The Pressure of Being an (Educated) Person of Color (POC)

A friend/classmate and I recently had a discussion about the cultural appropriation behind The Color Run and the need to say something about it to other classmates. I’ve taken several personality tests and know myself pretty well to say that I do my best to avoid conflict. I have a tendency to stay reserved and let some folks do the talking while I do my role as a support system. So I thought: maybe they can learn “the hard way” and have a realization of how an event like this perpetuates cycles of colonialism and appropriation; is this something I really need to “call them out” on? However, after talking to my friend/classmate even further, I had my own realization: I can’t expect people to learn and change on their own. I can’t let them use “I didn’t know” as an excuse for being “ignorant*”. I can’t wait for them to understand their mistakes and hope they change a little later down the road. Being an educated person of color means I have a responsibility to my community and my identities. My goal is not to serve as a spokesperson for the multiple identities I claim, but to call out the bullshit and stupidity that arises from ignorant behaviors and actions when I see them.

The line becomes difficult to tread at a certain point, however. As a POC, by calling things out, we may become labeled as “the angry b*tch”, “the loud brown person”, “the super political pilipino”, etc. We may not even be listened to because we’re “brown and poorly educated” so what is there for us to really say. I find it difficult to assert myself in classroom discussions and the professional realm because of the identities that I hold and my fear of challenging others and creating enemies. But I do have to realize my privilege in all of this. I am an educated queer, Pilipino-American. I have the privilege to speak up and out when discriminatory/unethical notions get brought up. I can be a force for social change and justice and I cannot be scared to use this tool.

Now, going into graduate school, I knew this was a part of me that I wanted to work on. I wanted to learn how to tastefully call out politically hurtful and unwanted behavior/statements, and walk away from the discussion still feeling confident and supported in my identity and struggle. And by the end of these two years, I am going to master that ability. I will. I promise you.

 

*The usage of the word ignorant is meant in general for individuals that are completely oblivious to the political correctness in POC struggles & experience (and not in reference to the classmates that I’m directly speaking about)

Note: this is a slightly unfinished post, so I apologize for grammatical errors, unlinked sentences/thoughts, and overtly-generalized statements. I just wanted to write this and have it published in the meantime.

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2 thoughts on “The Pressure of Being an (Educated) Person of Color (POC)

  1. Word. So glad to have discovered your blog! In my experience, calling folks out is always somewhat uncomfortable, unpopular, and totally necessary. But it’s better than living with that silence.

    • Thank you for sharing! And yes, I completely agree with you. It was really tough finding this balance between calling someone out, but being my “nice” self. But I realized that I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor by staying silent and my internal values would probably be in conflict with one another.

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