Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

December 9, 2017
by Maha Bali
6 Comments

Judith Butler on Free Speech vs Harassment 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

So it’s a crazy coincidence that

  1. Yesterday I had a Twitter convo w some folks re freedom and some of us were arguing about how freedom (a la J.S.Mill) isn’t necessarily a universally applicable or straightforward principle 
  2. Several of my students submitted assignments re freedom of speech and I felt they took an absolutist perspective that was too narrow and not contextualized. They didn’t at all address the line between free speech and hate speech for example, despite the world that’s reminding us of the dangers of that every day…
  3. Judith Butler was just writing about this! Thanks to Audrey Watters for recommending the article. So proud of myself to have understood sthg by Butler! Yay 

So here is Butler’s piece which I may discuss in class next semester. If I judge it to be too difficult for my students, I’ll find a way to support them in reading important parts of it and discussing them. Note that to help myself read and not be intimidated by it, I started reading from the middle where I expected to find what I wanted. I did. The entire second half is perfect. This is probably entirely too much text I’m copying, but I’ll insert notes, Ok?

If we are free speech absolutists, then free speech not only takes precedence over every other constitutional principle, and some argue that every other constitutional principle will be regarded as structurally dependent on the First Amendment.  That is one view – a kind of domino theory – but surely not the only one. 

My only problem with the above is its emphasis on constitution and US-centric. Which may be difficult for Egyptian students to abstract. Sometimes such contextual details can detract from the overall point being made.

If free speech is not the only constitutional right we are obligated to defend, then we are surely in another sort of quandary, figuring out how best to defend rights that sometimes do clash with one another, and where the clash takes new forms in different moments of history when new expressive technologies force us to reconsider the meaning of expressive freedom. 

I’m wondering here about the insertion of technology as a means of self-expression and how it impacts freedom of speech or lackthereof. E.g. It’s probably safer to say something in a park than to post it on social media. In terms of government surveillance. On the other hand, one can incite violence more widely, reach more people with a tweet (if one has following) than by speaking in a public space (well it depends who you are and where you are followed more; non-traditional celebrities can be created online and have a podium on social media). Trump of course has both.

 If free speech does take precedence over every other constitutional principle and every other community principle, then perhaps we should no longer claim to be weighing or balancing competing principles or values.  We should perhaps frankly admit that we have agreed in advance to have our community sundered, racial and sexual minorities demeaned, the dignity of trans people denied, that we are, in effect, willing to be wrecked by this principle of free speech, considered more important than any other value.  

She doesn’t, I assume, actually mean this. She’s warning us against this. But I’m unsure if Egyptian students will understand it this way? I suspect the more linguistically proficient, social science juniors/seniors will get it. Others may struggle with it. 

If so, we should be honest about the bargain we have made: we are willing to be broken by that principle, and that, yes, our commitments to dignity, equality, and non-violence will be, for better or worse, secondary.  Is that how we want it to be?  Is that how we must be?

This is now much clearer. She’s telling us that we need to weigh freedom of speech vs other values such as equality, non-violence. And boy, I don’t understand how people in Western countries seem to not clearly realize this day in and day out. 

Perhaps since I don’t live in a space of freedom of expression, I wouldn’t put it up on a pedestal anyway? But I think even then…social justice is much more important a value. Even the French have their 3 main values (or pillars or?) of liberté, egalité, fratenité.. But I’m always hearing them talk about the first even if at the expense of the others.

December 5, 2017
by Maha Bali
0 comments

Join us for another #TowardsOpenness workshop – Re-thinking Design for the Inclusion of Marginalized Learners

Reading Time: 2 minutes
tree under the ocean

Image CC0 from: https://pixabay.com/en/ocean-tree-fantasy-orca-1752432/

So in case you missed my tweet from yesterday, I’m co-facilitating a workshop at #OEB17 with Christian Friedrich and Hoda Mostafa – I’m virtual, they’re onsite, and we’re hoping to have the workshop hybrid, so we have room for a few virtual participants to join in! Which makes complete sense for a workshop on the inclusion of marginalized learners, right?

