Author: Valerie Tarico

A Closer Look at ‘White Fragility’ Theory

Elizabeth* is a progressive activist who signed up for a multi-day racial equity training course. The organizers opened by telling participants—which included white, black, and multi-racial people—that they were creating a safe space to discuss difficult topics. However, white attendees were then informed that, as beneficiaries of institutional racism, they were complicit in racial injustice and that expressions of dismay or guilt were inappropriate and unwelcome. “I’m tired,” announced the course leader, “of white women’s tears.” During the course, Elizabeth—who is white—kept many of her feelings to herself. Morgan, a progressive leader in a voter organizing coalition, also learned over time to hold her tongue. “I can’t disagree publicly with one of my peers of color,” she said, without the risk of being perceived as a racist.” A biologist working on rural land management made a similar comment, noting that several colleagues had moved on as disagreements with a black manager about species at risk got interpreted through a racial lens. Peter, a white male, sat on the board of an environmental organization known for strong …

Liberalism’s Great Challenge: How Can We Critique Ideas while Protecting People?

Secular and reformist Muslims plead that we learn to tell the difference between critiquing ideas and attacking people. When Islam is at question, members of the American Left and Right race into opposite corners. After the Orlando nightclub massacre, to cite one recent example, conservatives spewed anti-Muslim invective to the point that ordinary American Muslims were afraid to leave home. Donald Trump implied that Muslims, broadly, know when a fellow believer is going to shoot up a nightclub or government office but fail to act (as if gun-loving men, broadly, know when one of their fellows is going to shoot up a political rally or Black church or abortion clinic). From their corner, liberals denied that Allah-blessed homophobia, or Islam’s concept of martyrdom, or the rallying cries of Jihadis might inspire a self-loathing, bipolar believer to redeem his soul through mass murder. Staff for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch actually edited the shooter’s words of Islamic fidelity out of audio recordings for fear of inciting racist reprisals. In the weeks that followed, as men claiming …