Stop telling people to read

July 31, 2018

Some of you reading this title will pause and tell your self, "self, she on some bullshit." But listen, we gotta stop telling people to just go out and read queer theory or critical race theory when we don't have the mental or emotional energy or intelligence to explain stuff to them. 

 

We not not no snotty nose professor who tell our students to go to the syllabus when they have a problem. We people. We talking to other people, not students.

 

How many of us have been filled with a wtfness and a this professor got a stick up they butt but I'm gon be cordial to get this grade when our professors have directed us to their syllabus for answers? Like I said before, we are not teachers of the people that we tell to go read. Oftentimes, we just regular every day people talking to other regular every day people on social media platforms. They don't have the obligation to be cordial and mask their irritation when we direct them to read in instances when we don't feel like explaining stuff to them.  

 

The funny thing is that I just doubt everybody telling others to "just go read"  have gone out and read the books and articles their professor's recommended to them as supplemental reading. Hell, I doubt that they themselves are experts on CRL James, Baldwin, Butler, and the like. And yet we direct people to read whole books and chapters and articles and shit. Oftentimes we don't even give them page numbers or titles of chapters to start with. We just tell them to read whole books. And then we act like something wrong with them when they don't read it--like them not reading proves their bigotness.

 

  But even if we were like, "yo check out the 3rd paragraph on page 436", I doubt that they would be excited to do as we suggest. Like nobody wants to read the 3rd paragraph of page 436.

 

Many of the people we tell this to already have reason to think that we are wrong because our education system sanitizes, twists, and erases history. We sound like emotional conspiracy theorist to them. They will oftentimes express irritation in our conversations with them because our "conspiracy" theories paint them as a bad person. I doubt that they will want to read that eloquent paragraph on page 436 that expresses oh so  perfectly that their people are bad people. To be clear, I am not saying that queer theory or critical race theory are a collection of conspiracy theories that paint certain people as bad people. I am just saying that many of the people that we tell to "go read" have reason to think that it is. 

 

Many of the people we talk to don't care about the issues that matter to us, so us telling them to read whole articles and books when we don't even read the shit like that is ridiculous.

 

The ideas that we would act like it isn't gets even more incredulous when we take in the fact that the readings we want people to read will be inaccessible to many of the people that read it. It's not easy reading the shit. Many of the texts suffer from having a lot of jargon. They will also express complex ideas in complex ways, ensuring that people don't understand what is being stated. Many of my personal experiences reading critical race theory and queer theory have gone a little like this: That's the truest shit I've ever read. I don't know what means. I don't know about that means. Damn that's a good line. I'm just gon skip that. Thing is that I keep reading because it's healing for me to learn about my experience and other marginalized people's experiences in this way. I keep reading because I believe that truth is in the texts I read. The people who we tell to "go read" do not have the same motivations. 

 

I think it's better to tell people to read a particular book than to tell them to google something. Google is not about to direct anybody to The Truth. No, my love. Google is about to direct them to some sanitized bigoted shit that will make them even more confident because now they have statistics and "reliable sources" to back their bigotry. 

 

 

 

This problem has been brought on because we preach empathy but don't practice it ourselves. We tell seemingly bigoted people to put themselves in our shoes when explaining racism and transphobia but we don't put ourselves in their shoes when we explain things to them. We don't explain things to people in the way that we would need things explained to us.

 

 

 

I think we gotta either tell they asses the truth or politely step away from the conversation. And honestly I think that we have good reasons to step away from the conversation. While our conversational partners might not mean to, we oftentimes feel that in explaining things to them we are being put in a position where we have to explain our humanity- shit- our ancestors humanity to them. We tell people to "go read"  the moment where they get us so fucked up that explaining things to them becomes painful. It starts taking an emotional toll on us because it is stressful to correct lies and narratives that have been spread about you and people who look like you. It is difficult to talk to people who are skeptical about things that you know to be true, especially when the price of people not understanding the things you are addressing are actual lives. The stakes are high. When people don't understand simple things like police brutality is a thing or that trans people should be treated like people, they tend to reinforce the existence of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and transphobia.

 

 

 

I want to end this saying that having these conversations are difficult but good to do because it requires us to explain ourselves. It forces us to look inside ourselves and examine what it is that we think. Not everyone explains issues regarding racism and transphobia the same way. Not everyone will give the same genealogies. The particular way that we go about reasoning about these things have shaped us and made us who we are. Given what we take to be the way things are, we will take up particular crosses to help other people. We will think ourselves as having certain duties and obligations to people. It may be beneficial to talk things through with people who "don't get it" because those are good opportunities for us to learn what it is that we really do think.

 

It's also just good to practice explaining things to people so that we can see the holes and gaps in our thinking. We can see what it is that we don't know and direct ourselves to fill those holes.

 

We can only gain these benefits when we have actual conversations with people. I don't mean teaching moments where we explain things to ignorant people. We have to start  admitting to ourselves and to others that we aren't always right; that we don't have THE WAY of thinking about things. Issues regarding critical race theory and queer theory are complex and nuanced. There are certain ways of thinking about things that are wrong. In assuming that we have the answers by committing to teaching moments and not actual conversations with people, we position ourselves to have perfect knowledge of situations and that isn't always the case. 

 

I am not committed to that though. I don't know if it's right to tell people to explain things to people we perceive to be bigoted for those reasons, given that those conversations do take an emotional toll on us. I am just not sure if we truly have an obligation to explain things to people so I'm not going to end saying that we should explain things to people even though it takes an emotional toll on us. I will say that we should stop telling people to read when we don't have the emotional energy or where-with-all to talk to people. Let's all just get off our high horses and talk to people as if they are people. 

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