So if you’re interested in joining us, please leave a comment here, on the website contact form, or tweet to me @bali_maha – I’ll be using Google Hangouts On Air and the workshop will be livestreamed on YouTube.

The workshop takes the #TowardsOpenness format, which starts with sharing some provocations with the audience (you can watch the awesome provocations we got from Mary Helda, Sherri and Elana on our website ahead of time – and I have actually already used Sherri’s in classes and workshops!!!) and then we have a discussion around them, then we go into a “design sprint” where over 70 minutes we go through  a design-thinking process around issues of equity/inclusion in #EdTech, with each table deciding on their preferred focus challenge to address (the virtual folks can be our own “table”).

Again, the website is http://www.towards-openness.org/oeb17 – let me know if you’d like to join in!

Header image https://pixabay.com/en/ocean-tree-fantasy-orca-1752432/ by 1980Supra shared on Pixapay with a CC0 License. [this was one of the images we were considering for our session but we ended up choosing another one, so I’m using it for my site. Christian found it 😉 ]

December 1, 2017
by Maha Bali
2 Comments

Ethics of Co-authoring a Pedagogical Article with Students

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve got an interesting little ethical dilemma here. I’m co-authoring a book chapter related to a course I’m currently teaching. Currently, the authors are myself and my colleague who has been observing the course all semester (she’s been to maybe 90% of the classes, and brainstormed along with me much of what I’ve done, but not been heavily involved in grading or looking at student work closely).

While thinking about the chapter (due end of this month, so not too much after grades will be out), I wondered if students might like to co-author it.

My general approach to writing it, so far, is to tell the story of the course from three perspectives: mine, my observer’s, and my students. Originally, I was going to use the students’ own words via their blogs. And that should still be a good option. However, what if actual students could be involved in either telling their personal stories, or interpreting the stories of their colleagues as well as their own?

There are multiple ethical dilemmas with this:

  1. The students who choose to participate are likely the ones who enjoyed the course; they would give a skewed view of the course
  2. Do I put out an open call to students to participate? Do I do this before the course finishes? Would that make some people feel like they need to say yes in order to get a good grade? Should I make it an “extra credit” assignment, to encourage it? Is that no unfair to those who would not want to do it?
  3. Should I just let them know that their final reflection might end up in the book chapter, and if so, that I would include them as co-authors if I use more than X number of words from their blogs? This sounds like a reasonable thing… and once I’ve done that (after grades are out) they can choose to look at the chapter itself and add other stuff or not…
  4. Should I just wait until the course is over and grades are out to get in touch with the students whose views I’d really like to hear in the chapter and ask them THEN? Should I not mention it at all before the grades are out?
  5. Should I make it a whole-class thing and just have a discussion with the whole class about it?

gaaaah I don’t know.

I tried to see if others had thought this issue up, but what I found relates more to co-authoring with a student whom one is supervising  – a completely different thing to co-authoring with a student about one’s own teaching. Hmm.

Had my deadline not been this close, I would have had more time to think about it and definitely to consider waiting until later… the issue, though, is that the deadline is looming, and I don’t want student participation to be tokenistic… so… thoughts?

November 30, 2017
by Maha Bali
2 Comments

A Day of Floating and Grounding at @RISEEgypt Solutions Summit

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yesterday, I spent the day at a conference/gathering, part of RISE () Egypt. I knew some of the team from before, and had been invited to a focus group about the event a while ago, so I was already excited and interested. They were also really sweet, calling me “inner circle”, possibly because I helped connect them to more people (I’m pretty sure they would have done great on their own). Today, I look forward to facilitating a curriculum theory workshop for social entrepreneurs. Inshallah 

I just wanted to capture something about my day yesterday. It was a day that was a mixture of floating/elation and grounding. The event connected researchers/educators with investors and social entrepreneurs who work in the field of education in Egypt.

One of the things I thought was awesome was their choice of location – Townhouse is an artisty place, which I’d been to once before for a conference on alternative education. I saw more of it this time around – other than the main auditorium, there is an adjacent building with different sections for library, gallery, etc. The way it’s decorated creates a great ambiance, and the artwork around there offers us all something to talk about if we had nothing to talk about. 

