Table Talk Set to Discuss “White Fragility”

Campus Chaplain Leads Discussion on Avoiding Racism

Table Talk Set to Discuss “White Fragility”

Laraya Billups and Jalissa White-Jones

Bridgewater, Va – Bridgewater College Chaplain Robbie Miller has created a “table talk” held in the President’s Dining Room, discussing the novel White Fragility,  a book that tackles the idea of people avoiding the topic of racism.

White Fragility is a  New York Times best-selling novel written by Robin DiAngelo. DiAngelo is a consultant, trainer, and teacher of Critical Racial and Social Justice Education. Currently, DiAngelo serves as an affiliate associate professor of education at the University of Washington. Her research is primarily toward the white perspective of racism and how racial inequality remains if racism is not discussed.

The book is about the phenomenon of ‘white fragility,’ which refers to the defensive behaviors of white people (e.g., anger, fear, guilt) when challenged with issues of racial injustice and inequality,” said Miller.

DiAngelo came up with the term “white fragility” through her experiences in leading predominantly white audiences in a discussion about race. According to DiAngelo, many white people had a defensive reaction to talking about racial injustice.

“There was both knee-jerk defensiveness about any suggestion that being white had meaning and a refusal to acknowledge any advantage to being white,” writes DiAngelo in the introduction of White Fragility.  “Many participants claimed white people were now the oppressed group, and they deeply resented anything perceived to be a form of affirmative action.”

Miller also shared that he chose this book because “white fragility is an issue that affects everyone and, when left unaddressed, prevents meaningful cross-racial conversation.” 

Bridgewater College has endured its own dialogues about race in the past, including a racial slur that was allegedly sent in a screenshot from a past member of the Senate in the spring of 2018 and the distribution of racist and anti-semitic flyers in the spring of 2019. Miller believes it is necessary for Bridgewater students to have conversations about race.

“As our predominantly white campus becomes more diverse, we need to be proactive about understanding what white fragility is and how it affects us as individuals and as a community,” said Miller. 

Miller’s goal for the table talk is for both students and faculty to have “an honest, candid and respectful conversation around issues raised in the novel.” 

The table talk meetings are scheduled to start on Jan. 17. Meetings will be held once a week at noon in the President’s Dining room, and seating is limited to 13. Students and faculty are encouraged to either bring lunch from the KCC or pack their own. 

Table talk discussions will continue with a different novel each semester, and books are provided. For further information, contact Miller at his email  [email protected], or telephone number 540-828-5383.