Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's Always Good to Educate People

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend from the trans community, who I’ll call Chris, in which he mentioned that he often gets tired of answering questions, but it's always good to educate people.

I said that I felt the same way about being black…that you have to answer a lot of dumb questions if you don’t want people to stay ignorant.

His reaction blew me away. “Really? Black people get the same treatment too? Cool! I thought we were the only ones.”

And no…he wasn’t being sarcastic.

Sometimes we’re so tightly focused on our own particular oppressed minority community, that we don’t notice that there are others out there who might be suffering from a different form of oppression. We think that everyone who isn't “like us” is part of a monolithic mainstream, and has no problems.

I liked the fact that Chris thought that black people were typical of everyone else. This is a person who truly is color-blind. And by that I mean he notices that a person is black the way that he’d notice that a person is blond. It may be a little naïve, but it also means that Ferguson and Baltimore notwithstanding, in a way we’ve made it very close to where we wanted to be 50 years ago. But that's another thread for another time.

The point I made to Chris was that everyone in the “mainstream” is part of some minority that people have stupid questions and ignorant assumptions about. Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Southern Baptists, Irish, Italians, vegans, atheists, agnostics, Asians. That “rest of society” that's not a part of your group is really a patchwork of other minorities that sometimes have things in common and sometimes don’t. But we all get the stupid questions.

And we all learn from being able to ask the stupid questions.

I count myself as very lucky for having people I could ask stupid, and sometimes seemingly invasive questions of, as I tried to learn more about people who were different from me. And I will continue to answer stupid, and sometimes seemingly invasive questions asked by others.

Because it’s always good to educate people.

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