But we had plenty to talk about, and the organizers created lots of opportunities for this. You go there and you know that everyone around you cares about education. And that’s an awesome feeling. One of the things I heard a lot yesterday was how people fell into educational activism when they saw their children suffer or struggle with Egyptian education (including private, elite education) and they sought alternatives. As someone who’s been interested in reforming education since I was a child myself, I totally get it. I came into education way before I had my child, but it’s definitely a more immediate issue because her wellbeing is at stake. It’s a different kind of issue for me now than it was 6 years ago, because it’s not an abstract “child” or sea of children I’m interested in reforming education for, but a concrete one.

Back to the event. The organizers had a “mapping” session where we all went to another space and added education projects to a wall, highlighting our role as researcher, entrepreneur or investor, and placing our project on a map. If someone didn’t know anyone at the event, they would have opportunities to look at the wall and bump into others while putting up their pin, or filling out their card. Some of the staff also went around introducing people to each other. I already knew many of the people there, but it was really good to meet new people – and to find people I hadn’t seen in ages and catch up with their latest endeavors. I met people who focus on socio-emotional learning (which I’m really interested in these days), people working on empowering young people to learn useful skills they’re passionate about and start using them without having to wait til college, and people who have a mobile library. I saw someone who’s working on a project to preserve Nubian culture who did it with an app – how cool is that! And I heard much more. Everyone there cares about education even if we disagree on approaches to getting there. My colleagues all figured out who wrote the anonymous critical comment about edtech on the slido (it was really cool that they used it. I think it allowed ppl who were more shy to have a voice, and people who were comfortable speaking aloud still had opportunities to do so). There was a really cool type of session to close the day which I didn’t get a chance to attend fully: a social entrepreneur and facilitator take us through their project and we discuss challenges and such (we had a choice among 4 projects). 

The event was also grounding in that it reminded me how far away I currently am from the informal education sector in Egypt. Before my career move to working in education at AUC, I did plenty of grassroots work around education but never directly about it…while doing my masters and PhD, it made sense to focus on edtech then AUC, because that’s where I had resources. It’s still good, but it affects very few people in Egypt. Because I’m a professor at AUC and have a PhD, I get invited to do things like workshops and mentoring and I do it happily. It’s not the same as being more involved, but it’s something. And I’m glad I get to do both.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about since yesterday is how the best kind of networking is the non-instrumental kind. Where you build relationships with people because you truly have shared passions, and you find ways to maintain those relationships without there being a transactional element of give and take. And then occasionally, some day, someone will ask you for something or vice versa, and it will be easy to identify the best person to ask, and to get a quick response. 

In any case – I’m glad I had this opportunity and am looking forward to today’s workshop inshallah. 

Small adjustment I’m doing to the use fo magnets for the workshop….in the unlikely event there are too many people there vs # of magnet kits, I would use the Little Alchemy game, and give different instructions. Some people would be allowed to play without instructions. Some would be tasked with trying to achieve a particular goal in terms of an item to reach (e.g. human) or # of items to create within a certain timeframe. I doubt I’ll need to use this option, but I’m keeping it there just in case.

November 28, 2017
by Maha Bali
3 Comments

Way to Turn Kids Off Learning 

Reading Time: 2 minutes

So my kid is walking evidence of the importance of affect in learning. She’ll learn better if she likes the teacher. I’ve always been strongly like that, too. But there’s more.

Two incidents this past week. The second is more extreme so I’ll start with it. Remember she’s 6.

The religion curriculum has in it parts related to learning verses from the Quran (which she is mostly comfortable with) and parts that are other stuff.

Among the other stuff, for some odd reason, one of the first things they teach kids about prophet Muhammad is

  • His dad died before he was born
  • His mom died when he was 6 (note: my child is 6. You see where this is going?) after which he went to live with his granddad
  • His grandfather died when he was 8, after which he went to live with his uncle (who thankfully lived a long time) 
  • …and one or two more tidbits about how he grew up to be known for his honesty and trustworthiness in Mecca

Why on earth would you create an entire lesson where 90% of the info relates to death of loved ones? My kid is already obsessed with death even though no one close to her has died yet (thankfully) and it freaks me out. But this lesson?  I mean…WHY WHY WHY? 

