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Book Club: “White Fragility”

July 23 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Global protests following the recent murders of Black Americans — including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd — speak loudly to how many people around the world are suddenly waking up to the long history of structural racism, racial injustice, white supremacy and police brutality in America and around the world. Conversations about these topics bring discomfort, but are crucial in order to break the silence.

Since 2018, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels has engaged in a diversity initiative designed to both recruit applicants of underrepresented backgrounds and to better support grantees while in-country. As part of this initiative, Executive Director Erica Lutes will be leading a virtual book club for members of our Fulbright community centering on issues of diversity, inclusion, and representation. Please see below more information about participating in our upcoming discussions.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

Session One: White Fragility
23 July 2020 | 4:00 PM CET / 10:00 A.M. EST

The book club’s first session will revolve around Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Beacon Press, 2018)

Why did we choose this book? In discussing White Fragility, a text that centers white people and the concept of whiteness in a discussion of systemic racism, our hope is to provide a jumping-off point for white people working to understand racism. By reading and discussing the arguments presented in the book, white people can recognize how the system of racism shapes their lives, how they uphold that system, and how they can become allies to interrupt and dismantle it. Although the book focuses on educating white readers, participation in the discussion is open to all.

What is the book about? According to Beacon Press: “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress.  Although white racial insulation is somewhat mediated by social class (with poor and working class urban whites being generally less racially insulated than suburban or rural whites), the larger social environment insulates and protects whites as a group through institutions, cultural representations, media, school textbooks, movies, advertising, and dominant discourses. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar. In turn, whites are often at a loss for how to respond in constructive ways., as we have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides. leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This book explicates the dynamics of White Fragility and how we might build our capacity in the on-going work towards racial justice.”

What do I need to do in order to participate in the discussion? Participation in the book club is open to all members of the Fulbright community. To register for the discussion or to ask further questions, please send an email to events@fulbright.be. Please note that all participants are expected to have read the book by 23 July. Furthermore, as our aim is to create a safe space for people of all backgrounds to engage in difficult conversations, all participants are requested to remain open and cooperative and to treat their fellow participants with respect.


July 23
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Fulbright Commission