White Fragility Quiz

August 30, 2020Categories: Uncomfortable Ideas, Reason, Positive Humanism

The Dr. Bo Show with Bo Bennett, PhD
The Dr. Bo Show is a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to issues that matter. It is the podcast of social psychologist Bo Bennett. As of 2020, this podcast is a collection of topics related to all of his books.

I came across this "white fragility" quiz and, as a white person, I decided to take it and share my answers with you. You're welcome.

1. Do I feel defensive when a person of color says “white people?”

It depends on the context. There are many good reasons to refer to different races, and "white people" is currently seen as a race of people. For example, "Black people are more than twice as likely to be shot by cops than white people," is a statement of fact—no reason for anyone to be defensive of such a statement. However, using "white people" in a context such as "White people are all racist" is stereotyping, prejudging, and even if you buy into the rhetoric of extremists, extremely divisive. I am defensive when a person of any color makes such a sweeping generalization of any race.

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me that I benefit from white privilege?

No, because I do. In fact, with the exception of being an atheist, I benefit from virtually every kind of privilege identified. Privilege exists in many forms; "white privilege" being just one of them. Other forms of privilege include

  • Gender
  • Sexually normative
  • Beauty
  • Age
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Wealth
  • Religious
  • Class
  • Education
  • Talent

I do "feel angry" (more specifically, I find it both hypocritical and ignorant) when someone attempts to "educate" a person about their white privilege while ignoring (or being ignorant of) these other privileges that may adversely affect the person far more than their white privilege benefits them. Non-whites don't have a monopoly on facing disadvantages in society. Just ask anyone who is unattractive, not heterosexual, not cisgender, old, physically handicapped, mentally challenged, poor, uneducated, or a woman.

3. When a person of color talks about race, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think as racist?

It depends on what they are describing. If they are talking about telling racist jokes, being treated as inferiors, or being discriminating against because of the color of their skin, I feel ashamed as a human that other humans can be so cruel and ignorant. If they are describing things like me not actively supporting Black Lives Matter, refusing to demonize all police, or otherwise just "being white," then yes, I am extremely defensive. I support good ideas and reject bad ideas regardless of the color of the person behind the ideas, I fervently reject extreme positions devoid of nuance and critical thought, and I believe labeling an entire race "racist" is, itself an extreme act of racism.

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

Not at all. I appreciate questions, and the opportunity to answer them.

5. Do I have a history of embracing or growing up in racism that I feel ashamed of and so I need to show people that I’m not racist anymore?

"No," to the whole question as it is stated. I did grow up in a virtually all-white community with parents who frequently used the "N-word." As I was exposed to more non-whites, I realized my parents were wrong in their views and did my best to argue with them when they made racist remarks. I am not ashamed of views as a young child because I simply did not know any better and, at that time, had no exposure to people who were different than I was. I was indoctrinated and quickly grew out of it.

6. Does saying “Not all white people” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls white people out for something?

No, having to say "not all" [insert any race here] means that someone just said something ignorant based on a racial stereotype, whether it is "All Asians are good at math," "All black people are good at basketball," or "All white people are racist," and having to make what should be an obvious correction reminds me of how divided we still are as a species. Nobody should ever call out an entire race of people for something other than being a member of that socially-constructed group. This is the very definition of prejudice.

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of racism?

It depends. If someone thought I said something racist that I did not say, then they were corrected and realized their mistake, I would expect an apology. However, if someone interpreted someone I said or wrote as "racist" (like my answers to these questions), I would feel that I've been unfairly accused of racism but, I would never expect an apology. People who publicly call out others for "racism," especially given one of its many very loose definitions, are often virtue signaling—a way one feels better about themselves by tearing other people down. I would never expect an apology from people like this.

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “It’s okay to be white?”

Yes, because it means that the person saying this doesn't buy in to the original sin of "whiteness," and my faith in humanity is restored even if for a brief moment. It took me over 30 years to let go of my Catholic belief that I was born a broken, sinful, morally-corrupt person deserving of eternal suffering. My life changed for better when I realized that the stories this belief was based on are all mythology and almost certainly not true, that the psychology of convincing people that they have a disease (sin) then selling them cure (Jesus) is an effective way to dominate and control others, and that it's okay to be human. This idea that one is morally flawed because of what color skin they were born with is wrong in so many ways. It IS okay to be white. It's okay to be black. It's okay to be any color except for maybe blue... that usually means your choking.

9. Do I try to convince people of color that they’re wrong about racism by pointing out people from their racial group who agree with me?

No. This would be a logical fallacy known as the identity fallacy where one's argument is evaluated based on their physical or social identity.

10. Do I feel the need to talk about how hard my ancestors had it when they immigrated, or explain my own hardships when a person of color talks about being oppressed?

No. Like I wrote in question #2, I am privileged in almost every way. However, I would not fault a white, single mom living off food stamps for giving a piece of her mind to a black celebrity talking about how oppressed he or she is.

11. Do I think that racism would go away if people stopped talking about it?

It depends on how "racism" is defined. What will not go away, unfortunately, is people's feelings of superiority or discrimination based on race. What will go away is increased racial division and resentment based on books like "White Fragility," and claims that all white people are racists. As long as accusations of racism are rewarded by the new social currency of "likes" and "shares," perceived racism will spread exponentially just like an Internet meme. We need to keep talking about it; we should just not keep obsessing about it or interpreting non-racist behaviors as "racist."

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is racist make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

Yes. This is normal human behavior. People generally react negatively when their character or intelligence is being attacked or even questioned. What is most important is how one responds to the accusation after considering its legitimacy. If the accusation has merit, one should feel a brief sense of disappointment followed by an appreciation for the opportunity to grow. If the accusation has no merit, expressing displeasure is a reasonable response.

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are people of color when someone accuses me of racism?

No. I have no close friends or close family who people of color. For the record, as a married adult with children, I have just a few close friends these days. Generally speaking, the "black friend defense" does not absolve anyone from racism, just like being married to a woman doesn't absolve a man from misogyny.

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m not racist?

No. In fact, given that more and more people are buying into the "all white people are racist" narrative, accusations of racism mean very little to me anymore. I cannot control how people define racism and what actions, behaviors, or thoughts qualify me as "racist" in their minds, but I can control my own behavior. This is why I focus on more "meta" principles such as kindness, fairness, compassion, integrity, and of course, reason.

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about race should be given equal weight to that of a person of color, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the race conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

It depends on the perspective and the person of color. I have a PhD in social psychology. Racism is an area of study within social psychology. If the topic being discussed is statistical data associated with race or the analysis of research in the area, or any topic where knowledge of the psychological concepts play a significant role in the discussion, unless the person of color is also a social scientist with similar expertise, I expect my perspectives to have greater weight. However, if the topic is one of lived experience as a person of color, I have nothing to offer as a white person. As far as being told to "listen more than I speak," I think in general, this is good advice for anyone who cares about learning.

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points in the comment section?

"Defend myself?" No. Clarify my answers? Yes.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with white fragility.

Then, according to the author of this quiz, I am dealing with "white fragility." It should go without saying that this is not an assessment instrument tested for validity and reliability; it is more like the Facebook "what Disney princess are you" type quizzes. After seriously considering these questions and re-reading my answers, I find them all consistent with my mentioned "meta" principles such as kindness, fairness, compassion, integrity, and reason. If this is what it means to have "white fragility," then I am okay with that.

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