Exploring White Fragility as a White Male
BEWARE: The below article contains rants and ramblings from my perspective on white fragility. If you are easily triggered, please go away.
I want to preface this to say, I know I will never experience the hardship nor the mental anguish of living as a person of color in the United States of America and I am sorry for that. But what I can do is offer my perspective and how, many whites in this country, despite their outwardly liberal views still unconsciously harbor racial prejudices. In this piece, I want to explore my time in this world and how I came to the realization that being part of the majority privileged ethnic group has colored my perceptions greatly and made me fundamentally unable to truly empathize with other races.
To begin with, I grew up in a medium sized town comprised mostly of people with European ancestry in upstate New York. Although my family was at least outwardly tolerant and liberal, casual racism does get thrown around a lot privately. For instance, my grandfather would have no qualms throwing out racial stereotypes during family gatherings and dinners. However, this was mostly private and we never have such conversations in public. Although we were taught in school that all races were “equal”, I can confidently say that most whites that I have met, including the ones in my family do not take this view to heart. For instance, I remember in one instance where an attractive Hispanic peer was the center of attention for many girls. Many of his white friends confided with me and each other, expressing shock at how he is able to pull white girls as a person of color. They began giving him the cold shoulder and conspiring against his reputation.
The above is not an isolated case either. I see this time and time again. The outwardly liberal and “tolerant” of us are two-faced and harbor vastly different internal views which they will rarely let loose to strangers. In juxtaposition to many conservatives, where bigoted views are harbored and encouraged openly, the liberal minded take a much more subtle approach. It is an unspoken rule that we actively parade against bigotry, ignorance, etc and pay homage to egalitarian and socialist views in order to carefully cultivate a cosmopolitan and enlightened public persona. However, it matters little what views we take to heart. If you do not believe me, take a moment to read this story on subconscious bias in liberal whites: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/White-liberals-dumb-themselves-down-when-they-13433699.php
In college, I realized the hypocrisy of white fragility and liberalism when I worked with a close group of African Americans as a diversity trainer. Being white, I was completely ignorant of the social and mental angst minorities experience. In the words of James Baldwin, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time”. Working side by side with people of color challenged the way I perceived of the world. I began to understand their pains when they are learning about how their ancestors were enslaved, humiliated, sold, and tortured. To add insult to injury, they are treated in a patronizing way by the very people who claim to sympathize with them.
Living in the United States of America as a white male in the 20th century must be the most mentally liberalizing thing in my mind. The social environment protects and insulates us against race-based stress. This environment creates a racial comfort and lowers our ability to tolerate racial stress. The lack of racial stress creates a phenomenon that academia calls “White fragility”, which is beginning to manifest exponentially in the 21st century. White fragility is demonstrated in many subtle and nuanced ways such as the example I listed above. However it also manifests itself in much more ostentatious ways as in the case of the Christchurch shootings. Much more explicit reactions is seen in the instance of Sarah Jeong, a New York Times journalist whose past tweets were dug up and used against her.
It is my opinion that white fragility, or more specifically white-male fragility, will be a major hurdle for Western civilization in the 21st century. It will be the root cause of many political and cultural unrests. In fact, if you want to dive into the crux of white-male fragility, you don’t have to go further than the infamous 4chan pol. Although I normally would vehemently oppose anyone who wants to visit pol, it nevertheless proves invaluable to academics like me. Pol reveals the deep state of a frenzied young white male’s mind. Its amalgamation of misogynistic and racist posts reveal a megalomaniac focus on race-based sexual mercantilism and insecurity. Here, sexual domination from people of color, or “Tyrones”, and domination from “Chads” preoccupy the website. Intense focus on virginal white females, their purity, and its preservation from people of color seems to be the foremost goal of this group. Post after posts detail deep seated paranoia against sexual conquest from Muslim asylum seekers in Europe. The desperation to avoid cuckoldry, especially racial cuckoldry or “blacked” in their terms, spearheaded this word into contemporary mainstream culture.
Ironically, I bet most of the posters on pol would seem level-headed or even liberal at face value in public. No one would have guessed just how raw the emotions at play are here. However, the internet really does bring out the inner psych in people. In a way, it serves as the perfect mirror into a collective group’s soul and allows us to better understand the intense emotive root causes that power the vast array of symptoms in contemporary social landscape. Sexual insecurity, paranoia, and new racial stressors in the 21st century for the white male has fueled new dynamics in a ever globalizing and cosmopolitan world. Hate groups such as the Proud Boys desperately emphasize their outward masculinity through hazing, chants, and encouragement of physical violence. When viewed through the framework of white fragility, the core motivations and consequent actions of such groups are clear. Sexual insecurity, increased racial competition for mates, and other various increasing race-based stressors have alienated and downgraded a once-dominate population group. In response, their actions broadcast opposing signals: that they are “alpha” and thus still a dominant social group.
Of course, no one will ever admit to the root cause of 21st century alt-right movements. Instead, a deluge of memes from this group laced with irony and black humor provide cover for this inherent weakness. However, given recent tragic events, it is time for us as a society to scrutinize this group of people. We need to understand their psychology and dedicate resources and talent commensurate to how we studied serial killers in the 70s.
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