Mass murder, genocide, racism, sexism
There’s a massive hole in our formal education. Of all the things we learn about in school, racism is loudly absent from the curricula. Yet it’s everywhere in society. Why don’t we learn about it in the classroom? Everyone is living with it, either benefiting from it or being restrained by it.
Talking about racism as WP is uniquely challenging. We can never speak from a place of experience. This is not to say that we want to. Simply to point out that our perspective will always be limited.
At the same time, WP new to discussions about racism tend to listen to other WP. It would be ideal if they would turn to BIPOC voice but this seems to only happen after they have some degree of familiarity with the subject.
As a result, I feel it’s necessary to offer this piece of advice to my fellow WP. When a BIPOC calls out something negative that WP do or say, listen. Don’t pipe up and announce that you’re the exception. No one cares. Resist the urge for approval.
You’re not the center of the issue. You’re irrelevant. The point of the comment was to draw attention to how we WP can do better and be better. Not what we’re already getting right.
Making responses like these simple serves to derail the discussion as you’ve now abruptly shifted focus to yourself.
Instead, listen and take notes. Remember, you’re an advocate for equality. How are you going to advocate if you don’t ever hear the marginalized group’s perspective on the issue?
We’re unable to take accountability if we refuse to listen to the part we play in the issue. Consequently, we will remain uneducated on ways in which we can solve the problem.
I was once of the impression that because we cover topics like First Nations history and the Civil Rights Movement in school, we have a whole and complete picture of our history. Many of my fellow WP are under the same impression.
Why is it that American schools (Canadian schools as well) are failing to educate their citizens on their own history? Why is the full and complete American (or Canadian) history never disclosed?
You’d argue that there’s a class -or several- dedicated to topics involving BIPOC history and racism. Topics that are as diverse as slavery, Residential schools, and the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not disputing that the content is covered.
The *way* it’s taught is exactly the problem. It’s taught…as if it’s an entirely separate history. And typically it’s also presented in a whitewashed way.
As if some other group of WP caused this shameful history of oppression and not our ancestors. We distance ourselves from it. Instead, we should be holding it close and examining what we did wrong, so we can grow and be better. Why is it a course?
Doesn’t that seem wrong? And as the genocide of North American Indigenous Peoples is the largest historical genocide, shouldn’t it dominate history discussions about the subject? Why is it not woven into history classes so it doesn’t stand out on a syllabus?
Our mistake is in thinking a class or a course about racism is enough of an education on the subject. We know nothing of this history because it’s not treated as part of OUR history. That’s the precise problem.
In school I never really liked learning and I hated taking tests. Perhaps structured learning didn’t suit me. Maybe the content didn’t pique my interests. Who knows.
What I do know is that since I began learning about intersectional feminist issues, I love learning. I can read for hours and focus like I never could in school. Aside from the obvious differences, one thing that keeps coming up for me is all that I wasn’t taught in school.
Think about how we catalog have designated only one month to Black history. Only one month in the entire year is it normalized to celebrate the achievements of Black people and educate ourselves about Black history.
Why is Black history not woven into history classes so it doesn’t stand out on a syllabus? Why is Black history separate? It is part of national history, it should be woven through all historical teachings.
Self directed learning
Our mistake is in thinking a class or a course is enough of an education on the subject. We know nothing of this history because it’s not treated as part of national history. Learning accurate history is a significant part of being an effective advocate for human rights.
How can you petition for change when you don’t know what you’re trying to change? More specifically, how can you petition when you don’t know the ways in which that change needs to happen?
We understand that privileged groups must grant the same rights to oppressed groups due to power dynamics. Think about this for a moment. If you were looking to obtain a right that someone else already had, how would you go about doing that? Naturally, you would need for them to grant you access to the same rights they already enjoy the benefits of.
For this reason, heterosexual, cis WP should be the focus of educational efforts around advocating for equality. This group holds a lot of control within the power dynamics of oppression. They also genuinely require the most education.
How do you learn about a group that you don’t belong to? The only way is through education because learning through experience isn’t an option.
Start the conversation
Take individuals like myself – white women. We WW intimately understand the oppression that women face because we experience it. But we do not intimately understand the specific oppression that women of color face. At least not under we start listening to WOC sharing their experiences.
But if we are of the opinion that it’s up to these WW to discover the issue for themselves. If we simply dig our heels in, we will forever struggle to find equality.
The Next Step
This effort rests largely with WP because as mentioned earlier, we’re the ones other WP will hear. What we should be doing in this particular example, is seeking out oblivious WW and letting them know of some of the issues exclusively WOC face.
Our job is to simply open the door. Like a host makes introductions and initiates conversation. So too should we be sparking the conversation in preparation to pass the floor over to BIPOC.
At that point, taking responsibility for education on the subject of racism lies solely with the WW. We should provide a list of activists of color for them to refer to and learn from. Along with other media, like books and TV shows created and developed by BIPOC that they can support.
It is up to each person to educate themselves. But that doesn’t mean the people who’ve already done the work shouldn’t make the path a little clearer for everyone who comes down it after them. It is our responsibility to open the eyes of others, just as someone did for us. Change is not possible otherwise.
I’d love to know…
Was your education on history involving BIPOC honest and accurate?
What you say to WP who are defensive?
Is there a particular part of history you want to be re-educated on?
Question of the Week
Should the internet be selectively censored?
Studies have proven that exposure to certain forms of online content leads to an increased likelihood to dehumanize a specific group of people or even commit violent acts against them. Two significant examples to point to are violent porn and hate crimes. What are your thoughts on online censorship for some types of content? Should censorship exist? If so, who controls it, and to what extent? Can we trust them to remain ethical with this control? If not, how do we justify the harm that comes to people as a result of a lack of censorship? Who would be most negatively impacted and why?
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