In Reverend Rachel’s April 10 sermon, titled “Love Trumps Fear,” she discussed that in our culture, white peoples’ internalized racial superiority has led some to become angry when they saw a black president elected in 2008, and others of color doing better financially than they were. This past year, some of the presidential candidates have made racist slurs and deemed those who worship as Muslims to be unfit to come to this country. An article in the online May 21 Washington Post described “a growing national movement rooted in distrust of the federal government, sometimes called self-styled “patriot groups,” who are composed of largely white and rural U.S. residents. It states “their numbers are growing amid a wave of anger at the government that has been gaining strength since 2008, a surge that coincided with the election of the first black U.S. president and a crippling economic recession.”
In an article titled “White Fragility” written by educator Dr. Robin DiAngelo, she posits an explanation for this anger in the concept she describes as a social environment that protects and insulates white people from race-based stress and “builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress.” She states that even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves, which include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt. Behaviors also include argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situations, and function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” DiAngelo thus calls this lack of racial stamina “White Fragility.” She goes on to state: “Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar.” One of these interruptions can come from “being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority)”.
What can we do to fight these defensive emotions, such as fear and anger? Reach out with our love by listening deeply to all. Deep accurate listening is a skill that requires cultivation. Consider holding active compassion for those who are confused by waves of cultural change, including white people who are ‘losing’ their privileges. As Reverend Rachel ended her sermon, with a quote from South Asian Muslim philosopher Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, “With your spiritual light, dispel the darkness of ignorance; dissolve the clouds of discord and war and spread goodwill, peace, and harmony among the people.”
Sue Glenn, ARAOMC Committee