Boundaries in social justice learning


Educational conversations aren’t necessarily directed at you


Marginalized people often are prevented from knowing really important things. Things that they need to know in order to live in the world.

Some conversations about things like privilege and oppression are primarily conversations between marginalized people about how to notice what’s going on and…

oh-kaity said:

Very, very important, and I wish more people understood this and learned through listening and doing their own research rather than asking “well meaning” questions. The internet is a vast resource, and usually if you see a conversation you don’t understand or want to know more about, you can research it on your own, or continue listening to the people in question instead of derailing the conversation at hand with your own stuff.

realsocialskills said:

I think it can be and often is legitimate to ask for help.

Not everyone can learn all of the important things by googling and watching conversations. Some people really do need to ask questions and have people explain stuff in order to understand it properly.

The important thing to realize is that needing to ask questions in order to understand doesn’t mean other people are obligated to spend their own time explaining stuff to you just because they are marginalized people who exist in public. It’s great that you’ve realized there’s something important that you don’t understand, and that you need help understanding it - and that means it’s important to identify someone who is *willing* to explain things to you, and to respect the boundaries of people who don’t want to spend their time that way.

It’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of marginalized people aren’t going to want to spend their time explaining painful things to you. And it’s important to understand that, no matter how sincerely you want to understand, being a marginalized person who talks about things in public does not obligate anyone to be your teacher.

Writing in public doesn’t mean that a marginalized person has agreed to be your teacher; it just means they’ve written something in public. Do not assume that it goes further than that, especially if they’ve said clearly that it does not, or that their intended audience is other people facing the thing they’re talking about.

All of that is important to keep in mind - but it’s also important to keep in mind that you may not be able to understand everything just by googling it. Needing help doesn’t make you a bad person. Being unable to learn what you need to by googling isn’t a moral flaw and it doesn’t in itself suggest that you’re just not sincere enough about wanting to do right by others. It’s ok to need help understanding. And it’s important to seek out that help in a way that is consensual and respectful.