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11 Ways to Avoid Triggering White Fragility

During last month's general meeting, we talked about white fragility - what it is, and how to avoid triggering it.

Robin DiAngelo, author of What Does It Mean to be White?, defines white fragility as the inability to handle the stress of conversations about race and racism, causing people to become hostile, guilty, defensive, or fearful when confronted. White fragility ensures that conversations about race are derailed, and the status quo of white supremacy is upheld.

During our meeting, and with guidance from SURJ NYC, we came up with the following tactics to help us avoid triggering white fragility so that we can discuss race and racism more effectively:

  1. Meet them where they are (what does this mean to you?).

  2. Avoid triggering language, i.e., privilege, bigot, racist.

  3. Avoid being dismissive of their point of view or of placing yourself on the moral high ground.

  4. Avoid applying your biases to the person you’re speaking with.

  5. Use familiar, accessible language.

  6. Use empathy and humility. We’re in this together, learning together.

  7. BE A GOOD LISTENER. Exhibit your value of them by listening to their stories and point of view. It may be hard to hear at times but it’s important to learn how to distinguish between feeling unsafe and uncomfortable.

  8. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Ask people how they’re feeling.

  9. Be curious. Ask questions, i.e., “Why do you feel that way?” “What makes you say that?”

  10. Appeal to shared values. Find common ground.

  11. Choose the right place and time. One-on- one conversations can be more effective than social media.

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