OPINION: Wanna be woke? Stop asking your friends
Net neutrality, a principle which ensures that internet service providers can't set their own prices — which would increase their control over internet use or access — is a major topic in the news right now. Major technology companies like Google are in opposition to a proposal which would remove the current regulations that protect net neutrality.
Everyone wants to be woke – so this is why utilizing Google before your peers is key to your self-serving venture toward allyship.
“[People of color] are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions.” – Audre Lorde
Many argue cross-cultural exchanges and transracial learning are what keep the peace and understanding across communities. The issue with this concept is that the same groups of people are educating and the remaining are expected to be babied by their ignorance. In the same way those that experience other-isms based on their sexuality, gender, race, disability, background, religion, etc. have vastly different life experiences than others, the remaining groups that have thrived in their “normality” are, and always will be, confined in their bubble of privilege.
This raises the question: How does one who benefits from any said privilege educate themselves on the experiences of others? How does one properly come to understand the varying perspectives of their peers without infringing on others’ wellbeing and boundaries? The answers said individual is looking for dwell in a place of self-initiative and apprehension of opposing thresholds.
For example, it is not a POC’s responsibility to explicate their traumatic experiences with racism in order to feed into their white counterparts’ “critical thinking of race.” It is from a place of privilege white people are able to use critical thinking as a way into the race conversation without the analyzation of their own privilege. One who is not a person of color cannot completely remove themselves from a realm of privilege within said conversation solely on the basis of inquisition. This isn’t algebra – asking to join the rapport on the premise of “if you don’t teach me how shall I ever learn?” doesn’t PEMDAS your privilege out of the equation. The answer is not “You’ll never learn, then!” Rather, it is a sign to utilize the many other resources available to you before asking for allyship as a result of curiosity. What you are actually asking for is the performance of free emotional and mental labor.
It is important to keep in mind that, no matter the domain of privilege one may reside in, said privilege does not necessitate conscious participation in order for the benefits to continue perpetuating. So how can one work toward dismantling the layers of privilege that constantly bury marginalized communities? Education – but not without action. A person cannot become a self-proclaimed ally, that is a title that must be earned and honored without irony.
There are plenty of people that have put out bodies of work, across all mediums, in which their sole intention is to share personal stories and educate those who have not and cannot directly encounter them. As a student, utilize your academic assets. If you are not enrolled in a gender studies class, for example, reach out to faculty that can connect you to the content appropriate to your queries. Read a book, watch a documentary, go to a seminar, listen to a podcast – seek out information on your own before turning to your peers for information that may be ill-stated with underlying tones of ableism, homophobia and so on. It is not enough to want to learn if your first step is asking for education rather than pursuing investigation fueled by your own energy.
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