Hard Conversations: I Am a RacistWhite fragility discussing hard conversations and talking about racism

by Rich Siegel, PCP

I’ve never worn blackface. I’ve never marched down the street carrying a tiki torch and waving a Confederate flag. I have black friends. But I am a racist. Why? Because I’m white? Can I be white and not be a racist?

I’ve been attending the Black American Caucus/Hard Conversations meetings for several months now.

Led by Glendora Claybrooks and Barbara Glaser, the meetings focus on “having important conversations around racial inequalities in Washington County and beyond.” The subject of the January meeting was the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo – a consultant and trainer on racial and social justice issues.

I was a bit skeptical as I began reading this book while flying back East for Christmas: A self-help book written by a white trainer and consultant about how white people should comport themselves around black people.

Really? But DiAngelo makes an interesting point: “Today we have a cultural norm that insists we hide our racism from people of color and deny it among ourselves.” She stresses the “non-binary” nature of racism. Some racist acts are truly evil, but if we acknowledge racism as a system into which we’ve been socialized, it is easier to accept feedback and adjust our behavior rather than react to criticism with anger and denial. So, it sort of allows white people to acknowledge and correct implicit racist behavior as a mistake rather than an immoral act.

At our meeting, we discussed if the techniques described in the book might be useful to help improve WashCo Dems’ engagement with the black community – perhaps it would help to get more party members trained in these techniques or invite members of the black community to our events.

As usual, there are no easy answers at these meetings – just good information and hard conversations.

Join the discussion.

Hard conversation is held 2nd Tuesdays of the month 7PM WashCo Dems office.

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