North Texas Daily

Marginalized groups are not required to answer your questions

Marginalized groups are not required to answer your questions

Marginalized groups are not required to answer your questions
July 07
10:00 2022

Scroll through activist Twitter posts long enough, and you’ll probably come across an exchange where someone with a privileged
background asks a seemingly innocuous question about a social justice issue. Instead of a helpful lesson, the unsuspecting Twitter user receives a flurry of messages sharply informing them that “Google is free,” and “It’s not my job to educate you.”

It is true: minorities don’t owe anyone a history lesson on their oppression unless they are a teacher or expert on the subject. At times, it can be invasive and cross a person’s boundaries. Elementary questions are pesky and feel like a waste of time to answer — after all, Google is free. Not all questions are discouraged though, and there are times when curiosity is welcomed and even
appreciated – it is simply a matter of appropriateness.

Some believe by not answering questions, marginalized people are acting against their best interests. Wouldn’t a member of a minority group want to educate everyone and help them understand their hardships? The internet is a cesspool of misinformation, and one Google search can lead to unreliable and extremist pages full of hatred and ignorance.

If someone searches “Are Muslim women forced to cover their hair?” on Google, the first link addresses laws in Afghanistan and Iran requiring women to wear hijabs in public. The following links are articles debunking the myth that Muslim men force all women to cover their hair and explaining the different reasons and perspectives behind the Islamic practice. Still, a curious person might only look at the first link and conclude that Muslim women generally cover their hair against their own will, ultimately misguiding a well-intentioned person.

The key to being a good ally is effort and knowing where to get the right resources is essential in an age of misinformation. Follow experts on social media, watch lectures, read books by reliable authors and read them attentively — it can be the variable that leads you from a path of ignorance to one of understanding.

Simple things, however, really can be solved with a Google search. “Why do Black people wear their hair short?” is the kind of pointless question Black strangers on the internet might not feel the need to answer. Curiosity is great, but marginalized people aren’t search engines. They are people with boundaries and priorities that don’t always align with explaining the science behind hair textures to a random person on the internet.

Despite basic etiquette ruling that invasive questions push personal boundaries and are generally rude there are instances where marginalized people deal with strangers asking questions that are offensive just by proxy. Prodding questions about their run-ins with discrimination and systemic oppression are deeply personal and emotional for some. Marginalized people’s suffering doesn’t exist to be anyone’s educational material, and to insist on marginalized people recounting their issues for one’s enlightenment can come off as entitled.

Minorities don’t have to be on the frontlines of social justice education just because they are minorities. Educating you is not their duty if they aren’t experts or activists. Ultimately, it is better to look at research and informational documents for better insight.

When asking questions, privileged people should ensure it is rooted in a genuine desire to listen and learn. Sealioning is a harassment tactic commonly used on social media where the harasser will ask several basic questions feigning curiosity when their true intention is to agitate the other person. If the harasser succeeds, the other person will present as someone too irrational
to make a valid point. Sealioning is a waste of time and doesn’t lead to creating understanding and positive discourse.

Curiosity is lovely but it is also good to remember ordinary marginalized people aren’t experimental subjects to be prodded. It exudes rudeness, lack of consideration and entitlement. Part of allyship is listening and learning where you can hear best. Follow
activists on social media and find media on the topic. There are already people willing to teach.

Want to be more educated? Seek a teacher. Don’t make one out of an unwilling stranger.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

About Author

Hana Musa

Hana Musa

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