White fragility

White fragility refers to the tendency for those racialised as white to resist acknowledging racism because it generates feelings we don’t want to feel in relation to the role white supremacy has played in the systemic oppression and abuse of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). 

Framing this situation as ‘white fragility’ is not about making white people wrong for experiencing this fragility. For us it is vital to recognise that white fragility is a trauma-response rooted in the historic trauma deriving from our lineages of being oppressors - an ancestral lineage which almost always includes the experience of also having been oppressed and the heart-rending and, in itself traumatizing, reaction of oppressing others in turn. This nuanced understanding tends to cultivate a sense of compassion for ourselves and others, rather than defensiveness. This in turn increases our resourcedness and abilty to become resilient and better allies in the face of our white fragility. 

Whilst white fragility is not our fault, it is our responsibility as white people to cultivate the resilience needed to feel and alchemise the discomfort it elicits so that we are increasingly able to become active allies in challenging racism and white supremacy - and in cultivating racial unity and justice.

For this anti-racism movement to gain critical mass,
each of us needs to participate.

Now is the time to deepen our attention to this core wound of our society, and to dedicate ourselves to uncovering the conditioning of racism and white supremacy that imprisons and deludes our minds. And now is the time to actively dismantle the multifaceted institutionalized ways that racism continues to violate Black, Indigenous and all People of Color, including Latinx and Asian. 

My prayer is that our caring and courage be great and sustained enough that we step forward to do this necessary work – each in our own way. It’s not enough to say “Black Lives Matter.” May our actions show that Black lives truly matter, that they are an honored, respected and cherished part of who we really are.

Tara Brach

Anti-racist work can be supported by creating healthy boundaries for caucuses (groups of similar identities) to do the transformative work of exploring white fragility and working to understand and address the oppressions of white supremacy culture. Caucusing can also perpetuate divisions, so needs to be approached alongside developing relationships and taking responsibility to transform boundaries within and without. 

It is important to remember that the 'fragility' term can be extended to all the other identities that our mainstream culture systematically marginalises and oppresses. For example: male fragility, able-bodied fragility; hetero-normative fragility; gender-normative fragility; neuro-normative fragility. 

For those of us committed to co-creating inner-led change and the relational cultures that support this, we need to be inquiring into where we may unconsciously be avoiding, marginalising, imposing boundaries or even oppressing people or behaviours in relation to someone's identity as a result of our cultural conditioning - be that racial, sexual, gender or otherwise. We must re-member how to drop below identity and relate with the love and essence that unites each and every one of us.

For more on this check out our musings on radical inclusivity:

Image credits

Eggshells: Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay