White Fragility: Seattle Offers Class To Teach White People How To Handle Racial Stress

White Fragility: the inability of white people to tolerate racial stress.

The City of Seattle now offers “white fragility” classes to its white residents to help them come to terms with why they can’t seem to handle matters of race, and tickets have completely sold out. Robin DiAngelo, the lecturer who is teaching the class, coined the term “white fragility.” She defines it as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” Her critics say this is just the latest attempt to spread “white guilt,” resulting from the concept of “white privilege.” Todd Hermann of My Northwest mentions that DiAngelo is white, and questions her program.

“Was DiAngelo pointing out implicit bias that only white people have? By the way, DiAngelo is white. But she doesn’t have any bias or fragility. And we’re going to pay her a bunch of money to teach a class on white fragility!”

Hermann asks the question, “Is there some scientific study that you can have positive interracial interactions if only one side is considered to be the side with the problem?” He demands to see a study that proves that white people’s brains are unable to handle racial stress.

But the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture believes “white fragility” is a problem, but that they, with the help of Robin DiAngelo, are equipped to solve it. The office has a budget of $8.3 million, and is sponsoring two four-hour classes, August 17 and September 7. Classes are $60 each, says a report from Fox News, but they’re sold out. Erika Lindsay, a Seattle spokesperson for the city, says staff members have been working to prepare for the workshop, but was unable to specify how much taxpayers are paying for the program.

“A primary role of our office is to provide programs and resources to help the arts and culture sector flourish and many arts and cultural organizations see the ability to become more inclusive as a major step towards their ability to thrive.”

Robin DiAngelo, who happens to be a white woman, has made her entire career out of studying “whiteness.” Her doctorate from the University of Washington was in Multicultural Education in 2004. She became a tenured professor in “whiteness” studies at Westfield State University. Now that she’s returned to Seattle, she’s lecturing at the University of Washington. She also holds the title of director of equity for Sound Generations, Seattle/King County. She was recently appointed as one of the designers for Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Anti-Racism Training program. She was teaching a training class in Washington state and said that the people in the training were mostly white people who worked in offices that were “98 percent white,” and living lives that never dealt with people of color. She also accused them of being “incredibly hostile and mean when talking about ideas on race.”

White Fragility: Seattle Offers Class To Teach White People How To Handle Racial Stress
White people are now being accused of "white fragility." [Photo by Constant/Shutterstock Images]

Although Seattle’s aggressive stance on racism is rare, it’s not the only city spending tax dollars on educating white people about their so-called “fragility.” According to a previously published report from the Inquisitr, the University of Vermont held a retreat for white students to learn to be more racially inclusive. Portland Community College held a series of lectures entitled, “Whiteness History Month Project.” Melinda Bullen, Diversity Resource Center coordinator at Mt. Hood Community College, gave the lecture on “white fragility.” She is white, and accused other whites of displaying “racial arrogance.”

“Because of their position of privilege and accustomed racial comfort, whites will often display racial arrogance by denying, trivializing racism or critical thought regarding racial conflict.”

She went on to say that white people need to be much harder on themselves, adding that “seeing yourself as well-meaning” frees you from “taking responsibility for your actions.” Also, she said that “good intentions are one of the great hindrances to honest conversations about race.”

So what do you think? Does “white fragility” exist and, if so, is it a problem that requires a special class? What do you think of Seattle and its offer to teach white people how to handle racial stress? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Image via Shutterstock]