I’VE SPENT THE BETTER PART of the last decade trying to make people more understanding, trying to explain, patiently and logically, how privilege works and why, no, someone else getting the rights you have always enjoyed does not create inequality. But no more. I won’t educate people this year, because it’s a waste of time, and my energies — all of our energies — are precious.
There’s a popular meme that makes the rounds on Facebook a few times a year: “If I’m wrong, educate me. Don’t belittle me.” On the surface, it seems like a good idea. I mean, how is anyone supposed to learn about anything without someone teaching them? And for a lot of things, this attitude is entirely unproblematic, because, yes, you do need someone to teach you how to cook, how to braid hair, or how to effectively discipline a child. You could probably figure out all of those things on your own, but instruction helps, right?
Here’s what people miss: In our highly interconnected age, I don’t have to know someone who knows how to braid hair in order to learn. I can google it, find guides to read and YouTube videos to watch. Short of how to perform surgery, I can find a guide to pretty much anything on the Internet.
So when people use “If I’m wrong, educate me. Don’t belittle me,” I have a tendency to think they’re being intellectually lazy. Sure, you’re never going to know you’re wrong unless someone tells you, but if someone tells you you’re wrong, they shouldn’t have to explain why. It might help you out if they do, but hey, you’re the one who’s wrong, and they’ve loosened the scales from your eyes.
Furthermore, you’re an adult. You’re more than capable of googling, finding guides to read and YouTube videos to watch about how and why you are wrong. If you can look up how to poach eggs in the microwave on Pinterest, you can look up why #AllLivesMatter is bullsh*t, OK?
But wait, you think. Didn’t we just come through an election cycle that proved people are incapable of identifying legitimate Internet sources?
Yes, we did. But you know what? The problem with fake news got so much traction in 2016 that there’s no way any Internet citizen hasn’t heard it. Professors published categorized lists of fake news and clickbait sources, students developed Chrome extensions to identify untrustworthy sites, and no less than Facebook and Google took measures to crackdown on misinformation.
Everyone on the Internet, from your baby cousin to your grandmother, knows that fake news is a problem. As an adult, it’s your responsibility to scan through your lists of everyday news sources and see if you should maybe make a few changes. If you’re still listening to fake news sites, it’s not my responsibility — or anyone else’s — to explain to you why they’re fake. It’s your responsibility, as a competent adult, to know how to evaluate your sources for trustworthiness.
The same is true of filter bubbles. You know that you have one, because everyone from Fox News to Slate was talking about them — how to tell if you have one, and how to pop it if you do. If you haven’t taken measures to identify and abandon your bubble, then you have no one to blame for your ignorance.
By now, you know that fake news is everywhere, and that you have a bubble that tells you what you want to hear, and you’ve either made an effort to break out of those traps, or you haven’t. It doesn’t really matter, because news cycles are still turning. People are living and dying and campaigning and bombing and lying and thriving — with or without you. It’s your decision to tune in to what’s going on in the world or not.
So I don’t care that you don’t know about #NoDAPL. I’m not responsible for making you comfortable with peeing in the stall next to a trans person. It isn’t worth my time to tell you why a school resource officer isn’t upholding his pledge to serve and protect when he concusses a 15-year-old girl with a body slam. I don’t have to prove to you that white/male/cisgender/heterosexual/class privilege exists, because — and here’s the most important part — you’ve already been exposed to the fact that it does.
That’s why I’m not going to waste my time trying to educate you this year. I have too many battles to fight and win to spend my precious energy explaining to you why poor people have every right to celebrate the little joys in their lives. By now, you know these things. If you have not woken up yet, it’s your own damn decision to remain willfully ignorant. And that is not my problem.