A Christian reading of White Fragility: chapter 4, How Does Race Shape the Lives of White People?

Chapter 4 was pretty bad. I hope that is turns out to be the worst chapter of the book, because if there are worse chapters I don’t think I will be able to bear them. It was bad.

The key word in chapter 4 is “belonging.” White people have a deep, abiding, and consequential feeling of belonging to society in America because it is by-and-large their society. White people do not feel any burden about being white: they are never really in a situation where their whiteness is to their detriment. White people can go (pretty much) anywhere and do (pretty much) anything comfortably. White people consider themselves as normal people because white culture is normative in America. White people maintain this status quo through “white solidarity.” The force and demonstration of white solidarity is silence. White people do not speak out against other white people when obviously racist jokes, ideas, stories, etc. are shared.  

Most of these things should be considered “normal” for any majority population. Breaking news: most Han Chinese in Beijing consider themselves normal and as the standard for Chinese life. The Bemba peoples in southern Africa consider themselves normal and their way of like as normal. The Farsi people in Iran consider themselves normal.

If DiAngelo’s intention in the first ¾ of the chapter is to describe how all of this is part of our original sin, I don’t buy it. This is standard operating procedure. This is how things are everywhere. People view life from their own perspective.

DiAngelo does do some work to show the dangers of this reality, however. The truth of something does not mean all the ramifications are acknowledged. White people need to recognize and admit that race gives them inherent advantages. Hence, those of other races are at some inherent disadvantage. That white people can feel so comfortable without the presence of or interaction with other races is telling. While it is no longer legal, segregation is still practiced by and comfortable to white people.

Patterns of white socialization form the foundations of white fragility:

·         Preference for racial segregation, and a lack of a sense of loss about segregation

·         Lack of understanding about what racism is

·         Seeing ourselves as individuals, exempt from the forces of racial socialization

·         Failure to understand that we bring our group’s history with us, that history matters

·         Assuming everyone is having or can have our experience

·         Lack of racial humility, and unwillingness to listen

·         Dismissing what we don’t understand

·         Lack of authentic interest in the perspectives of people of color

·         Wanting to jump over the hard, personal work and get to “solutions”

·         Confusing disagreement with not understanding

·         Need to maintain white solidarity, to save face, to look good

·         Guilt that paralyzes or allows inaction

·         Defensiveness about any suggestion that we are connected to racism

·         A focus on intentions over impact

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