White Privilege vs. White Invisibility and the Creation of White Fragility: How Social Normativity Negatively Impacts White Health
Champion, Sharon Zipporah
Despite public health interventions, racial health disparities have proven very difficult to eliminate, particularly between Blacks and Whites. Each racial category carries its own health burden but most approaches use White people and their “Whiteness” as normative health entities to contrast the wellbeing of a racial minority. The literature describes a “white privilege” carried by these individuals, benefiting them and their progeny socially, economically, politically, physically, and so on, giving an invisibility to move throughout life “unmarked” by a racial category. However, this socialized invisibility can both prevent White individuals from being “seen” in conditions that benefit or disenfranchise them, and socially render them fragile (“white fragility”) from understanding and adequately responding to important health decisions. Explored are the social reactions to the “welfare queen”, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and nationwide responses to the U.S. heroin epidemic to assert that this “white fragility” is detrimental to white health individually and as a group. The de-centering, problematizing, and direct addressing of the health impact “Whiteness” has on White bodies is expected to assist advancements in closing racial health gaps to benefit both Blacks and Whites.