Me and White Supremacy : Day 2 Journal Questions
I’m leading a group discussion circle on “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. I’m taking the journaling challenge daily throughout February even though I’m not white. If you happen to be white, why not take the challenge? If I can do it, you can do it too.
Day 2 Questions (from the text):
1. How does your white fragility show up during conversations about race? Do you fight, freeze, or flee?
2. Describe your most visceral memory of experiencing white fragility. How old were you? Where were you? What was the conversation about? Why did it bring up white fragility in you? How do you recall feeling during and 43 after the interaction? How do you feel about it today?
3. How have you weaponized your fragility against BIPOC through, for example, calling the authorities, crying, or claiming you’re being harmed (“reverse racism!” or “I’m being shamed!” or “I’m being attacked!”)?
4. How do you feel when you hear the words white people? Do they make you feel uncomfortable?
5. How has your white fragility prevented you, through fear and discomfort, from doing meaningful work around your own personal antiracism to date?
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My only experiences with white fragility have been not wanting to stoke it.
Due to fear of how I might be perceived or to avoid confrontation I learned early that certain things were not to be talked about if I wanted to keep the peace amongst my white cohorts, which was almost everyone in my environment. I didn’t want to draw unnecessary racial attention to myself by allowing white fragility to flourish, so I would often, when needed, take the approach of helping diffuse it, or explaining it away (often to myself, but sometimes verbally to others). At the time I thought I was doing it to abate my own discomfort as well as anyone else’s.
Now that I know differently, It’s not something that I do anymore.
The first time I recall experiencing White Fragility I was in the movie theater with my friend and his family watching “Footloose”. I had seen it before, with my dad. There’s a scene where the pastor (John Lithgow) is seen rehearsing his Sunday sermon. I remember my dad leaning over to me during that part and whispering “Black preachers seldom practice like this, most of them just speak.” (my grandad was a pastor, so he was speaking from his own lived experience). I didn’t know enough at age nine not to repeat this to my white friend and his whole family, so when that part came on, I did. The responses I got shocked me, and made me realize that there were certain things not to be said or repeated in certain company. It was a quiet ride home, and I felt uneasy for the rest of that afternoon, and I tried my best to figure out exactly what I had done wrong.
I was in the car in high school with a small group of people from my neighborhood we had formed an impromptu carpool home from school with one of the upperclassmen who had a drivers’ license. The radio was on, and “The Dead Heart” by Midnight Oil began playing. As the intro started, I excitedly said “Oh! I love this song!” It played for a minute or two, until the driver having listened to the first few lines asked angrily “Kevin, what is this?!?” It was immediately turned off. Once again, the drive home continued in awkward silence. Once again, I had the feeling that I had inadvertently done something wrong. That was the last time I was invited to ride with him. Luckily another upperclassman was willing to drive me home from then on.
I’ve witnessed the fragile tears that Saad refers to in this chapter. I knew someone with whom I was in an online group of several friends. At one point, we were all planning to meet up at a rally/march. A black friend asked what this someone would be wearing so she could be recognized. “Just so I know I’m not approaching some random white lady.” the black friend said (which is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask). The response was a snap back that she wasn’t just a BWB (basic white bitch) and a flounce from the group. Needless to say she never attend the march. I later lent this same person a copy of “Between the World and Me” which she enthusiastically accepted. However, when the time came to discuss the book, she began crying — saying the book was making her feel all kinds of guilt. We never discussed the book again, or even brought it up. I’m not even sure if she finished it.
The words “White People” used to elicit an uneasy feeling in me. The last thing I ever wanted to discuss or bring up was race. My proximity to whiteness and the benefits I enjoyed as a result of that proximity, I didn’t wish to draw attention to or challenge. My unconscious thinking was — I was too close to “fitting in” and “being accepted” that I didn’t want to think about why that was, and I didn’t want anyone else to potentially question it. It took way too many years for me to realize that I was never truly accepted. Oh sure, I had many friends through the years that accepted me as I was and am, and still do — I don’t mean on an individual level. I’m talking about how I was seen in social circles, school, church, work, places where I didn’t have the option of choosing who would be in my environment.
I know now that my imagined sense of safety by proximity was just that. If anything, that is what kept me until very recently, due to fear or discomfort, from doing any kind of antiracist work to the best of my capacity.
I’ll say looking back on it from the other side of that fear, I’m not sure what the hell I was so worried about. I’m not sure what took me so long.