Amplifying Voices – Ijeoma Oluo: Confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people

Most people would agree that in order to learn, you need to listen. Truly listen, not just waiting for your turn to talk, but actually taking in and thinking about what other people are saying.

And yet, time and again when people from marginalized groups are talking about their experiences, members of the dominant group jump in. “Wait,” they say, “What about what I think?! What about my feelings!”.

The author of today’s piece, Ijeoma Oluo, just relayed a story on Twitter, where a white man was the first in line at a Q & A and proceeded to yell at her for making him feeling discriminated against by writing the article.

Here this man had a golden opportunity to listen to a woman of color speak to her experience. And yet, all he cared about was how he felt. Not only did he only care about how he felt, he thought it was Oluo’s responsibility to answer to him for his feelings, and felt entitled to take up one of the questions for his personal wants.

There’s a lot to say about this kind of entitled reaction, but for now I’ll keep it to these two things.

1) If there are discussions happening around a culture where you are a member of the dominant group, shut up and listen.

2) Members of the marginalized groups owe you nothing. They don’t have to explain themselves, defend themselves, or take time to educate you. Many of them do, out of generosity and a desire to foster change, but you are not entitled to it.

And with that, please read Oluo’s piece.

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