Tip 1: Don’t expect the BIPOC in your life to be your only source of education about race.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color get exhausted explaining the same ideas over and over again, every time a white person in their proximity “joins the conversation.” Read a few books instead. Watch a documentary. Subscribe to some recommended podcasts. Google term definitions. Then, when you do engage in conversation on race with them, you are then doing so from a place of basic understanding and capacity to listen and learn.
This is so common. Someone just starts to open their eyes to the reality of racism in this world, and they want the nearest person of color to walk them through the basics of their lived experiences. They place onto the person of color in their life the expectation of deep emotional labor, which they may or may not have asked for or wanted.
In expecting your friend to become your racism guide, you’re also placing them in a precarious situation.
The majority of conversations on race that BIPOC have don’t go swimmingly. You ask them for information, and they know you may not receive it well based on their lived experience. Will you get defensive? Will you believe them? Will it harm your friendship?
This expectation is embedded in us, though, if we have grown up steeped in white culture. The expectation of free labor, lacking empathy for how painful or exhausting such conversations can be, and assuming we have a right to personal information that our friends have previously not felt safe or comfortable sharing.
The good side of this is it shows a posture of wanting to learn and hear the voices of BIPOC. While we all need to learn from diverse voices, we need to not see every person of color in our lives as our own personal tutor who is there to answer our every question and hand-feed us resources and explanations.
What to Do Instead
Start reading what has already been written and explained countless times. Listen to conversations that are already happening from BIPOC who have already decided they do want to speak openly and publicly about white supremacy. Check out our recommended resources to start with here.
It will be WORK, but it is redeeming, holy work.
Where have you learned your lesson or screwed this one up as you’ve been learning? What self-education steps have you found to be the most helpful?
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