Oh boy, the semester is over and I have fallen behind. I’m just going to post this here:
Tim Urban discusses something called an “instant gratification monkey” which I seem to have, but it’s more than that: Teaching is exhausting. I will not have to experience the less-than-ideal circumstances of many students who make it to school. Building relationships with students is exhausting. Supporting students mentally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually is exhausting. I’m tired.
It’s also the most important part of this job and the reason I come to work every day. Students are amazing. I mean this. Wow, some of the conversations around racism, feminism, and media representations never would have been mentioned when I went to school. It is so easy to shift responsibility and not address social issues today; it’s one of the rights I get because of my privilege. Privilege gives me the ability to say, “This student isn’t trying because (s)he is lazy” rather than trying to understand and support them.
Privilege allows me the opportunity to stay silent and be still.
I can’t deny that the internet allows for some very hateful rhetoric to be spoken. I think Donald Trump’s campaign is an example of how effective fear-mongering tactics still are. Muslims and violence was one of the biggest issues discussed on social media this year. At the beginning, I found myself going on some pretty extensive Facebook sweeps and deleting a lot of people who were promoting racism and discrimination.
Stop. Wait. What are you doing? I think about what I’ve just done– I’m shifting responsibility. I decided not to engage and disrupt something I care deeply about. Why? Well, honestly, sometimes I don’t think it’s worth it. Sometimes you know that you are fighting a battle with someone who will never change their minds. Other times I feel like I am not educated enough on an issue to defend it. Man, I wish there was a device where experts were posting about misconceptions about Islam. I decide to save my efforts for when I think I can make a difference. But lately I’ve been engaging more in educating others on social media. I don’t make people feel guilty for believing in something. Instead, I explain the reasons behind why they think the way they do and what we can do to combat it.
Just recently I entered into a discussion on a Facebook page called Roses and Raspberries from my hometown. The basic function of the page is to award “roses” for good things that people do in the community and give “raspberries” if people/places/events did something wrong or hurtful to someone. As you can imagine, posts can range from “Roses to person who bought my coffee at McDonald’s” to “Raspberries to the city for putting up snowflakes on our light posts instead of the Christmas trees, that were 30 years old and falling apart. Why do we have to get rid of Christmas because of a few immigrants moving to the city?”
OK, although I exaggerated the wording on the last example, it really did happen. It’s frustrating, but it gives me a platform to disrupt hateful rhetoric. And, after entering a discussion about teaching residential schools, I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of people advocating for educating about residential schools much higher than those who were trying to either:
- a) shift responsibility – “We shouldn’t teach that until we teach Ukrainian history.”
- b) forget about current racism – “What about white people who were abused in the past? You don’t see us complaining about it.”
- c) guilt us – “Talking about residential schools paralyzes us from moving on and living in a Utopian society that would otherwise exist.”
- d) colourblind us – “We shouldn’t focus on our differences. We are all the same.”
It was interesting to see all of these ideas come up. I didn’t feel uncomfortable entering this discussion either (I am often wary of entering social media discussions when I am public figure in the community). I didn’t make people feel bad for feeling the way they did, rather I described why they were saying these things. And I’m not going to pretend like people said “Oh, man. Koskie, you just changed my world.” I have no idea if I helped one person in that single conversation question why they thought the way they did. All I know is that, in that moment, I did not shift responsibility to someone else to fix it.
Deciding to take action is not always an easy thing to do for people, especially women. John Oliver discusses things like revenge porn, direct threats, sexism in the video game industry, doxing, and how dangerous it is for women to speak out on social media.
Sometimes I think people can paint people as either good or bad, based on whether they speak out on social media or not. I think there is a lot of grey area here. Women are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to put their safety at risk. I will not shame people who decide not to be outspoken about something because they fear for their life (a very real fear to have when you look at cases of doxing). It’s a terrible cycle– I can’t blame people for wanting to be safe, but I know that we need to speak out in order to change things. I also recognize that, if anything that I said on social media did have severe backlash, it wouldn’t reflect poorly on my entire race. I do feel like I am in a position where I need to speak out.
What’s the solution?
I’m not sure. The internet is a tool and people who are violent will condone violence and people who are peaceful will speak out about injustice and enact positive change. Sometimes I think people get a little lost in examples of much bigger problems. We need to explain the why. Instead of calling Beyonce a terrible feminist, we should focus more on institutionalized “isms” and why people have the tendency to blame victims. As I was typing that, I came to the realization that instituionalized “isms” will likely not be a trending topic. So, is it better to simplify things in order to gain a bigger audience?
What do you think?
- Koskie Out!