Why Won’t You Teach Me?

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Wait, my patience is still loading…

Really, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions, or showing an interest. I know, you have the best of intentions, and that you’re trying. But, you see, you were not the first to say these things and/or ask me any of the questions listed. Also, it’s the underlying expectation that annoys me: you expect people of colour to educate White folks. I’m sorry to break it to you: we are not your didactic experience. Even though I know you mean well, I find your statements/questions exhausting: remember, you were not the first to ask me “Where are you really from?” nor the first one to claim it’s about one’s intentions. Good intentions are fine, by the way. However, at the end of the day, it’s the impact of your actions that counts.

This goes through my mind every time you say any of those statements listed above:

Here we go again, yet another purportedly anti-racist White Autochtoon Dutch person who says “we’re all the same.” Of course, when I bring up White privilege they’re going to a) deny that they have White privilege and b) accuse me of being reverse racist for bringing up Whiteness. Suggesting that White Autochtoon Dutch people need to have a different anti-racist praxis than people of colour will, of course, make me black Hitler.

I’m probably going to have to sit through vigorous denials and a listing of “good deeds” and accusations of my “harming the cause.” Perhaps, I should just send them an article that explains in minute detail why White folks need a different anti-racist praxis, and why it’s not the duty of people of colour to help White folks unlearn racism. Then again, they probably won’t read it.

“Black and Third World people 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 responsibility for their own actions. There is a con­stant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.” — Audre Lorde, Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference

Maybe, I am being difficult? I mean, they meant well. Can’t I just let it be? They’re really trying. Why would I risk alienating a potential “ally”?

Then again, I’m sick and tired of dealing with this anti-racism 101 shit. I’m not here to validate White Autochtoon Dutch people, and tell them—whether explicitly, or implicitly—that they’re “one of the good ones.” If they don’t understand how systemic racism, White privilege, Whiteness operates, then it’s not my responsibility to help them gain that insight—especially, when they say they’re doing anti-racist work. Besides, there is always Google.

I’m willing to talk to them and listen when they’re able to understand how supremacist attitudes about race, religion, colour, class, ability, sexuality and gender have created marginalized communities; I’m willing to talk when they understand that “checking your privilege” is not the be-all and end-all of anti-racist work. I’m willing to talk when they understand that an anti-racist praxis for White people means being vigilant. It means constantly examining your thoughts in order to identify and eradicate racist assumptions—without wallowing in guilt and/or asking for a cookie.

Race  Philosophy  and Film   Google Books
“Now, Imagine She’s White” The Gift of the Black Gaze and the Reinscription of Whiteness as Normative in A Time to Kill – George Yancy

White Autochtoon Dutch folks need to understand that people of colour have to deal with racism every single day: we don’t get a time-off. It affects us in ways that don’t affect White Autochtoon Dutch people—no matter how deeply involved in anti-racist work they are. As a working-class, poor, queer-identified Black Antillean man, I have to navigate racism, colorism, heterosexism, homophobia, and classism on a daily basis—and, apparently, I have to make time to teach White Autochtoon Dutch folks about the system that privileges them and disadvantages me—while mollycoddling them? Oh, hell no.

Race  Whiteness  and Education   Zeus Leonardo   Google Books
“The Color of Supremacy” in “Race, Whiteness, and Education” by Zeus Leonardo
Race  Whiteness  and Education   Zeus Leonardo   Google Books 2
“The Color of Supremacy” in “Race, Whiteness, and Education” by Zeus Leonardo

I go through all of these stages every single time a White Autochtoon Dutch person asks me to explain, asks me to tell them what it’s like to be (fill in the appropriate axis), tells me  sotto voce to be thankful they’re my ally—because “we” (meaning: people of colour) need more White Autochtoon Dutch people—like them—who get it. You see, it’s never just about showing an interest. They want me to tell them that they’re a Good White Person™ and that everything is going to be just fine, if only I didn’t assert my difference, if only I were a little bit more just like them, if only I played along nicely. You see, you’re not the first one to say these things. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know whether it’s ever going to be fine; how long have people of colour been struggling against these destructive forces? From where I’m standing, it definitely doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to be fine.

2 thoughts on “Why Won’t You Teach Me?

  1. Sharp as a knife! I really need to introduce you to the singer of my band, I think you guys will click really well! We’re currently pondering about writing a publication looking into the ‘collective psyche’ of Dutch society. I’ll try to keep you posted about it.

    1. Thank you! I’m looking forward to meeting this person.

      Coincidentally, a bunch of us decided yesterday to publish a journal on the state of intersectionality/critical analysis in the Netherlands. We should definitely see whether we can work on a publication together.

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