Today’s challenge was worded politely, but it’s 100% about white fragility. Because we do that whole thing. Particularly white women, moving the conversation to be about sexism. So I as a white woman feel a bit awkward about it!
But it’s important to sit with my awkwardness. That’s one of the things I’ve internalized in trying to work against and through my own white fragility as I’ve grown as a person. I still have kneejerk reactions to race conversations sometimes, but I can usually manage to catch that reaction, and acknowledge the feeling and see whether it’s something I actually want to act on. And working on this, on trying to separate feelings from speech and actions, has helped me figure out why I have these feelings and if I think the reason is stupid enough end up not having them at all – or only very mildly – when they would be inspired by a conversation.
This has led to the very strange circumstance where racially charged conversations are one of the few circumstances where I actually can refrain from running my mouth. Most of the time. It’s a work in progress, as we are all works in progress.
There was also an accompanying quiz for one of the challenge items, and I am perpetually a sucker for quizzes. I took it on my phone while waiting for my tea to steep, so no screenshot today, but I scored under 10, which comes out to ‘not as full of white fragility as you could be, go read the book to work on it.’ [sidebar: while trying to find a non-Amazon link to the book I found this fascinating article by John McWhorter in the Atlantic about it]
Actually, never mind, no longer a sidebar, because one of the other challenges for today was a list of 28 ways to be racist that I guess comes from the book.
The White Knight or White Missionary.
“We (white people) know just where to build your new
community center.” Or “Your young people (read youth
of color) would be better served by traveling to our
suburban training center.” Or “We (white people) organized
a used clothing drive for you; where do you want us to put
REALITY CHECK + CONSEQUENCE:
It is a racist, paternalistic assumption that well meaning white
people know what’s best for people of color. Decision, by white
people, are made on behalf of people of color, as though they
were incapable of making their own. This is another version of
“blame the victim” and white is right. It places the problems at
the feet of people of color and the only “appropriate” solutions
with white people. Once more the power of self-determination is
taken away from people of color. Regardless of motive, it is still
about white control.
And this is one of the places where I do get hung up. Because I’m genuinely an expert in some things, and working on both deepening and widening this. If I were unilaterally declared Dictator of Houston Zoning (please someone make me Dictator of Houston Zoning), I’d very quickly be making maps of places where people couldn’t live or companies had to stop dumping or . . . Anyway, the point is that I have immediate and drastic plans for if I ever suddenly, magically, have enforceable authority over the city of Houston. Houston gets picked on specifically because it has absolutely no zoning laws as is.
And that would be based on expertise and flood maps. But I’m still white, and a fair chunk of the population of Houston is still Black. So that’s an uneasy scenario because of that dynamic. But the water doesn’t care.
And I think that’s the gist of it, being in disasters. You can try to build back better in a more equitable way, you can try to structure relief so it doesn’t perpetuate racist systems, but the hazard is colorblind. The systems we have put more POC in the paths of hazards, which is terrible, but “hello you are going to be underwater next week and can’t live here anymore, here’s some cash” is something that probably needs to be said anyway.