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White Fragility: Book Discussion Series

Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility - Spring 2019 Library Book Discussion, sponsored by ISU Library



Discussion Ground Rules


We will use the Ground Rules below for our discussion group.  Each session will be a facilitated discussion of selected chapters, led by a member of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. Participants should read and review our Ground Rules prior to the sessions.

Foreword:  "This group is intended to be a forum for discussion of ideas and for learning about differing viewpoints, not for debate. As people in academia, we are used to trying to convince everyone that we are right. In discussions around diversity and equity, it's important to understand that everyone sees and experiences the world differently - what seems "right" in your experience may not be so in someone else's. Everyone is asked to consider different perspectives, for the purpose of sensitivity, learning, and growth. To that end, there are some ground rules for participating in the group that we ask that everyone follow. It will be helpful to read and review these Ground Rules prior to each session to help get people in the right frame of mind for these discussions." (1)

We will modify these as a group to meet DEI needs.

  • Recognize: We recognize that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases, such as racism and sexism, in our society.
  • Acknowledge: We acknowledge that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group(s) and about members of other groups. This is true for everyone, regardless of our group(s).
  • No Blame: We agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned, but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.
  • Trust: Everyone has come to the table to learn, grow, and share. We acknowledge that we may be at different stages of learning on the content and discussion topics. We will trust that people will do the best they can. We all make mistakes and have bad days; when these occur, let's challenge and encourage each other to do better. 
  • Respect: We agree to treat other participants' reflections and questions with respect. We acknowledge once again that we may be at different stages of learning on the topic. However, this does not mean we should ignore problematic statements. See information here on calling in and calling out. Both approaches are valid and can be done with care and respect, with the goal of helping each other learn. 
  • Individual Experience: We agree that no one should be required or expected to speak for their whole race or gender. We can't, even if we wanted to.
  • Share the Air: Share responsibility for including all voices in the discussion. If you have a tendency to dominate discussions, take a step back and help the group invite others to speak. If you tend to stay quiet, challenge yourself to share ideas so others can learn from you. If you are exceedingly quiet, do expect that the facilitator will call on you in meetings to participate.
  • Not Experts: The facilitators are not "experts." They are here to help facilitate the process. They and everyone in the group are here to learn. We also recognize that everyone has an opinion. Opinions, however, are not the same as informed knowledge backed up by research. Depending on the topic and context, both are valid to share but it's important to know the difference. To engage in deep learning, we will want to lean more toward informed knowledge and gain practice reflecting and speaking thoughtfully on difficult topics.
  • Ask for help: It's okay not to know. Keep in mind that we are all still learning and are bound to make mistakes when approaching a complex task or exploring new ideas. Be open to changing your mind, and make space for others to do so as well. 

(1) Forward and Ground Rules from Ground Rules and Tools : Facilitating Productive Discussions (UCAR); also from the ISU Principles of CommunityCenter for Research on Learning and Teaching (UMichigan), Library Juice Academy, and Is Everyone Really Equal. These Ground Rules are not static and continue to be refined over time particularly as we seek to decenter expectations of "comfort" and silence as strategies for non-engagement.