Aarel Calhoun: The annoying burden of being your teacher
Being Black in a white world is exhausting. While other people get to live their lives, oblivious to instances of racial injustice, Black people are not afforded that same privilege. Several non-Black students did not know about any of the racist things on campus — the spray-painted praise of Dylann Roof, the N-word written on various spaces and several racist posters — that occurred on campus before I mentioned them. While I lived my days in increasing fear and growing discomfort, they were unaware that anything was even going on. While I remain slightly on edge because I don’t know who among my peers would love for me to not be at this school, or who would casually call me a n-----, I also have the burden of having to teach people about what is and what isn’t racism, on the daily.
Frankly, I’m annoyed constantly teaching people about what racism actually is. Do you know how frustrating it is to teach person after person about history that they could easily just look up? On one hand, I am happy to help shed light on issues that people may otherwise not have thought about, but on the other hand, it gets tiring. I’m tired of having to explain to you why the Confederate flag is a symbol of the heritage and history of hate. I’m tired of having to explain to you why me calling you a racist is not nearly as bad as you actually doing something racist. I’m tired of having to explain to you that racism lies much deeper than skin. You having one Black friend does not mean that you’re not racist. Just because you smiled at a Black person one time when you were 5, doesn’t excuse the fact that you yell n---- at frat parties when rap songs come on. Calling yourself an ally yet continuing to let racist friends and family be racist does not help anyone, and acting as if you’re colorblind certainly does not help me. But I don’t have the time to tell you this. Not when your president doesn’t value Black lives. I don’t have time to explain to you why your tendency to read anger into anything I say is supporting a negative stereotype when I have to go to a march to let people know that I will never let them forget, pretend or ignore the fact that my life matters. I can’t assuage your white guilt when I have to follow the news day in and day out because yet another unarmed Black person was shot by a police officer, and I want to know if they’ll finally get justice this time, though I know that is often not the case. When you’re trying to pretend that your Confederate-flag-owning relatives aren’t supporting a history of hate, I’m trying my hardest to not be upset by white friends who I know mean well, but still can’t really see white privilege.
Bottom line: I don’t always have time to be your teacher. It’s difficult, stifling and annoying to always have to sugarcoat what I need to tell you about your varying degrees of racist actions. Instead of flat out telling you that the #AllLivesMatter movement is racist because it exists to overshadow the point of #BlackLivesMatter, I must coddle you by saying, “I know you mean well, and I’m glad you want to be an ally, but all lives already matter, yet according to the cops...” I must be the politest, and the gentlest in my wording, or else you won’t even hear my point because you hear “racist” and think, “You called me racist — how dare you?” As a result of the systemic racism that has infected this country, each day I have some form of injustice to be upset by, but when I want to convey this to you, my words must be gentle as a lamb, even though you weren’t so gentle when you said Colin Kaepernick was dumb for kneeling and “protesting the flag” (fun fact: That isn’t what he was protesting). My words must be soft, and carefully chosen, so as not to upset the white person who is struggling to admit to their own racism, which is maddening because it quiets what I would prefer to yell from the rooftops: Yes, you may not believe me but this is indeed racist! I’m tired of policing my words to help to you realize what is and isn’t racist. My world, in terms of racial injustice, is difficult, jarring and sometimes scary, and yet the world has to be insulated for you.
I do not want to be your teacher, but despite this, I know that I must continue to be it. I can’t let people go on not being aware of their own racism, even if it drains me to repeatedly teach them. Despite loving the empowered feeling that I get from being Black and socially aware, I’m tired of the burden being placed on me to teach people who don’t want to be educated.