I keep seeing in social media feeds, “If you do not agree with this, unfriend me” and I feel the need to comment on this idea and mindset.
You can say what you like about the legitimacy of sources on social media but when it comes down to it, many are reading and many are taking in what you post. Whether they agree with you or not, by following you they see your message.
If you decide to unfriend someone, that is your decision. The thing about this decision though is that it ensures that this person will no longer see your message and, in turn, ends the conversation. We are ending the conversations, the conversations we need to be having.
If we continue to preach our messages to like-minded people, we will continue to spread our message to the people who don’t need it. It’s like when the coach makes you run laps for all of practice because most of the team didn’t show up. Yes, I know it sucks when everyone doesn’t show up but I AM HERE. It’s like lecturing everyone on time about how disrespectful it is that people are late to the meeting. Yes, I know it sucks when everyone is late, but I AM HERE.
I AM HERE.
I have been here. I continue to learn, but you need not sway me towards what I already know. I know there is work that needs to be done. I am listening.
What about the ones who are not listening?
POC, this is not to you. This is not to say I do not want you reading, commenting, sharing your experience here on my work. I welcome and encourage feedback on my position and words.
I am not, however, looking for your emotional labor in this manner. I am not looking to you to educate or continue to be in the presence of people in your personal news feed who bring you more pain.
A lifetime of racism and daily interactions with people unwilling to check themselves is undoubtedly exhausting. Seeing people post messages on your social media feeds drenched in racism publicly, daily, BOLDLY is too much right now. I see you and understand the need to remove more negative sources from your feed, more messages that do not understand or see the reality of racism. Unfriend away.
White people, I am speaking to you in this case. I see some of you posting similar messages about unfriending those who do not have a similar message.
While this may be a wildly unpopular opinion, I have to say I disagree with this stance.
To the best of my ability, I will not unfriend. I will keep these people in the world of my social media platforms.
I will not unfriend the people who do not agree with me on this no matter how uncomfortable their messages make me. This does not mean I plan on being complicit in their message and idly standing by.
Instead, I will try to converse with them on the matters respectively. I will try to find a way to get some part of my message to them. I will not let them fade back into the world they already know uncontested. In rugby words, I will “Crouch, touch, pause, ENGAGE.” I will contest. I will research and prepare my thoughts. I will touch on the subject and pause to find where this person is at. I will then meet them where they are at and engage in a conversation.
I will contest.
As a white person, I feel this is my fight. I feel that delivering the message to the ignorant or maybe currently unwilling to learn is something I need to do or at least try. This is where my emotional labor is needed.
As an educator, I refuse to think that people are incapable of change. I refuse to think any person is incapable of learning. I believe we are all capable of letting new information in even if it takes time.
And as a believer of restorative justice, I KNOW people are capable of change. I have seen it. People are capable of understanding the wrong in what they have said and done. People are capable of moving forward and making change later in life. People are capable of doing good later in life sometimes in direct opposition to their own past selves. People are capable of seeing the error in their ways and sometimes even swaying others to do the same.
There is more to us than our mistakes, more to us than our past.
While nothing systemic will change without policy change, I believe in personal change.
I believe in people and striving to make people better. I believe in large scale individual change. AGAIN, I believe that EVERY person is capable of change and learning. I believe the most ignorant people showing their racism now are capable of change. If we do not believe that people are more than their mistakes of the past, if we continue to believe that these people are racist and that’s it, then how can we think this life is ever going to be more than an “us and them” world.
I am not saying you will ever get your racist uncle to stop using the n word or change the opinion of the masses of your hometown. However you could try, couldn’t you?
Being an educator has taught me that you will not reach everyone with every topic, but you will reach the ones you can. Those people are worth it. Please don’t throw them away because you can’t reach the masses.
You must continue to try to reach those you can because that’s the work we do. Success IS reaching that one person. That one person reaching the next and so on. We have to believe that individual change leads to large scale change. We just have to.
I know I have to. I believe the word here is hope.
All we can do in this life is the best we can do. I know I can’t change every mind, but I also know if I do the best I can do, I can reach one. Don’t underestimate the one. One is powerful.
I implore you to continue the conversations and please friend me if you don’t agree.