Thursday, January 10, 2019

White Fragility - Pre-contemplation: the first stage of change

"In the early days of my work as what was termed a diversity trainer, I was taken aback by how angry and defensive so many white people became a the suggestion that they were connected to racism in any way. The very idea that they would be required to attend a workshop on racism outraged them."
P.2 White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

This behavior is symptomatic of what Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente call the  "pre-contemplative stage" of their model of change. This pre-contemplation stage is characterized by denial and resistance. The person denies that there is a problem even when there is evidence to the contrary and often becomes defensive with a "the heck with you" attitude. The person has never "contemplated" before that there might be a problem. Thus they are in the "pre-contemplation" stage.

The symptoms of denial, ignorance, and resistance, especially when accompanied by defensiveness and attack, are part of the syndrome which Robin Diangelo has named "White Fragility."



Once an assessment of where the person, or people, are in the stages of change model is made, this assessment is informative of the kind of change efforts that can be helpful.

The main change efforts for people in the pre-contemplation stage are "consciousness raising" in which manifestations of the problem and consequences of the problem are described and brought to the the person (group's) attention. 

This consciousness raising involves  at least four steps: describing the dysfunctional practices, describing the negative consequences of these practices, asking participants in these practices, whether knowing or unknowing, to take responsibility for participating in these practices, and offering hope of improvement in diminishing or eliminating the dysfunctional practices and their negative consequences to improve more optimal functioning.

The results hoped for in working with people at the pre-contemplation stage is that they will move to "contemplation" which is a willingness to learn more, reflect, and consider. People in the contemplation, when asked if there is a problem, will say instead of "the heck with you", "maybe there is a problem and maybe there isn't, but I'm open to learning more."

As this point, further trainings can be voluntarily provided instead of mandated.



To be continued

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