White Fragility: A 2-Part Performance Workshop

February 20+21, 2017
The Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.
with Hariprasad Kowtha,
Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
and Natasha Cohen-Carroll
*Follow-up showing on April 3
at FringeArts • 140 N. Columbus
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.” 

     —Robin DiAngelo

For two evenings in February 2017 two dozen people joined Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed's first public workshop on White Fragility. In part one, popular education and theatre games built group solidarity before chipping away at the iceberg of whiteness—that which we see manifests as white fragility, white beneath the surface lie dense systems of white supremacy. We shared Robin DiAngelo's definition (above) before unpacking ten manifestations of white fragility through discussion and Image Theatre:


  1. White Objectivity: Belief suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint is objective; that it does not come from a racialized frame of reference
  2. White Racial Comfort/White Racial Expectations: Expectation that People of Color protect white racial perspectives/white racial feelings
  3. White Racial Codes: Belief that People of Color may not talk directly about their racial perspective; they may only talk about it vis-a-vis whiteness
  4. White Solidarity: Belief and Experience that fellow whites will agree to one’s racial perspective and racialized interpretations.
  5. White Appropriation and Colonialism: Belief that People of Color will tell whites their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences when asked. 
  6. White Liberalism: Inability for whites to receive feedback that their well-intentioned behavior had a racist impact.
  7. Individualism: Belief that white people do not belong to a racial group
  8. Meritocracy: Belief that hard work alone is responsible for one’s success or one’s wealth and that racial inequality can be overcome through hard work. 
  9. White Authority: Belief that whites alone should occupy positions of leadership
  10. White Centrality: Belief that stories are automatically about white characters when characters’ skin color is not mentioned and People of Color play stereotypical roles within these stories, but do not drive the action

In part two we flipped over the coin of white fragility to unpack forms of internalized oppression that sometimes uphold white supremacy. We used this working definition:
  • Internalized Racism: The conscious or unconscious assimilation of racist attitudes or beliefs by people in the subordinate or dominant group towards members of their own ethnic group, including themselves. This can include the belief in ethnic stereotypes relating to their own group.
The group then created the beginnings of little vignettes that made the invisible visible (and sometimes even comical) as tools for interrupting and dismantling racism. T.O. Philly will be condensing these into a short overview of things generated from this workshop as part of Scratch Night on April 3 at FringeArts, 140 Columbus Boulevard. This event is free. See FringeArts' website for more info.

White Fragility is an ideal companion to our Unpacking Race series, both for people who will be joining T.O. Philly for Unpacking Race in March, as well as those who have Unpacked Race with us in the past. Part of our White Fragility workshop was filmed to document the ongoing work of Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed. 

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