White Fragility is White Violence
Last week, I came across the widely uncomfortable and disturbing video of talk show co-host Sharon Osbourne leveraging her white tears and power to gas light and dismiss her co-host, Cheryl Underwood's perspective on Piers Morgan's racism comments & behavior. If you haven't seen it already, you can do a quick google search for all the 'tea' and updates since the live taping of the show.
My take on it: Sharon’s tears weren't white fragility—they are white dominance, white violence.; and we need to start referring to these behaviors as such.
The incident got me thinking about an interview I did last summer (2020) and reflections I shared on the term 'white fragility.'
I recorded this fun episode with Crystle and Krysta of "We Are Meaningful" back in July 2020, but I first explored my discomfort with the term "white fragility" back in 2019.
“White Fragility?.......Hmph. Must be nice.”
I must admit, my initial reaction to learning this term sounded a little bit like t
hat. My reaction was grounded in some curiosity, but mostly skepticism and perhaps even a little annoyance. I was fascinated by how even a term that was meant to be “critical” to some extent, still could elicit a certain degree of empathy, understanding, and maybe even pity. The wor
d ‘fragility,’ and its root word ‘fragile’, is often associated with the need to be “careful” or “gentle” with a subject. It suggests a certain degree of delicacy; thereby requiring more effort in handling whatever or whomever it is. When something is “fragile,” you may be expected to do a little more work to make sure the object at hand remains “intact” or “safe.”
These were terms and qualifiers that came to mind for me when I first heard the term ‘white fragility.’ These are also conditions (e.g. safety, care, being gentle) that many black people (and people of color) are not afforded when sharing their truths and experiences around race—particularly when engaging with their white counterparts. I share this not to be critical of Robin DiAngelo’s use of the term, but rather to acknowledge the way in which power and privilege can even influence our framing, language and whom we deem worthy of the benefit of the doubt… or “extra care.” [You can read the full post here.]