Ames Public Library to hold panel discussion on white fragility

Mike Brown

Members of the Iowa State and Ames community will have space for a discussion surrounding the topic of white fragility on Sunday.

The event will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium of the Ames Public Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Panelists will answer questions centering around the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

DiAngelo coined the term white fragility in 2011, describing it as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves,” in a paper in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy.

The event’s panelists will feature a broad range of perspectives including experts, people who are interested in topics of race and ethnicity and members of the Ames community, which includes a student from Ames High school, said Susan Jasper, community engagement specialist with Iowa State University and the Ames Public Library.

Jasper said this talk framework has been done in the past to support high profile lectures happening at Iowa State, and this specific talk was set up to pair with DiAngelo’s lecture he will give at Iowa State.

“The concept of this talk series is that we bring together some specialists from the community to highlight the topic, encourage people to read the book, think about the topic and then, ultimately, attend the lecture,” Jasper said.

DiAngelo will lecture at Iowa State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Stephens Auditorium.

In addition to a panel discussion, attendees will be encouraged to engage in a community discussion. Attendees do not have to read the book to participate in group discussion, according to a press release from the Ames Public Library.

Jasper said she hopes those who attend the event are able to think of ideas to help make their communities more inclusive through the event.

Inclusive Ames member, Cheryl Binzen, said she is excited her organization is a co-sponsor for the event and the event aligns with the values of her organization.

“We’ve offered a variety of events, open to the public at the library that help us understand each other,” Binzen said.

Binzen said DiAngelo’s focus on how difficult it is for white people to talk about ethnicity and race is an important topic to understand and discuss which can further bring people of different ethnicities and races together.

Chair of the Ames Human Relations Commission Joel Hochstein will be the panel moderator on Sunday. Hochstein said that while many of his panel discussions will relate to DiAngelo’s book, audience members who may not have read it will still connect to the topics.

“What I tried to do was take pieces of the book that I thought folks would resonate with or that they could tie specifically to, maybe, an emotional reaction they had to get them thinking about race from a white person’s perspective,” Hochstein said.