This is a concept pulled from the Community Coding Codebook. In the context of our coding, we define this as fragility, sensitivity, and/or shutting down in the face of change or confrontation. We apply this code when individuals demonstrate these behaviors in reaction to discussions about race and/or equity.
This is an important concept to think about when doing anti-racist work because having fragility around issues or race and equity can deeply hinder the process and cause individuals to shy away from doing equity work altogether. When fragility comes up, the focus is diverted away from the issue of race and equity and instead is centered around the feelings and thoughts of those who hold racial privilege and power.
As an example, let’s think about spaces in which equity work is done. These spaces can many times hold uncomfortable discussions for those holding racial privilege as they work to confront issues that may point at their own racial biases. In these moments of discomfort, white individuals may feel angry or upset around these conversations. In this moment, fragility is acted out if the individual disengages or becomes defensive instead of reflecting on their discomfort and looking introspectively to their own privilege and power. Fragility occurs when individuals with privilege turn their energy outwards instead of inward, many times blaming their discomfort on the minority group rather than seeing it as an indicator as an area of growth. Fragility often results in the denial of one’s own power and privilege–for instance, when a white person denies the existence of “white privilege” and becomes offended that they have been labeled as privileged.