When trying to do homework about this, she seemed not to remember any information from class, to solve the questions – and as I started to explain it, my heart sank. I could feel her shrinking away from me as she heard about death after death after death. So I just closed the book and left a note to the teacher.

The earlier incident related to her Arabic homework. The exercise was a jumbled up sentence she needed to put in order. The ordered sentence would have been “the bird is in the cage”. When she realized that, she got really distressed and said “why? Why would they put the bird in a cage? That’s like jail! Why would they do that?”. And that was the end of that. Could not convince her to do any more of that homework that day. We moved on to maths instead which she did ok.

Who makes these weird curriculum choices and how could they be so insensitive? 

November 25, 2017
by Maha Bali
7 Comments

Let’s Have a Critical Conversation About AI.

Reading Time: 1

I wrote a post for Prof Hacker (that should be out next week – I wrote it there so it would reach a wider audience, even if it means holding it in for a few days rather than making it immediately available here). Update: published Wednesday Nov 29 – here is the article.

One of the things I thought while writing it is that it might actually be a really useful exercise to bring together a group of people in a hangout to have a critical discussion around AI. My post is a critique of 3A’s that are edtech buzzwords in education, often used in harmful ways but celebrated despite that: AI, adaptive learning, and analytics. This article here has all of them right there. It’s not the only one, of course. 

I’m gonna tweet this to a few people and see if I can organize a hangout sometime soon…

November 22, 2017
by Maha Bali
11 Comments

Why Do We Do Surveys Anyway?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Over the course of this semester, I’ve been involved in some important institutional research/assessment in which I co-facilitated some focus groups and co-designed some surveys. 

Now, I know there are more rigorous ways of designing surveys and validating them and such, but that’s for the postpositivists, to whom I don’t belong. Any survey is heavily influenced by the values of those who put the questions, and any survey question based on perception rather than fact is loaded with assumptions from the writer and reader. So I almost never feel like validation or such is needed or valuable for the kinds of questions I care to ask, which are usually questions interested in exploring the respondent’s socially constructed understanding of the thing, rather than interested in predictions or control.

But beyond all of those things, I feel like even with my interpretivist/constructivist mindset, I add on the really important aspect of how answering a survey one day is pretty much different from answering it another day. Answering it in the morning may differ from the evening. Answering it after a particular conversation on that topic is different from answering it out if the blue. Answering my OWN survey is hilarious 🙂

And so what bothers me about surveys is that even though they offer us (hopefully) useful data about a large population, in “digestible” ways, they’re always always always not a representation of objective reality (which I know, plus I don’t believe that a static objective reality exists for the kinds of research questions I have), but the problem is that we report on them as if they are, you know? And then those charts and numbers become our guide for important decision-making. 

I hate anonymous surveys because I can’t ask someone to elaborate or explain something. 

Two ways surveys are disempowering are

  1. The respondent doesn’t normally have an opportunity to ask a question or frame it the way they like, to ask the question they want to answer about the topic. I usually add an open-ended comment at the end for further comments. But by that time people are often exhausted 
  2. The respondent has no say in how we end up interpreting the data they gave us for free, whom we group their responses with 
  3. The respondent is categorized in particular ways through the gaze of the researcher, when they may wish to highlight different dimensions of themselves. For example, if we’re surveying faculty at our institution, do we need to also check if they’re alumni or parents at the same time? How might that affect their answers? How might thar frustrate them in their responses?

None of this is a surprise or rocket science. I’m unsure if scalability and speed are an excuse for doing this kind of thing. I guess I am frustrating myself by writing this up, but I needed to get it off my chest. I’d much rather be given a semester to do ethnographic research, get a big team of people to write weekly research journals, than to run a survey or two or five. 

But that is just me.

