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"It's not our job to educate"

This is based on a comment I made in a thread in rmjwell's journal here. The thread is about the idea "It's not our job to educate you about []ism."

My take is: Sure, I can choose to educate people. Sure, members of a group of people who are discriminated against can choose education as a way of getting more access to what they want. But people cannot require me/the group to do so.

Some people in the cultural mainstream or closer to centers of power take the attitude that whenever someone not in their group speaks up, that person *MUST* *JUSTIFY* their taking up public space; that person must take on all the work and all the responsibility for whether mainstream people are listening to them.

It can be a tactic for keeping people's ideas out of public discourse, insofar as they can just sit back and say "Yes, but" or "Sorry, I didn't like they way you put that" until the end of time.

If I want more power or access, ONE WAY is to try to educate people who have it to understand me better, so they'll decide I'm nice and give it to me. But it's not the only way, and I'm not required to go that route. There are other ways.

And in the situation where mainstream people are saying to a group farther away from the mainstream, "Why won't you join our movement?" and the group farther away from the mainstream is saying "Because you don't understand us," then it's DEFINITELY not the JOB of that group to educate the mainstream people. If they want to, then that's a good thing. But it's not their JOB.

I have no idea whether this is anyone else's take on the issue. It's my take on explaining to people how discriminiation and prejudice affect me as a member of some groups who are discriminated against. I do plenty of educating, but I resent the hell out of the attitude that I have to justify myself to people who have no interest in really hearing what I'm saying. I resent it so much that I would rather get far away from those people, and that means not spending energy on supporting whatever cause they would like me to support.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
sevoo
Sep. 12th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
[ Some people in the cultural mainstream or closer to centers of power take the attitude that whenever someone not in their group speaks up, that person *MUST* *JUSTIFY* their taking up public space; that person must take on all the work and all the responsibility for whether mainstream people are listening to them. ]

*swoon*
(Anonymous)
Sep. 12th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
If I want something from someone it is my responsibility to shift their thinking such that they will give me what I want. If there is something I want from a large group of people, it is still my responsibility to shift their point to view enough to give me what I want.

The reason is simple. Groups of people have cultural beliefs that exclude many identities and even more behaviors. It get something that isn't inside the cultural belief system requires a shift in the culture. Cultures tend to resist change.

The Reaction Principle posits that arguing for change elicits argument for the status quo. This is one reason direct, confrontational activism meets very, very strong resistance.

All that said, there are many ways to "educate." Some are effective in given situations and some are not. Most of the education strategies that activists use aren't effective. There is an attempt to replace one "truth" with another "truth." Better, I think, to just get an inquiry going on the original truth without suggesting an alternative.

It is only possible to educate the willing. Shifting a population from "There is no problem" to "Maybe something here needs to be looked at" is a daunting task and has few immediate rewards. There is almost never the thrill of victory, that's for sure.

Heavy handed activism sometimes has a place in shaking people up and getting a conversation going but rarely moves the conversation forward past the starting point.

I think you are dead right to resent the requirement to justify yourself to get a piece of the freedom pie. The other routes are much more difficult and harder to see, though. Most activists are looking for other routes. It's another place where a little education could be useful. :)

Love.
crazed_lynn
Sep. 12th, 2005 06:48 pm (UTC)
oops, I wasn't logged in. Sorry.
firecat
Sep. 12th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
If I want something from someone it is my responsibility to shift their thinking such that they will give me what I want.

Assuming the thing you want is actually theirs to give.
crazed_lynn
Sep. 12th, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. Trying to get something from someone who doesn't have it to give is generally a last cause. Something like getting human rights from a government. :)
firecat
Sep. 12th, 2005 07:50 pm (UTC)
Also, there are some things that a person or group has, but that are also available using other methods. In that case it might be an option to get that thing using the other methods, rather than trying to get the person or group to give you some of theirs.

Dumb example: I can either ask you for your glass of water, or I can go to the kitchen and get my own.
crazed_lynn
Sep. 12th, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC)
Which works very well -- and might even be preferable -- unless I'm trying to prevent you're having access to the water.
(Deleted comment)
roadnotes
Sep. 12th, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC)
You are my hero, at the moment. I am so damned tired of pointing out that not everyone is white and middle-class and male that I want to slap people who tell me that it's always my responsibility to explain, if I want to be a good citizen.
lysana
Sep. 12th, 2005 08:16 pm (UTC)
This. Yes. The reason I get so freaking annoyed by gay and lesbian groups not noting the existence of bisexuality. No, we are *not* assumed and no, we should *not* need to always have to remind you. If you want to look like an idiot, I say to that sort, feel free, but you will be called on it when you fail to admit the simple truth. And we should not have to keep poking you with sticks.
pir_anha
Sep. 13th, 2005 12:46 am (UTC)
Re: "It's not our job to educate"
hm. i am definitely with you on most of the statements, such as that i can get power some other way than asking people for it (which i don't find to be a really efficient way anyway, unless other decent avenues are blocked). i also don't think that minorities should have to justify their taking public space; that should be a given, and i get really irate when i see people in the mainstream walk all over that. i think this is a bug in democracies as we know them, that tyranny of the majority.

and i don't exactly feel it's my "job" to explain myself to people in the mainstream. but i do think that, if i am different, the responsibility to say so is mine, and the responsibility for educating is mine, and i actually like it that way -- who better to explain myself than me? i've rarely yet been happy when people in the mainstream have taking it upon myself to educate the mainstream about me; they seem to often get it wrong in odd ways.

of course, if the other person isn't really interested, no educating will happen, but i am usually perfectly willing to give it a shot first.
firecat
Sep. 13th, 2005 01:04 am (UTC)
Re: "It's not our job to educate"
Sure, me too on "giving it a shot," especially when I'm just talking about me. But when it's a systemic form of discrimination that affects a lot of people other than me, I consider that a pretty fundamentally different issue. Partly because saying something once in a while is a fundamentally different experience from saying it every two minutes. One thing that makes systemic discrimination a problem is that many people on the receiving end experience it over and over again, many times a day, and it wears people down.
rmjwell
Sep. 13th, 2005 02:18 am (UTC)
Some people in the cultural mainstream or closer to centers of power take the attitude that whenever someone not in their group speaks up, that person *MUST* *JUSTIFY* their taking up public space; that person must take on all the work and all the responsibility for whether mainstream people are listening to them.[...] But I resent the hell out of the attitude that I have to justify myself to people who have no interest in really hearing what I'm saying.

FWIW I resent that, too. I'd swoon, but I don't want to accidentally fall on sevoo.

red_frog
Sep. 13th, 2005 05:21 am (UTC)
In my less benign moments, the idea that I need to educate makes me cranky.

In my more benign but also more Machiavellian moments, I consider that teaching is the most effective method I know of to win people to my side--and I use this method to good effect frequently. If I haven't yet persuaded, I feel that I just haven't yet taught effectively enough.

But no: it is not my job to educate people about the things I know because of who I am, as opposed to what I have learned. I'll do it if it suits me.
ex_serenejo
Sep. 13th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
Your take is exactly my take on this issue.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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