12 Days of Watchmas — Day 10 #WeSeeYou

The Strain: White Fragility

Presumably they’ve hired you for your artistic point of view; the beautiful execution of your work; your expertise; your knowledge; your history. Qualities that in any other circumstance would command respect, equality, dare I say a due deference that requires a shift in the power structure. However, in this case the shift is complicated by one thing: your skin tone. You speak with certainty. This makes them uncomfortable. (It only takes one.) Your presumption of equity has disrupted their ecosystem. Whether panicked or premeditated, there’s a violent response to the space you take up. In this moment of prioritizing their feelings aka their dissatisfaction with the shift, a swelled tear or a quivering voice erupts. Somehow, you are the problem. The reason for the spike in their temperature. The reason for their White Tears (*see White Fragility).

Instead of taking a Tylenol and a moment of self-reflection, they insist it was your tone; your look; your silence; something you said; your lack of ability to hear what they were trying to say; your ungrateful attitude; your misinterpretation of what you see.
And just like that, your work, your voice is erased. Muted by their “fragility”, their discomfort brought on by the inherent impulse to preserve a culture of White Superiority. Your feelings go unheard, unmentioned, even, and their displaced anxiety builds heavy on your chest until you take responsibility for their feelings, make yourself small, and restore the (un)balance.

…Absolutely Not.

This tantrum-like behavior is borne not out of fear and frailty but out of the need to control.
It is dangerous.
It is violent.
It perpetuates White Supremacist views.

I encourage you to take yourself out of this equation, drop the weight, and leave them to bear their own burdens. Yes, the eruption of White Fragility usually occurs in reaction to your presence, but You Are Not The Problem. Your presence simply exposes a pre-existing condition. The spike in temperature comes not from your presence but from their resistance to fully embrace it. And guess what, Love? Those tears that come with the realization that they have work to do are not yours.
They are not your responsibility.
They Are Not Your Problem!

You have the right to speak to instances of racial inequality, communicate your needs (insert Demands here), and then ask “so what is your action plan?”
You have the right to Lead and Shine and Prosper.
And once they’ve exhausted themselves with distracting language about your tone and their fear, you have the right to take a deep breath and say, “… I think we’ve lost track of the point here, and I’d like to get back to the problem at hand.”
You have the right to hold that space and move forward with your work.
No Distractions.
No Pimping. (*see Day 3)

Keep speaking truth to light, taking up space, and sharing the brilliance of your creative soul through your work.
Without apology.

And the next time they try to crush you under the weight of their discontent,
hand them a Tylenol and a looking glass and tell them they’re on their own.

We are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We are theatremakers. We demand a just and equitable American Theatre. Join us at WeSeeYouWAT.com