November 21, 2017
by Maha Bali
1 Comment

On Heads and Dancing: Adventures in Arabic Diglossia

Reading Time: 1

If you know Arabic, this should be immediately funny.  If you don’t, I’ll explain in a second. Just remember that the Arabic we write (Modern Standard Arabic aka MSA) is different from the Arabic we speak (colloquial, with different dialects in different countries that are not necessarily mutually comprehensible).

My daughter (who mostly is a native speaker of colloquial Arabic but not very exposed to Modern Standard… but is also learning to read it in school…) sees a picture of the head of a person, and reads the Arabic word ra2s (رأس) and asks me “why isn’t he dancing?”

She confused the MSA word for “head”, ra2s (Which in colloquial is pronounced raas راس ) with the colloquial word for dancing, which in colloquial is pronounced ra2sس but in MSA is actually completely different letters raqs (رقص)

I’ve been telling this story to people because it’s funny… but it’s also such a sign of how confusing this is for little kids. I mean, she was doing what I’d been trying to tell her… trying to find the connection between the MSA and colloquial words so she would understand the MSA words and remember them. But now that she can read, she was able to read the word and she did not make the connection with the picture of the head. Because it’s not really obvious what a picture of a head really signifies, I guess. And she read the word, interpreted the colloquial, and found a disconnect with the picture. They really need to do something about these Arabic textbooks. They really need to choose the right words, or to make an effort to help kids differentiate the confusing words, because, man, this two language thing is hard.

November 21, 2017
by Maha Bali
4 Comments

Why It’s Harder to Get Diverse Keynotes

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve got two blogposts weighing on my heart that I’ve wanted to write for a while, but haven’t been sure I could articulate them clearly and sensitively enough. Actually, they might be 3 or 4 blogposts. I don’t know if putting them all into ONE post is going to help or make it worse. And I also don’t want to unintentionally hurt anyone as I write this. I don’t think I need to clarify why I care about diversity in keynote speakers. There are a lot of ways diversity can be interpreted that don’t address equity and power issues. I am mostly interested in diversity that addresses power issues. So I’m not necessarily looking for diversity that just signifies difference in other ways, though that can be valuable, too, in certain contexts.

So here’s dilemma # 1

I’m involved in organizing an event locally and I am often called upon to find appropriate high profile keynote speakers because of my network. Obviously. Of note, in the past I have invited the following people to various events I was involved in: Ana Salter, Bonnie Stewart, Amy Collier, Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, Jim Groom, Ruha Benjamin, Kristen Eshleman and my ex-PhD supervisor Job Nixon. Note that this list contains only two white straight males. But all of these people are Anglo and only one isn’t white. 

Now this semester, I’m involved in organizing an event for next semester and I had a long list of potential speakers (most of them women) but from my list, my boss prioritized inviting two men and so those are the first two I invited. One agreed to come, the other agreed to join virtually. I was not too worried because we had on our list a couple of women to invite virtually or who would be coming from a nearby country, and one my boss thought might come in person, so I didn’t fret. There was a third keynote speaker choice, which I had made, who is also a white man, but he has a special situation in that he is invited because of his role historically in establishing our center and so he is the right person to invite to keynote this particular event.

But here is what happened. Every single female keynote option fell through. It’s not that I don’t have backup options (especially for a virtual invited talk), but now my colleagues are looking for different kinds of diversity (e.g. someone from a STEM background rather than humanities/social science and not necessarily edtech focused), in which case, I can’t help as much (I did recommend a few women in STEM, but I am guessing my colleagues now want to choose their own).

So look. First of all, among the invited white men, every single on is awesome, and one is a global South scholar and so already addressing diversity in that way. All three are REALLY good at what they do and really prominent names. Could I have invited someone else with a similar background who would have been just as good, but female? Yes. Not the exact same impact, but similar. However, for some reason, those are the names that resonated most with my boss and I could not say no.

There’s still hope to get at least one female speaker. It’s not optimal, but something. I hope it works out.

Just realizing how institutional and social factors stand in the way of truly doing everything in accordance with our own values.

