While partaking in a national service program, AmeriCorpsVISTA, that builds capacities in nonprofit and human service organizations, I, along with a cohort of service members, developed a set of DE&I programs aimed at smaller to midsized organizations. Based on the principals of human-centered design, this project builds and maintains professional and personal relationships between employees in service and worksites.
Aside from extensive training through AmeriCorpsVISTA and my host site, this was the first attempt at understanding and expanding DE&I training. We wanted to create the space to put into motion DE&I and sensitivity training with employee-led programs that lead to strong relationships, an equitable ‘office’ culture, and a healthy environment for everyone.
This project was completed pre-CoVID19. August 2019.
In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo uses her exhaustive experience running diversity-training and cultural-competency sessions to explicate why white people have a hard time discussing racism. Her argument focuses on the system of white supremacy and how it has by design, insulated the white individual from racial discomfort. DiAngelo (2018) defines white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” DiAngelo continues to argue that these reactions amount to a gaslighting that works to reinforce the entire system of racial protection that significantly benefits white people.
She brings her argument to life describing how individual behaviors reinforce and perpetuate white supremacy. This is where her work is at its most controversial yet most profound. Backing her argument up with cold hard facts and data, she takes on the full spectrum of white fragility and connects it to white supremacy. Everything from proclaiming to be ‘colorblind’ to the argument that affirmative action is meant to harm white people is open for critique. She is not tribal in her words covering everyone from diehard conservatives to progressive liberals, who she claims are often the most insulated and fragile. It goes without saying that she implies ‘staying in your lane’ means white people need to be uncomfortable enough to notice racism and their place in that system, and even more uncomfortable to stand up against white supremacy.
It is worth noting that Robin DiAngelo is white and a progressive liberal, but that even she admits that she contributes to reinforcing the system of oppression that founded our country. She is not saying all white people are KKK members, and that white supremacy is not a matter of good and bad people, but instead, all white people encompass a place on the spectrum of white supremacy. We should work to move along the spectrum by listening, not personalizing, getting educated, and thinking before we speak. White Fragility is a compelling read for any American who wishes to understand on a personal level the history of racial oppression in the US.