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The Rocky Mountain American Baptist

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White Fragility

To achieve real change in society, we need to go deeper and get uncomfortable

As the protests fade from the first stories that we heard on the evening news, now what do we do?  If we want the terrible actions against people of color to stop, what do we need to do?

 

Why haven’t things changed? 
 

These questions and others like them occupy my thoughts. I listen to a lot of books (I have over 1,500 books in my Audible.com account), so I looked for books to help me understand more about the issue. The book, White Fragility - Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, was at the top of so many lists of current “best sellers”.  So, I purchased it along with a couple others. 
 

What is white fragility? 

 

It is the defensive reaction white people have when the topic of racism is raised. We start explaining why we are not racist, but the reality is we are all swimming in the water of our culture.  Racism isn’t just intentional acts committed by mean people.  Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional system that ensures an unequal allocation of resources between racial groups.

 

We have been socialized into racist systems affecting education, healthcare, criminal justice, banking, economics, etc.
You might already be feeling uncomfortable with this topic – that is white fragility.  We will need to work through our discomfort.  Robin DeAngelo, the author, says we need to start by asking:


“What does it mean to be white? How has being white shaped my life?”


Educate yourself by reading, watching and listening to works by people of color
 

Practice humility - ongoing practice that must be integrated into your life
 

The author maintains there will be no change if we are just “really nice…smile at people of color… go to lunch together on occasion”.  

 

We must go much deeper – we must get uncomfortable.
 

In fact, Steve Van Ostran, ABCRM’s Executive Minister, recently challenged the Region to join together to make the work of eliminating institutional socialized racism as one of ABCRM’s core function. I hope you will join with us. 
 

Karen Van

Resources for more conversations

Literature

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, helps people work on their own white fragility and racism

  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, highlights the racial dimensions of the war on drugs

  • I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, autobiography of her early years (coming of age) 

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender 

  • The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone, faith, Race, and the American experience 

  • Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr., lessons on the future of race and the criminal justice system 

Media

  • 1619 (New York Times), Examines the legacy of American Slavery

  • Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast, features voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice

  • 13th (Netflix) – documentary, the film explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States

  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Hulu), seamlessly weaves multiple topical issues like racism, police brutality, prison injustice, young love, financial struggle, class disparity, and many more between the pages of this book.

  • Mercy, follows a history-making battle for justice

Compiled by Lauren Parliament