June 29th, 2021
Hi! I’m a white person, and this is a post about white fragility. If you’re a white person, I encourage you to come along. I’m not going to just throw things at you that you’ve heard before; no, as is my way, I’m going to share a deeply personal story about myself and show you what that says about an entire race. You with me? Let’s do this!
Last week, we were talking about some heavy stuff at my house. That conversation led to others reminiscing about the stupid stuff I used to do when I drank. Not about the time I wore a lampshade on my head; no, these were behaviors and situations I created that I am deeply ashamed of and are hard for me to relive and remember.
There was definitely a moment I thought: “If I flip a table right now would everyone just stop talking and move on to something else?” But I didn’t derail the conversation or try to end it. I listened. My past is a part of me, like the present is and the future will be.
Do we talk about this stuff every day? No. In fact, the further we get from the way I used to be, the less we talk about it, and the less it hurts me to hear.
And this is the basis of white fragility.
The inability to listen to truths about our past without becoming defensive.
In fact, using my analogy of distance as relief, I’d have to argue that a person who gets upset about the topic of race is a person who is not far away from racist thoughts or behaviors.
The call to arms that is the most hysterical (in every sense of the word) to me is this one, heard in a variety of phrasing:
White person: “They’re trying to make us out to be the bad guy!”
In history, we ARE the bad guys. Objectively. Rarely are people trying to make us out to be anything other than what we’ve been, and to suggest otherwise is clear gaslighting.
The less my past behavior affects the present, the less we feel we have to talk about it.
We live in a country in which nearly every single major issue is still greatly affected by what we’ve done since its beginning.
And that’s why we still need to talk about it. And think about it. And maybe, as we do — and we get farther and farther away from the way that it used to be — it won’t hurt so much to hear, or to think about, and we can do some actual work towards realizing and building a better place for everyone.