts by individual people. We think of the hate acts that we have heard on the news which are very real and horrible. Yes, this is racism. But limiting our view of racism to those individual acts, separates us from being a part of racism. When in reality, we all are part of the problem. We need to shift our lenses of what racism is. Racism is a system into which we have been socialized. It is impossible to completely escape the effects of being raised in this complex interconnected system. Socialization is how we learned to behave and think in society. We group people based on gender, race, class, etc. Our understandings of these groups of people are developed from shared aspects around us such as shows on TV, music, jokes, stories, traditions, and history. Prejudices are the prejudgments, thoughts, feelings, and generalization of groups of people.

If I look at the people in power in our country, I see white people. When I see people on my TV screen, I see white people. When I see the top 10 richest people in the country, I see that all of them are white. When I look at the Us congress, I see 90 % of them are white as are 96% of governors.  I see the most powerful people in our country, the people who heavily influence our worldviews as white. When I see a news piece about a crime, I see a black person. (85% of the people who decide what news are covered are white). When I hear white people talk about a bad neighborhood, I assume it is made up of people of color. I don’t have to think twice about wearing a hoodie to the store or if I will not get a job based on my skin color. I have always felt like I belonged due to my skin color. Because we were all socialized and continue to be socialized into racism, we are not free of it. “We must continue to ask how our racism manifests, not “if.” (pg. 138)

Reading this book was thought provoking and challenging in my own journey of racism. It sparked thought and conversation that was deep and hard to wrestle with. It was painful to see my own blind spots and prejudices. It taught me practical ways to engage in conversations and situations regarding race. It encouraged me to speak up and call out when I hear racism instead of stand silent or brush it off. “I know that because I was socialized as white in a racism- based society, I have a racist worldview, deep racial bias, racist patterns, and investments in the racist system that has elevated me. Still, I don’t feel guilty about racism. I didn’t choose this socialization, and it could not be avoided. But I am responsible for my role in it (pg. 149).” I will never be completely done in my unlearning and learning of racism. But I will never grow if I don’t do the hard work in myself. This book was a great first step in that growth.