Beyond Fragility and Into History

Footnotes posts summarize the newest research related to student-led discussion. Think of it as teacher-approved SparkNotes (with better citations) for papers published by top schools of education, research-based websites, and the think tanks.

Christopher Petrella and Justin Gomer, White Fragility, Anti-Racist Pedagogy, and the Weight of History. Petrella and Gomer, two white scholars of African American history, write here on the blog Black Perspectives in response to a widely-circulated Boston Globe article entitled “In Defense of White Males.” They connect the article to a larger framework called White Fragility (first described by Robin DiAngelo’s eponymous book). DiAngelo’s term proves useful for naming the emotional experience of confronting racism from the white perspective, but they also argue that DeAngelo’s “White Fragility” sacrifices critical analysis of history and overemphasizes psychopathological (read: individual, emotional) journeys. They call readers to learn the history of racism and racial thought and, importantly, to teach and share racism with students not only as an abstract, ahistorical concept, but a structural one. We appreciate Petrella and Gomer’s work for its insistence that, especially for white educators, leaning on and privileging emotional “working through” of race in America is neither sufficient nor accurate. As schools around the country, especially predominantly white schools, reckon with calls for anti-racist action, this article insists upon a rigorous, systems-oriented approach that does not flinch in the face of fragility and fear.

Similar Posts