Reflecting on Black History Month, it’s important to look at the education aspect of the events and why we should all be celebrating.
While education is important, we also need to be cognizant of how we’re educating and who we’re asking to educate.
Many times, people from minority groups share their experiences to help others understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. I do think personal accounts are sometimes the best way to learn, but not at the expense of someone else.
If you’ve suffered from a racial attack it’s probably affected you in multiple ways. People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder from events like this and when they recount their stories it can be triggering.
Imagine you’re the only African American student in a class that’s talking about segregation in the United States. Students keep looking at you, expecting you to speak up and recount a story of when you’ve faced discrimination.
Think back to a time where something traumatic happened to you and then having to retell that experience to a class full of people couldn’t possibly understand what you had to go through.
While racial discrimination can vary from simply getting dirty looks to physical violence, it doesn’t mean that we should expect people to tell us their stories so we can learn.
It’s tiring to constantly explain to people that certain phrases and behavior are offensive and racist and it can’t be easy to have that expectation on you to educate others about your culture.
As a white person, those comments don’t affect me the same way it affects other communities. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be complicit and let others think that behavior is acceptable.
It’s also ridiculous to expect people to try and continue to teach others when they’re blatantly ignored. You’d listen the first time if you actually cared.
Being an ally for these communities is important. And while a lot of the time being an ally is shutting up and listening to the people you’re advocating for, it’s also representing them in spaces where they’re not.
Call out your friends for their racist jokes or beliefs. It’s not always easy but you should confront your homophobic family members. Ask why others think it’s okay to say “women belong in the kitchen.”
Allies and advocates can also be educators, but should never speak over others. Ask how you can help and don’t expect a “thank you” from people; just do it because it’s the right thing to do.