Technology is often touted as a great equalizer.
It is supposed to help us bridge the gaps between cultures, races, and sexes. However, in many ways, technology has actually had the opposite effect. It has helped to perpetuate white fragility and the systems that support it.
White fragility is a term that was coined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. It refers to the ways that white people protect their racial status and privilege by reacting defensively to any suggestion of wrongdoing. This can include anything from making assumptions about race or intelligence to calling the police on people of color for no reason.
Technology has played a big role in facilitating white fragility. It allows people to stay in their own bubbles, where they never have to encounter perspectives that challenge their own views. It also gives them a false sense of security, making them feel like they are never wrong and that they can say whatever they want without consequence.
We need to be aware of how technology perpetuates white fragility and work to dismantle the systems that support it.
Defining White Fragility and Its Role in Technology
White fragility is a term that was coined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo in her book of the same name.
White fragility is a defensive response to any challenge to white supremacy. It can be exhibited in a number of ways, including anger, silence, or withdrawal.
Technology has played a role in facilitating and perpetuating white fragility. Email, for example, allows people to remain silent and avoid uncomfortable conversations. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow people to share their opinions without ever having to meet or speak with the people they are criticizing.
Technology has also allowed people to build echo chambers, where they only hear opinions that confirm their own beliefs. This furthers the divide between people and makes it harder for them to have productive conversations about race.
The Effects of Technology on Cultural Dynamics & Diversity
Technology has a profound effect on the way we process information and form relationships.
For people of color, technology often reinforces the idea that we are inferior. We are constantly bombarded with images and stories that depict us as stereotypes: the welfare queen, the angry black woman, the tech-illiterate minority.
Technology also allows people to isolate themselves from cultures that are different from their own. We can now find information about any topic with a few clicks of the mouse, and so there is less need to interact with people who are different from us. This leads to a greater sense of isolation and ignorance.
As a person of color, I have experienced first-hand how technology can perpetuate white fragility. It is essential that we examine how technology affects our cultural dynamics and diversity, so that we can work towards a more equitable society.
The Impact of Technology on Emotional & Mental Wellbeing
Technology has a profound impact on our emotional and mental wellbeing.
We are constantly bombarded with images and messages that are designed to make us feel insecure about ourselves. We are made to feel that we need to buy the latest product or have the perfect body. We are constantly told that we are not good enough.
This has a profound impact on our mental health. We start to doubt ourselves and our ability to make decisions. We become overwhelmed by the amount of choice we have and we don’t know which way to turn. We become bogged down by the constant noise of the internet and we can’t find peace or solace.
The impact of technology on our mental health is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
How White Fragility Impacts Digital Experiences & Content Consumption
As a UX designer and content creator, this issue is especially close to my heart. I have seen first-hand how the design of digital products and services can inadvertently perpetuate white fragility.
The language used in onboarding and user experiences, default images, and even where resources are placed on pages can all be used to exclude or silence people of color and other marginalized communities. Content creators must be aware of their own biases and seek to include diverse voices in the conversation.
By recognizing our own blind spots and making sure we are actively including different points of view in our projects, we can create more inclusive digital experiences that better represent everyone.
Examining Unconscious Bias in Technology Design & Development
As technologists, it is important to explore the impact that unconscious bias can have on technology. Technology and applications are largely designed and developed by white people who may be unaware of their biases and how they manifest in the software they create. It is not enough to just add more diversity to the design process, as these biases are often deeply embedded in the culture.
If designers are not aware of their own implicit biases, they can unintentionally manifest these beliefs into digital products. This can have an even larger impact if these biases are that of a majority group such as whites – their perspectives will be accepted by default because of their prevalence in the design process.
The key to combatting this problem is to first recognize biases and then work consciously to create products that resist those unconscious tendencies.
Strategies for Overcoming White Fragility in Tech Environments
White people in tech environment, have a responsibility to acknowledge and challenge their own white fragility as well as the white fragility of those around them. This is NOT the role of Black co-workers. In order to successfully do this, white people have to adopt certain strategies.
First, they have become comfortable with being uncomfortable. White people must open themselves up to criticism and understand that it is essential to honest discourse. Secondly, they must accept that their experiences are not the only valid one and there are many perspectives to consider when developing a design or product.
Lastly, don’t settle or compromise based on what is convenient or expected; rather, strive for understanding and creating products that are equitable for all users. These strategies can be immensely helpful in confronting and overcoming their own white fragility as well as the white fragility of others around them.