This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

April 10, 2009

Delightful, Delicious, Derailing

Filed under: Uncategorized — pprscribe @ 5:37 am

On the heels of my experiment in public service for the anti-racist blogging community, I saw links to this site on several of my favorite blogs. “Derailing for Dummies” is quite brilliant–funny while at the same time being true to my experience (often painfully so). I had a friend in graduate school who once admitted to me that she sometimes felt used by our majority-White department. Along with her own studies, and paper-writing, and teaching duties, and research, and everything else she found herself conducting formal workshop after formal workshop, spearheading talk-back sessions, being the “diversity” on this and that committee. And that did not even count all the unofficial educating she was doing on issues of diversity and anti-racism through her day-to-day interactions. With a sigh, she confided, “You know, sometimes I just don’t feel like being the drum major for diversity.”

I felt her pain. Before she came to campus, I was the one conducting those workshops and leading the talk back sessions and coloring committees.

What neither of us realized, I now see, is that this was all part of a plan to keep us overworked and overburdened. According to D4D:

You see, often in these discussions a Marginalised Person™ will tell you it’s not their responsibility to educate you. This is because Marginalised People™ believe that they have other priorities in life, like working and studying and being with their families for example.

…By placing this burden of responsibility onto them you remind them of just how daunting a task that is and how their lives are constantly being monopolised by the Privileged®, even in something that should be empowering to them, like deconstructing discrimination.

You trivialise their lives, needs, interests and obligations by suggesting they should be spending all of their time and energy in engaging with clueless Privileged People®, putting in hours and hours of effort in repeating the exact same thing they’ve already said three thousand times to three thousand other Privileged People® in their past.

…Keep them worn out and exhausted and maybe they’ll just go away.

Well, this knowledge comes too late for me and probably for my friend. But hopefully this will be of some help to others.

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2 Comments »

  1. I absolutely agree

    I believe strongly that it is my responsibility as a privileged (white, newly middle class) participant in this society to actively seek to inform other privileged people about racism and classism. To me, it is both a civic duty and a directive from my soul. It’s what I have to do to make this world more livable for myself and others. Not that I am making broad and sweeping changes, but every little bit helps.

    Similarly, I find myself educating privileged people from my stance as a marginalized person (in this instance, queer). However, while I’m happy to talk about race and class until I’m blue I the face, I get exhausted by educating about queer issues. It’s just so much harder to deal with homophobic and ignorant comments than racist comments for me because it hits so much closer to home. I get irrational and clam up.

    Ultimately, I think it’s more effective and a far better system to receive education about racism, classism, and heterocentrism from an educated person who mirrors your demographics, at least when it comes to informal, on-the-fly interactions. I wish more people felt the responsibility to step up and have those meaningful, perspective-changing conversations on these topics with people in their own demographic, whatever that may be.

    Comment by k. emvee — April 10, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  2. k. emvee, your point about gaining knowledge from someone in your demographic is very valid, I think. I can also relate to the idea of different tolerance levels for being the educator depending on our own identity.

    I’ve also found my self doing some of the same things as people I complain about in discussions about race, when the topic is something else. FOr example, I’ll find myself talking about my “gay friends” or “lesbian aunt” as if these relationships profer some level of expertise or authenticity. At some point in the conversation I recognize that I likely sound like a daggon idiot!

    I have been meaning to write about the challenges of being on the other side…of becoming an ally to others and not repeating the same mistakes that I myself find annoying.

    When I do write this, I’ll have to figure out a way to work in your beautiful phrase: “a directive from my soul.”

    Comment by pprscribe — April 10, 2009 @ 7:26 pm


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