A Seat at the Table: To Educate or Not

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Why do black people (insert something related to slavery, hair, music food, dance, beliefs)? When asked that question by a culturally unaware friend (no it’s not just whites), my mind plays out two scenarios:

Scenario 1: School this person

Sooo, walk them through the rich history of Black America. Throw out a few prominent names and explain impact of history of black lives in America. That person asks a follow up question, and then I explain, explain , explain, explain.

Scenario 2: Don’t school this person

I thank the person for the question and provide a list of references for them to study. I kindly encourage them to come back once they’ve read to discuss the questions further.

In real time, I act out Scenario One mostly out of fear that Scenario Two will leave me with the label of ‘creating division’ or ‘ ‘that black person that wants to just complain and not do anything to bridge the gap’, or , the one that I love, ‘the angry black women’.

I used to be of the mindset that it was my duty to do whatever I can to educate people about my culture. In essence, I had to coach (educate) people to win a seat at my table but in the real world, nobody coached me how to earn a seat at America’s table. I had to learn— on my own (with the support of family, friends, and ‘woke’ teachers).

At a time where information is overwhelmingly abundant , I believe Scenario One has been on repeat for far too long. I recently came across the quote on social media. Unfortunately, I never wrote it down but I remember the things it made me think about.  This quote magnified the core issue of the internal struggle I have whenever a culturally unaware person implicitly asks me to ‘teach’ them about me. With this quote in mind, from now on I will always take Scenario 2 (for $300 please). Because

  • It’s energy draining– It is physically draining.
  • Constantly having to explain my history to someone who has the resources to learn for themselves gets very old and very old quickly
  • The same time that I can use educating/sitting in deep discussion (where I am generally the spokesperson for blacks), I can use that energy using my gifts and talent to empower the black community and learning about policies in this country so that I can address inequality.

So, what will I do to address division in this country where the political environment reeks of racism, it certainly will not be Scenario One. Instead, my energy will be focused on uplifting my community, educating people about unjust policies, and using my gifts to actively tackle the big ugly giants called… Inequality & Inequity.

To sit at MY table, you will already need to have your plate prepared and ready to ACT.

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