The Canadian website Huffington Post defines the concept of White Fragility as “the thing that restricts our knowledge, shuts down conversations before they start, and invites us to lie to ourselves.”
Others say White Fragility is the sensitivity and corresponding defensiveness that Euro-Canadian settlers showcase when being confronted or spoken to about issues such as cultural appropriation, racism and stereotyping.
The term was key-chained to certain caucasian people and their low emotional tolerance for discussing topics of racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo in a 2011 article. She wrote her definition as “a state when even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves”.
But it isn’t really the Canadians at fault.
Within systems that have afflicted us as indigenous people for years lies not only the cause of our intergenerational trauma, but also intergenerational and systemic racism. This means that much of the cultural appropriation, racism and stereotyping isn’t recognized by “Canadian” people as being so, because they aren’t systemically taught to regard it as such.
This frustrates many of us that are culturally and emotionally connected to our practices, ancestors and belief systems to no end. This also makes us point it out when they are perpetuating systemic ignorance, and get called racists.
Nobody wants to be called a racist.
Therefore, the term “racist” is highly associated with immorality, and when someone is called it they can feel as though their entire character is being attacked. So, it becomes a never-ending cycle of people of colour condemning Canadians for things they might not even realize that they’re doing – leading to more defensiveness and misunderstandings.
Canadians are totally in the dark about real indigenous issues. This is because they are systemically ignorant; not white supremacists, nor are they immoral, and they might not even be “white”. They are simply people that have had no prior contact or responsibility to understand what systemic racism is, nor an understanding of why cultural appropriation is bad.
There is also the fact that many of these same types of people don’t have to encounter race-based stress because they are the majority — not the minority and have been so for a very long time. Many as well have been recorded in studies to experience “ethnicity envy”, where they envy other cultures because they don’t even recognize themselves as having culture or being a part of a culture. This means that many “white” people don’t even think about what it means to be white or try to define it because they think of themselves as normal, or baseline in society.
It’s called cultural blindness and North Americans are totally affected by it.
Then there are those that were simply raised to be prejudiced against other races, but many Canadian people just don’t know any better in regards to systemic ignorance and racism.
Just like many of us don’t know that “hip-hip, hurray!” was a term German Nazi’s used when taking down a Jewish-owned building.
So, our fight isn’t with our neighbours as individuals in battling systemic racism — it is and always will be against the systems that perpetuate ignorance and cultural de-sensitization.