We are living in a time of tumult but of promise. Inspired by this moment of self-reflection, we invited our community to join our staff and board in a deep dive into the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Although this event has concluded, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a link to the recording.
Meet the Conversation Curator & Moderator
Brittany Bellizeare has worked at premiere regional theaters around the country including Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Two River Theater, Portland Center Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, The Guthrie, TheaterWorks Hartford, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory, here at Northern Stage, the Yard in Martha’s Vineyard, and The McCarter Theatre. Her Film/TV credits include The Blacklist, Eye Candy, The Knick and National Commercial spots. She received a NAACP Theatre nomination for Best Ensemble in the world premiere of The Last Tiger in Haiti by Jeff Augustin and named one of the Top 10 Actors of the Decade [of the Twin Cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis)] in the Star Tribune. When she is not performing on stage, she works as a Teaching Artist with Higher Vibrations Collective and a Diversity and Inclusion performing consultant with CSW Global Associates traveling around the country talking about diversity issues that can more easily be dismissed than discussed. For more information, visit brittanybellizeare.com.
Reading Prompts & Talking Points for Discussion
Please read through, actively think about, and write down your responses to these prompts before the conversation:
Chapter 1: THE CHALLENGES OF TALKING TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT RACISM • Identify a passage from Chapter 1 that invokes any sense of discomfort. Highlight this passage and return to reading it periodically as you work through the book. What does this passage reveal about your socialization into the white racial frame? Does your discomfort shift over time? If so, what supported that shift? • Explain in your own words the author’s critique of the ideology of individualism.
Chapter 2: RACISM AND WHITE SUPREMACY • What does the author mean when she says that there is no such thing as reverse racism? • How does the birdcage metaphor illustrate oppression?
Chapter 3: RACISM AFTER THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT • What is the impact of white people not knowing our racial history? • What is color-blind racism and why is it problematic? • The author lists two types of narratives that are commonly used by white people to deny complicity with racism: color-blind and color-celebrate. Which narratives have you used yourself, or still use? If you could speak back to yourself with the voice of the author, how would you counter the narrative? (From Chapter 5)
Chapter 4: HOW DOES RACE SHAPE THE LIVES OF WHITE PEOPLE? • What are the earliest racial messages you can recall? Try to move beyond what you were openly told and work to identify implicit messages. • Discuss the social taboos mentioned. Give examples of each from your own life. (From Chapter 7)
Chapter 8: THE RESULT: WHITE FRAGILITY • Why are questions such as “What is the right thing to say?” or “What am I supposed to say?” the wrong questions? How might you respond the next time you hear these questions? • The author claims that white fragility functions as a form of bullying. How so?
Chapter 9: WHITE FRAGILITY IN ACTION • Discuss the claims on pp. 119-120 in hard copy (or pp. 200-202 in e-book). Have you ever made any of these claims yourself? • Now consider the assumptions underlying those claims on p. 121 (or pp. 203-204 in e-book). Which ones have you held? Do you still hold some of these? If so, how do they function for you and what would it mean to you to shift them (what do you see yourself as having to “give up”)?
Chapter 11: WHITE WOMEN’S TEARS • The author writes, “Since many of us have not learned how racism works and our role in it, our tears may come from shock and distress about what we didn’t know or recognize. For people of color, our tears demonstrate our racial insulation and privilege” (pp. 135-36 and p. 224 in e-book). Discuss this passage and the ways that white emotional distress and shock (tears, defensiveness, anger, grief) shape conversations on racism. What do these dynamics reveal about the sociopolitical function of emotions?
Chapter 12: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? • If we accept that racism is always operating, the question becomes not “Is racism taking place?” but rather “How is racism taking place in this specific context?” How does awareness of that change how we think about our lives and our actions? • Discuss the suggestions for continuing the work of antiracism. Which are the most challenging? How can you meet those challenges?