[The following post is an interview with Kate Aly-Brady, Daniel Budiansky, Adam Lioz, and Rupa Mitra by Stephanie Jenkins about their article, “White Phragility.” The interview is part of an AMA series celebrating the publication of the “Phish and Philosophy” special issue of the Public Philosophy Journal (edited by Stephanie Jenkins and Charlie Dirksen). Kate, Daniel, Adam, and Rupa will also be answering your questions in the Comments throughout the week. Please note that the opinions expressed in blog posts on this site are not necessarily endorsed or shared by any of the volunteers who run Phish.net or The Mockingbird Foundation. This site and this blog rely entirely on the work of volunteers. -Ed.]
Tell us about yourselves? Who are you? When were your first shows? Why do you come back?
RM: My name is Rupa Mitra, and I was born in the US to parents of Bengali ethnic heritage. I grew up in the Northeast of the US but lived a third of my adult life abroad (mainly France and Tanzania). I’m a labor/human resources lawyer. My first show was in 2011. I had to take a hiatus when I gave birth as a solo parent in 2019 but hope to be bringing my little one to shows before long! Nothing can compare to the exuberance of a Phish show.
KAB: My name is Kate Aly-Brady, and I am a cisgender white female who grew up on the East Coast. I moved to the Pacific Northwest after college, and have been a special education teacher ever since. My first shows were in 1998, and I keep coming back because the music, the people, the energy are like home. I’m a part of Phans for Racial Equity (PHRE) because I want everyone to have the chance to feel at home there, too.
ARL: My name’s Adam Lioz and I’m a secular Jewish kid from Long Island who grew up seeing the Dead at Nassau Coliseum, MSG, and Giant’s stadium in the 90s. For my day job I work to promote inclusive, multiracial democracy (fighting to expand voting rights) as a lawyer and advocate. I saw a few shows in 1.0 and 2.0 (including Coventry), but I really got hooked in 2009 when I went to the Gorge and Festival 8. I keep coming back for the music, the community, and that decent chance each night to experience some pure joy and collective ecstatic release. I sometimes think these four guys run the most efficient joy factory I’ve ever seen.
DB: My name is Daniel Budiansky (.net: @climber17). I am a cisgender white male who grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia during the 80s. While my first show was 4/20/94, it wasn’t until my second show, when they played University Hall (at UVa, where I was a student) in late fall ‘94 that I “got IT”, during the first set "Maze"…it’s been a long, strange trip ever since. A Phish show will forever be my “home away from home.”
Why did you decide to write this essay? What do you want your readers to take away from it?
ARL: The essay is based on the online reactions to the "Phish Scene So White: Let’s Talk" blog post I wrote in 2017. To be honest I was pretty surprised and a bit taken back by the response – first that it went so viral, with thousands of comments, and then by the vitriol it inspired, both through those comments and through some pretty harsh direct messages to me. Of course, people looked me up and called me a tarper and that was fine, but I really didn’t anticipate how upset people got. But when I started to look at the response through the lens of DiAngelo’s white fragility framework it started to make a lot more sense. A big reason people were so angry and defensive is that we see ourselves as an inclusive, welcoming scene and my essay was a threat to that self-image. Once we started looking at the comments with DiAngelo’s lens it was pretty easy to start seeing a lot of the comments as examples of one or more of the elements of defensiveness and fragility.
Our goal was to encourage people to examine our scene a bit more closely and critically and think about whether we’re quite as inclusive as we think, and whether the kind of defensiveness that is the hallmark of white fragility might be a particular challenge for us moving forward. We also think we hit a neat extension of D’Angelo’s theory by distinguishing between “pillars” of white fragility (which are the false beliefs about race that lead to the fragility) and “manifestations” (which are the various ways that the resulting defensiveness plays out).
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