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What is “white fragility”?

30 January 2018 166 views No Comment

I posted the following as a comment on the “What is ‘white fragility’?” article on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, but that was a week or so ago and the moderators have not approved it, so I’ll post it here instead.


TL;DR: You’re damned it you do and damned if you don’t.

The problem with inventing a pejorative, racist phrase like “white fragility” and then defining it as any possible reaction a white person can have to being presented with information that casts his or her race in a negative light in a discussion he or she knows she or he cannot win — including silence and the simple act of “leaving” or not participating in the discussion — is that it’s a blatant attempt at actively marginalising a definable group in a “damned if you do and damned it you don’t” way. So then, you might ask, what’s the point of inventing the phrase and defining it? It’s to be “reverse” racist! So yeah, since I’m white my reaction is yet another “textbook example” of my “white fragility” because any reaction, including clicking the back button and choosing not to engage, is (by definition) “white fragility”! There’s nowhere to hide in this maddening circular argument in which there is no possible way for a white person to save face or even ameliorate the position presented, and it’s designed to pre-emptively cut the legs out from any possible position a white person might take by allowing every non-white person to dismiss their position, no matter how valid, as just another “textbook example” of “white fragility”.

In the “textbook example” given, Captain Scott Arndt is simply ignorant of the statistics and a denier of (I can only assume) valid statistics collected using valid scientific methods. That just makes him an idiot, and idiots come in all hues. He then responded in a typically American fashion, which is to whine and file a complaint over something that could have been resolved in minutes if more mature and intelligent people were involved, and the American media responded in typically American fashion by making a mountain out of a molehill. If the statistics he couldn’t stomach only involved transgender people and not “transgender people (of color)” (one wonders why the author bracketed those words, when they aren’t bracketed anywhere in the media release [not “scholarly data”] to which she links) then this whole “textbook example” of “white fragility” would fall apart! It is not, in fact, a “textbook example” of “white fragility”; it’s a “textbook example” of two police officers who have poor interpersonal skills (and probably other undocumented issues between them) and as much an example of “cisgender fragility” as it is “white fragility”! But the latter doesn’t conveniently feed into the author’s racist narrative.

And let’s not even get into how it should be “politically correct” for people to issue “trigger warnings” to their fragile, white friends to whom they might be about to say something that will trigger “white fragility”! On the one hand political correctness demands that we be super-sensitive to others’ feelings, and on the other just blatantly and gleefully tramples all over my feelings of “white fragility”! Oh the irony!

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