Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Won't Be Your Resource

Invariably, several times a week someone will send me an e-mail or make some comment wanting to know why I am resistant to being a built in resource for people. How can they be responsible for their learning, if I won't spoon feed them everything they want or need to know about womanism, anti-racism or social justice?  It never occurs to them that they are contacting me on the internet, and therefore; they have access to one of the greatest information tools every created-- but entering terms in the Google search window just somehow seems to be beyond their capabilities. Instead I am expected to take my valuable time and break down these very complex subjects or share with them the intricacies of my life for their learning benefit.  It seems irrelevant that whatever lessons that I have learned have either come at a cost of great personal pain or investment of my time.  The fact that I even have to take my limited energy to write this piece is an indicator of the sense of entitlement that is often aimed at marginalized bodies in social justice circles. 

This post is not written to indicate that conversations regarding oppression with marginalized bodies should not occur, but to simply indicate that there are boundaries that need to be understood.  For example, I have a good relationship with both Sparky and Monica of TransGriot.  Both have guest posted on this blog on a regular basis, and we converse very regularly.  In fact, Monica and I burn up the phone lines most nights and Sparky and I chat on GChat probably about 4-5 times a week.   We are all very committed to social justice and invariably at some point in our conversations, a discussion regarding various instances of bigotry will ensue. Sometimes it will simply be in the course of discussing the events of the day that I will learn something new.   What makes these conversations different from anonymous request to be taught is that when Sparky asks me questions about disableism or racism, he has already done some of the work himself AND we have an ongoing relationship outside of our different labels and identities. To Sparky, I am not just a collection of marginalizations to be dissected, I am a friend. There is a give and take between us, and this is something that is distinctly missing in those that drive by this blog and expect to be spoon fed information.  Sparky, Monica and I learn from each other, we bounce ideas off of each other, and the reciprocal nature of our relationship means that no one is being used as a tool for the leaning of the other. 

This is an extremely basic 101 concept, and yet it has to be repeated constantly.  When the marginalized refuse to take on the role of teacher, we are accused of blocking progress or being mean and withholding information.  This is because the privileged body does not want to give up power despite protestations to the contrary.  It must be acknowledged that if you live with a marginalization, you must become fluent in the language of the oppressor to survive, whereas; the dominant body has no such obligation other than that which natural curiosity allows. Demanding to be taught reinforces the power dynamic of marginalized bodies continually having to serve and perform for the oppressor.  

This is where the shut up and listen comes in.  If you have not done the most basic 101 research, you have no business participating in the conversation or injecting your ignorant opinions.  Even a person who has spent a lifetime attempting to decolonize their mind, will from time to time fall back on their privilege, and therefore; it is highly improbable that you as an ignorant person could add anything substantive to the conversation other than your own biases, of which  marginalized bodies have seen more than enough of.

Dominant bodies enjoy the idea of random questioning, because it means that they don't have to personally invest in the issues at hand, or the community that is being targeted.  This is why we have so many surface interactions with marginalized people and wrongfully name them our friend, so that we can impose our various privileges upon them.  That gay guy at your workplace, who you have never had so much as a coffee with, but say hello to in the halls is NOT your friend, he is an acquaintance at best.  That Black family that lives a few blocks away, whom you say hello to in passing, but have never even been in your home are NOT your friends. Just as I, a disabled Black woman who you may have just started reading is NOT your friend, nor do we have any connection to each other. These perifial  relationships don't serve as grounds for you to claim a relationship where none exists, or demand the servitude of us satiating your curiosity by acting as your teacher.  It is not only rude, but asserts your desire to maintain your personal hegemony over marginalized bodies.

If I have a nuanced question about the GLBT community there are various people that I can ask, because I have relationships with them.  Over time we have built friendships based in mutual interests and respect.  I have not segregated my life so that it is filled with people who look like me or think like me.  I have invested in them just as they have invested in me.  Furthermore, these people do not function as my major GLBT resources because I have access to the internet and library. 

This blog exists to have conversations that we avoid because of self segregation, and a refusal to own personal privileges .  You cannot learn about a group of people, or learn to respect them, if you don't interact with them.  This does not mean that you have the right to expect that these people will then turn around and service you, but it does give you the opportunity to build a relationship.  This is important because a good relationship means putting aside our petty personal wants or desires to focus on another.  It means respect and consideration.  To achieve all of the qualities of a good relationship with a marginalized person, you must actively work on decolonizing your mind -- and this is why I push conversation and interaction in this space. 

So yes, by all means question and learn, but don't expect an answer to you queries because it would make YOU feel better.  Invest in other people and give them a reason to invest in you.  Learn from your mistakes and evolve as a person. But heaven sakes, stop expecting me or any other marginalized person to do the heavy lifting for you -- we have enough to do to get though the day as it is.