For Faculty and Staff: White Fragility Discussion Group

White Fragility book cover

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

Location: Online

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences invites its faculty and staff to the next webinar in its anti-racism series. Join us as we explore and discuss White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J. DiAngelo.

The sessions will be comprised of SPHHS faculty and staff with a facilitator to support the discussion. Please pre-register here.

In White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, author and anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo explores white fragility—the phenomenon by which white people become angry, defensive, or hostile when confronted with the idea that they are complicit in systemic racism. As a white woman herself, DiAngelo documents the ways in which white Americans are unable to emotionally withstand even minor amounts of racially triggered stress and retreat into a defensive posture when forced to discuss racism.

White Fragility is written for white people who consider themselves to be liberal or progressive on racial matters. Like all white people, white progressives are raised in a society that is institutionally racist. By this, we mean a society in which all key political, economic, social, and cultural institutions are overwhelmingly controlled by white people. This disproportionate share of power is the product of centuries of history during which people of color (especially black people) were systematically enslaved, expropriated, disenfranchised, segregated, and marginalized. As a result, white control of society became the “normal” or “standard” state of affairs.  Simply being white in such a society confers an incalculable advantage.     

The format for this portion of the anti-racism series will be small group discussion. We hope these discussions will help participants see how race and racism have shaped us; help us talk about race and the effects of racism; and identify your personal next action steps.

  1. Please read the book prior and/or view the synopsis video. E-books are available from the UMass library here or from the CWMARS public library system here.
  2. We encourage you to read the whole book. Our discussion will focus on chapters 4 (How does race shape the lives of white people?) and 10 (White fragility and the rules of engagement).
  3. In small breakout groups, we will discuss the following questions:
  • Consider your own socialization. In what specific ways has your life been shaped by racism? (Ch.4)
  • The author describes the power of segregation as an “active” process that is an ongoing action stemming from policies and individual choices. Discuss how various patterns of segregation have shaped your life and your understanding of race. (Ch.4)
  • Review the rules of engagement in Ch.10. Provide an example of something you witnessed that demonstrated this rule in action.

And please join us for future talks in our anti-racism webinar series (dates and details to follow soon):

  • Race-conscious leadership in higher education
  • Inclusive pedagogy and classroom transformation
  • Improving and advancing equity goals through incentivizing and accountability