Ever since President Donald Trump’s inauguration last week, my Facebook feed has been filled with post after post about our new president, various social justice marches and politics in general. I’ve read multiple comment threads on my friends’ posts and watched debates and arguments unfold on my computer screen.
Though I am not happy with this election in any way, I am glad that more people are engaging in political discussions. But let’s make one thing clear: In order to engage in conversations about human rights and politics, you must be willing to do your own research and recognize your own privilege. You cannot rely on other people to educate you.
Amid all of these conversations I’ve read on social media, I’ve witnessed so many people in privileged positions asking their marginalized friends questions about oppression or the election. They comment saying “Well, why is that so offensive?” or “How do you feel about this thing Trump said?” Or, my personal favorite, any variation of, “Should we really hold these privileged people accountable?”
I’ve seen white fragility and white guilt as people try to defend their privilege. I’ve watched as my Facebook friends get angry when they get called out for their ignorance.
I’m happy people are trying to gain a better understanding of these issues, but marginalized groups are not under any obligation to educate you. They are also not obligated to hold your hand through your learning process.
The fact that you may not have to think about this kind of oppression or these issues on a daily basis shows the privileged position you are in. Marginalized groups don’t need to be taught about oppression — they live it.
We must stop demanding emotional and mental labor from those of us who are already dedicating our time and energy to simply survive. If you care about an issue and want to be a better ally, go and educate yourself on the issue or community you support. Use your resources and take initiative. And most importantly, be willing to recognize your own position of privilege.
As Audre Lorde once said, “Whenever the need for some pretense of communication arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to share our knowledge with them. In other words, it is the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes. ... Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions.”
If you are privileged in any way, you must take ownership of the fact that you may belong to a group that has contributed to the systemic oppression of other groups. No one is blaming you for anything, but you must be held accountable. If this bothers you and you want to learn more about it, the answer is simple: Do your research.
In this digital and social age, most privileged people in the United States have some sort of access to a computer or smartphone. Take the time out of your day to utilize Google or read academic journals. Educate yourself without relying on other people to do it for you. That is the only way to truly be an ally.