So yesterday, I talked a little bit about the things going on at Duke, and I ended it by saying that students of color don’t owe it to anyone to teach others who are culturally and racially unaware. But in the day and age of the internet and expanding information, what exactly what does this mean? Just how much should we give, and how much is too much?
Let me premise this by stating, and understanding: I do not know everything there is to know about what I write about. Including myself. And not to be philosophical, but I probably won’t get to a point where I will understand anything completely. But when I talk about race things that relate to race, I am educating myself. That’s why I created this blog. To document my education, and to share it with other people. This is like my academic diary; sometimes is makes me feel enlightened, other times, I feel like I’m carrying a gigantic load that will never be lifted. For better or worse, it’s me, and it motivates me to learn more, and to share more. But while I am on my journey, I face people all the time demanding that I take time and tell explain to them my sources and how it makes sense. While I do try and cite my sources when I can, a lot of this information is found in books in the library, online, or my personal experience. While it is simple to do a few searches online or physically at the library for books and articles, there are some things that aren’t available through those mediums.
My theory is that this is what white people demand that I teach them. Because I can bring the books and the articles to them and make them more accessible, but there is still so much that is demanded of me. Partly, I feel that it may be due to the inherent laziness that comes as a product of the modern education system, where people are used to having a teacher tell them everything they need to know, and for their job to be nothing else other than memorizing information and regurgitating it upon demand. This is the issue that we have today. We have people who are educated in the sense that they are able spit out information, whether its true or not. While this is good for standardized testing, it does nothing for actually retaining information that you will need later in life in order to socialize or get around in life without being insensitive. I can’t speak about other countries, but the U.S. is one of those places where we pride ourselves being so worldly and aware. But the sad thing is that many Americans are completely unaware of other cultures and history. The continental U.S. is smack dab in the middle of Canada and Mexico, yet the most students learn of these places are Canadian bacon and somberos. we lack the cultural knowledge that other countries gain when going through their education, yet we insist that we know it all.
Another aspect of this is that the education system was built with white people in mind, not those of color. There used to be so many universities and educations from empires cultivated by Asians, by Arabs, by Africans, and more. The golden age of many of these eastern countries was what helped out Europe, yet the modern education is designed to cater to those who fit into the sphere of whiteness. There have been new studies coming out that find that students of color learn differently than white students, making the American system so one sided. So unconsciously, white students have become accustomed to having the upper hand in academia. This makes it difficult to accept that there are some things that they won’t be able to know first hand, and must rely on the Othered to tell it to them.
So where is it that we can expect people to take responsibility? Most people cling to the innocence that younger people naturally hold, and it should be savored, as that is the only time they are going to be granted so much time to learn and grow on their own. But once we begin having discussions about preparing these kids for the real word, we must now start preparing them in other ways. If we were to have a more inclusive education system, that would eliminate blatant aggressions to those who are Othered.
Teaching others about things you can’t learn is school is a very tricky task. As human beings, we must understand that because not everyone comes from the same background, not everyone has the same education. Therefore, open discussions are welcome amongst diverse groups, in hopes of bringing different perspectives to light. However, it becomes harmful when in an open discussion, the Othered much teach their oppressors. This is a very blatant display of white privilege. This benefits the oppressors at the expense of the Othered. In order to have a healthy dialogue, you cannot expect people to reopen the wounds of their experiences so that the oppressors have more understanding. This leads to the conclusion that no matter how hard we try, oppressors are never going to be able to empathize completely with those who are Othered.
When having discussions about race and culture and how it affects our lives, it is everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to be aware of what goes on. Those people of color who do speak up do not simply come with their own personal experience, though they could and their points would still be valid. We go and we read, we throw ourselves into both sides of the conversation, in order to gain a holistic viewpoint. I can’t speak for other people, I don’t go in hoping to find the worst. I go in hoping to find an explanation for why things are the way they are. No one wakes up wanting to be oppressed. Those who are oppressed go through life every day facing things that those who fit into the sphere of whiteness do not because they have that privilege. But instead of it being a blame thing, it becomes a responsibility. Sure, I know that your family doesn’t own slaves now, and some didn’t own slaves back then. But it is because you are born with white skin that you benefit from the effects of slavery regardless. I’m not asking you to hate yourself or your culture, but to come to the table and understand that we all play a role in this, not just the oppressed. The oppressed aren’t going to be able to come up with a solution to all these issues by themselves, because they weren’t the creators of it. They play a part of it, but it is also up to the creators to have this dialogue and come together so that we actually can process this brutal history and be able to move on.