White Fragility

In 2011, sociologist Dr. Robin DiAngelo coined the term white fragility. It refers to the reactions of white people who are confronted with their own racisms. When another person calls their attention to a racist statement, for example, they react defensively. They try to defend or justify themselves, they remain silent, change the subject, or affirm their critical thinking about racism. However, all of these behaviors do not provide for open dialogue on the topic of racism, but rather re-establish a historically established hierarchy between Whites and People of Color or Blacks, but one that must be overcome. According to DiAngelo, this phenomenon is rooted in the fact that whites themselves feel racist whenever their skin color plays a role. In this context, white people may be exposed to experiences of discrimination, but it is impossible for them to experience racism. This is because racism was invented to legitimize relations of domination and power, and ultimately means the systemic oppression of groups of people who are made the Others. These Others are BIPoC in a white-dominated Eurocentric worldview. Racism also occurs in other regions of the world, which then increasingly takes the form of colorism. In the context of white fragility, then, it is equally a matter of whites denying any participation or even existence in the racist system that is embedded in society as a whole. This does not combat racism, however, but perpetuates it.