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Behind the scenes: Coming to terms with White fragility & privilege (#2)

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Amy Hageman
November 10, 2023
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Struggling with how to respond to White fragility & privilege? Amy Hageman’s post will help you understand what happens behind the scenes & what works.

Today we have a special guest blog by Amy Hageman. Amy is an associate of Leading Consciously. Her mother Stephanie Foy has been Senior Partner with Leading Consciously since its inception. Three years ago, Amy joined as an associate.

I have known Amy since she was four. It has been a sheer pleasure to watch her grow up and become the wonderful, courageous, sensitive young woman and professional she is now.

Amy earned a Masters in Positive Organizational Development (MPOD) from Case Western Reserve in 2014. She is happily married and they have two small children.


George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, prompting national and international outrage and protests for reform of the police.

On May 30, Amy posted about it on her Facebook page, commenting:

I’ve seen many Facebook friends posting about white privilege and racism in America, friends who have not posted after previous deaths (Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin... and the list goes on). I’m encouraged that more people are posting. I hope this is a sign of a new level of understanding and future action.

After a few more comments, she added:

As this will be my only post on the matter - I also want to say thank you to everyone posting resources for talking to kids about racism. I’ve found them helpful already and am saving them for future use as well.

Shortly after, I came across the post. I read that paragraph several times, stewed on it for a while, and finally called her. I opened the conversation by reminding her we had a pledge that I would tell her if she ever did or said something racially offensive. This is why I was calling.

We talked for a while. I didn’t have to use the word privilege” with her. She understood immediately when I said my family, friends, and I don’t have the option to drop out of the conversation. Race is an everyday conversation for us because things are happening all the time to one of us.

The next day she posted this:

Amy Hageman's facebook post about why she will post for 30 days

Amy's post on acknowledging White fragility and privilege

She has kept her promise. Since the conversation Amy and I had was about White privilege, I decided to share her post on the topic. I think it’s terrific, and hope you will too.

30 Days of Dedication to Black People
Day 6 - Fragility & Privilege
Amy Foy Hageman

Dear Black & White friends -

I LOVE to be liked. I find great joy and comfort in thinking that someone likes me. But I have let my perceived opinion of others decide my behaviors for far too long. It's only in the last few years that I've started to get clear on whether or not I love and approve of myself.

So you can imagine that when I started this 30 days, I had some hesitation about being so public. What would people think about me? Would I make people uncomfortable? What if people didn't want to hang out with me any more?

I know this doesn't sound related to racism, but stick with me just a little bit longer.

I am a petite White woman. When people meet me, they have mostly positive assumptions. In fact, I would have to do something awkward or insensitive to mess up what someone probably thinks of me at first glance. In this society, it's easy for me to assume that I am going to be liked.

A petite Black woman with the same education, income, and family life would not have the same positive assumptions made about her. In many settings, she would have to work to create a positive interaction by smiling more, using the other person's name, and intentionally changing her posture to be more approachable. Only then is it possible someone's preset assumptions (dare I say stereotypes?) would ease.

We don't start with a clean slate. We start with a slate full of other people's stereotypes about us.

People assume they are going to like me and that I am a model citizen. I get the job interviews I want. I feel safe interacting with government employees of all varieties. I am never assumed to be stealing when I am browsing through a store.

This is my White privilege.

Being overly concerned about what others may think of me when I'm trying to speak out for Human Rights online?

This is my White fragility.

I want to share with all of you, my Black and White friends - I am doing what I can to work on myself. I hope that by sharing I can help others as well.

This process has been both devastating and thrilling. I am learning just how much I've held myself back by staying stuck in my fragility. I am learning that I AM capable of discussing "taboo" or "sensitive" topics - and that my choosing not to do so more often has only prevented other people from having the opportunity to grow. I am learning that it is so much more fun to try and fail - even online - than to not try at all. I am learning that White people do want to do the work, and they appreciate having support. I am learning that there is much Love here for us, even at this time in this country. I can only imagine the Love I will find by the end of these 30 days. I can feel it calling me through this journey.

It's impossible to reckon with all of my privilege and fragility. It's so baked into every experience, every interaction. But I'm gonna try my best to do it anyway.

I cannot give back my privilege. I am learning to embrace it in a way that fits my belief system and moral compass.

I cannot erase my fragility from my being. I am actively gaining strength in the areas of my weakness. I am bravely looking for more areas to be healed.

And, I am finding more Love for myself and others throughout the journey.

Whoever you are, whatever your life experience - I love you.

Let's all get a little joy and comfort out of knowing that there are people doing their work.

Have a beautiful weekend everyone.

Thank you, Amy.

Lessons learned from today's post:

  • It’s easy to be unaware when you are acting out of your privilege. Amy has worked conscientiously all of her life to be aware of instances of privilege, yet was unaware when she fell into it.
  • If Amy and I hadn’t had the pledge that I would call her if she made a mistake, might I have told her? If she had said something like this in one of our work engagements, yes I would have. But this was different. It happened on her Facebook page. So probably I wouldn’t have said anything. I could use up a lot of time telling people about their blind spots. If you want someone to be honest with you, you have to gain that specific agreement.
  • Making a mistake doesn’t mean it’s irrevocable. Amy sought redemption for herself by pledging to write for 30 days about race. I, for one, appreciate it. Based on the comments she is getting for her posts, others are too.
  • If we are willing to learn and grow from mistakes, we may elevate ourselves and our causes far beyond expectations. Amy is having a more significant positive impact than she might have ever imagined.

Leading Consciously concepts and skills
covered in this blog post:

  • Commit to see if you are making cultural assumptions
  • Recognize that you have blind spots
  • Accept responsibility for your contribution
  • Adopt a learning orientation
  • Seek to understand others' perspectives
  • Surface undiscussables
  • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics

#ChangeStartsWithMe      #DiversityEquityandInclusion         #GeorgeFloyd   #BlackLivesMatter     #Freedom     #MakingaDifference     #BridgingDifferences    #FollowMe 

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Leading Consciously

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.  

It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.

Let’s start a conversation. Email us at jeanLC@leadingconsciously.com