When White Male Fragility in The Workplace Shows Up in E-mail Form...How to Cope
It started over an email about financially supporting Black students. Within the email I described the inequities and racial seclusion Black students continue to face at White institutions. I stated within the message that while the institution continues to admit people of color, they financially rob them by creating a campus culture eliminating resources that is needed for student success.
As I waited for the email, my spirit told me that the response was not going to be pleasant. The email finally arrived in my inbox at 4:30 pm on a Thursday, when most faculty are heading home. Hence the technique. White women tend to reply to controversial messages at the end of the day to avoid being confronted. The technique is to make sure you don’t see the message until the following morning. The overall goal for white women is to get enough support from other white women and men in the office to tackle my email. Although it may seem like normal behavior to take time to responding to an email, White women in the workplace use it as clapback. The clap back was in the first two sentences of the email:
***The views and opinion included in this example do not necessarily mirror any particular email or opinions of a faculty member in any institution.***
I apologize for the delay in response to your email. This semester has been extremely busy. With regards to your concern, it has already been brought to my attention about your students. Our department is doing our best to address the issue. Within this email, I feel that your attitude is not needed. Our office is doing our best to support students and that will take time.
Let assess this email a little further. White women in the workplace often become defensive defensiveness when they are confronted with information about racial inequality. If the information doesn’t pertain to their White privilege, then its irrelevant.
This is often called the “Email from hurt White people”- meaning that White faculty felt so uncomfortable about being confronted about Blackness that it created frustration of tears, guilt and anger. The content of my email created so much pain, that it disrupted their White privilege. When you are accustomed to privilege and someone makes you feel oppressed. This is called White fragility. This notion that I was writing to inform and disrupt suggested that I was writing for White instead of writing to them about a serious matter regarding Black students. As a Black woman women educator, mentor and researcher within a predominantly white institution, I’m often faced with White racial violence. White racial violence functions as a form of bullying in the workplace. That is, White faculty create a miserable environment for Black people in ways to slowly push them out. The waves of racism are so heavy and sneaky that it’s sickening to the core of the Black soul.
According to Dr. Robin DiAngelo, the White critical racial and social justice educator who created the term White Fragility (2018), “It is White people’s responsibility to be less fragile; people of color don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to navigate us as painlessly as possible” (p. 152).
The question remains- How do Black women educators cope with white fragility in the workplace? I have four tips:
● First, acknowledge that your Black woman intuition is never wrong. If you feel that you are being attack by your white counterparts, then you are. Express your anger or frustration to your sister support group. Mostly likely they are experiencing the same thing.
● Second, challenge your department to have workshops on institutional white power and privilege. No more diversity trainings. White people, it is time to have the uncomfortable conversations. No more abandoning racism.
● Third, Black women, continue to pray. Continue to ask God to give you strength to endure racism because it it not going away anytime soon.
Black women I encourage you to speak up about the racialized misogyny we experience. I encourage you to know yourself and celebrate yourself in every stage. Lastly, don’t let nobody make you question your power, your soul and your individual magic.
DiAngelo, R. (2015). White fragility: Why it’s so hard to talk to white people about racism: The Good Men Project, 125 (1). Retrieved from https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-fragilitywhy-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism-twlm/