I spoke about the Theory of White Privilege Fragility during last year’s #BlackBlogsMatter challenge.
I made fun of it and got into some interesting conversations online and offline as a result. Mostly with White people who were triggered by me making fun of their fragility and chose to argue with me because of it … which was ironic and cool because that’s exactly what the theory says will happen when a person’s privilege fragility is triggered, thus proving the theory as true.
I also heard from Black people, Women and other People of Color who felt I didn’t do enough to talk about what White people can do to deal with their privilege fragility. This too was ironic and cool because it is exactly what the theory says White people want us to do in order to avoid having their privilege fragility triggered, again proving the theory as true.
As the group in power and with power, it is on White people to do the work to check their privilege and all the supremacist attitudes and fragility triggers that go along with it. Black people, Women, People of Color and any other group are NOT responsible to sugarcoat thoughts, opinions, the recounts of their experiences, feedback or requests in order to make easier for White people to handle. Shrinking and editing this way is a form of enabling, which we all agree is very very bad and unacceptable.
I’m not here to tell White people or anyone else in a privileged place what to do to be more comfortable when triggered and uncomfortable while the Woke among us are out here trying and dying to dismantle supremacy and patriarchy.
Nope. Not gonna do it. And I will never encourage anyone else to give this kind of advice as it helps nothing.
What I will tell White people and anyone else in a privileged place is what NOT to do when the fragility of their privilege is triggered:
- Don’t say “All Lives Matter” … If you haven’t figured out that this is the absolute wrong response to the cries of hurt, frustration and anger from Black people when someone is murdered senselessly and/or denied justice under the law, I have little hope that you’ll ever overcome your biases or fragility. However, managing NOT to say this or anything resembling “we all have pain” in response to the cries of hurt, frustration and anger of systemically oppressed people is a good place to start in checking your privilege.
- Don’t say “I don’t have Privilege” … It is often difficult for White people who are not male and wealthy to see how being White works to their advantage. I get it — but that doesn’t change the fact that it does. Denying that you have privilege and/or choosing not to acknowledge it while still benefiting from it does nothing. Stop saying this and start learning more about how your privilege really works.
- Don’t say “Choose Love” … Thoughts, prayers, positive thoughts and love alone will not dismantle systems of oppression that are centuries old and rebuild them with systems that are fair, equitable and inclusive. It takes hard work and difficult conversations over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Also, love is not oppressive or controlling so speaking out against oppression actually is choosing love.
- Don’t say “Do we have to talk about this every day?” … In a word: Yes. What you focus on is what gets addressed and ultimately improves. Would you tell someone who was trying to get healthier that it was a good idea to neglect diet and exercise for long periods of time? Not if you wanted them to succeed. Similarly, if we’re going to succeed at the understanding inclusion, equality, equity and overcoming oppressive systems, we have to talk about it. A lot. Black people, Women, People of Color and other disenfranchised groups have been talking about this stuff all the time for centuries. It’s time for White people to catch up.
- Don’t say “I can’t say anything right” … Chances are that your response is lacking empathy or a balanced informed opinion and that’s why it’s being rejected. This is what should happen to a response that is ignorant and/or rude. Don’t defend your ignorance or ask hurting people to give you a pass for speaking out of turn. It may not be the place or time for you to have opinion. It might be a perfect opportunity to shut up and listen instead.
I could keep going but I think you get the gist.
If you were born White, it is not your fault and neither is the privilege that comes from it. No one expects you to feel bad or apologize for it. However, it is your responsibility to recognize your privilege and use it to help people who have less privilege and opportunity than you. It is your responsibility to cultivate awareness of the impact your bias has on others and to check yourself at every opportunity. It is your responsibility to stop seeking to be coddled and be willing to be uncomfortable in order to learn, un-learn and re-learn.
Just know that the Woke work and the people doing it will not wait for you to get on board or catch up. Progress will continue, with or without you.
White Privilege is still fragile. But you don’t have to be.