Two of the men on this list care a heck of a lot about diversity. When inviting them, I promised them there would be women speakers. I know they would not like to be a part of a lineup of all white male speakers, and they would not expect that from me. I don’t expect it from myself. And even as my colleagues understand kind of what I’m about, I think they think I’m a little crazy and evangelical about this. I don’t know if they realize how central this kind of thing is to my digital activism and writing and such. So…that.

Dilemma # 2

I used to be that person who didn’t care about money. I’ve been privileged enough in my upbringing to never need to worry about it. Not like rich, but comfortable, you know? And in Egypt, your parents are responsible for you financially til you get married, after which the husband is responsible financially even if the wife works. 

But things change when you have kids. It’s not that money is a worry now, as much as that every minute and pound has an opportunity cost. Every time someone invites me to do something, outside of work, it’s time I spend away from my child. When it’s stuff in a different country, there are decisions to be made about where my child will be while I do that thing, and whether it’s worth it or financially viable for my family to come with me.

I don’t think people realize when inviting someone like me to go somewhere that

  1. My country’s currency is REALLY weak. A trip to a Western country is really costly. If I take my family with me, that’s a big load of money we could have spent doing something else or paying for something better for our child 
  2. It’s not an easy thing for me to leave my child behind. I don’t have a care system in place that would last for more than a day. Working on a weekend is difficult ; staying late at work one day a week is difficult. Don’t even get me started about the nightmare of traveling. My child is still young and my husband’s work (and our culture) makes it difficult to rely on him for childcare while we’re in Egypt. 

And so it’s extremely difficult for me to accept invitations that don’t offer honorarium. I’m not being materialistic or overinflating my own value. It’s not at all about my value. It’s about financial viability. And whether a trip is worth it for my family. In the past, I have accepted invitations because there was some value in the trip to my family beyond the value to my career, whether because of the location or something else. FYI London once a year is usually possible for that reason. 

I was recently in two really confusing and frustrating situations:

  1. Some folks invited me to something and offered a really good honorarium. By the time I convinced my husband it was financially viable to make that trip, they backpedaled and suggested I so something virtual instead. That was…embarrassing? I mean, I never asked for a particular honorarium – they offered it. It was slightly higher than I would have asked, but who am I to say no to a higher offer?
  2. Someone else asked me to go to something in the US. I tried to explain that I could not afford to go to something like that (even if my own expenses were paid) because I had other invitations where I was offered honorarium. And I actually had to turn down invitations because it wasn’t financially viable. So it would be stupid and again, not really viable, for me. He misunderstood and thought I was asking for an honorarium. It was so weird because it wasn’t at all what I was saying! It would not even make sense in that context! All I meant was, if I have opportunities to go to 5 different international events each year, I have to be rational and choose the ones that are viable for my family for financial, logistical and other reasons. I’m not sure why this isn’t obvious to people, but there may be a lack of understanding for what my culture expects of moms of young kids, my particular family situation, and the financial burden of international travel 

All of which actually connects slightly with dilemma #1 – inviting women and minorities may be a more complex endeavor than inviting men. And we should be prepared for it. 

I hope I manage not to be misunderstood in this.

November 20, 2017
by Maha Bali
0 comments

I’m Not Angry at You (republished)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Republished from Identity, Education and Power (which was published on Medium in July 2016; I’m republishing because I no longer have access to Medium because it is blocked in Egypt; thank you Peter Deppisch for reminding me of the piece and giving me this idea).

Push flickr photo by mislav-m shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I’m not angry at you
Just because your government, your people
At some point in history
Enslaved people from my continent
Displaced and dispersed and abused them
Because you weren’t there
You didn’t do it yourself
I’m not angry at you
Just because your government then freed them
Thinking they were doing them a damn FAVOR
Then continued to treat them
As less than human
As less than citizens
As less. As less
To this day
As less
I’m not angry at you
Just because your government, your people
At some point in history
Colonized my land
Violated my land
Violated my history
Stole my history
Crushed my culture
Violated my people
Shamed them
Because it’s not your fault
You weren’t there
I’m not angry at you
Just because your language and knowledge
Are dominant
To the extent that they almost
Erase mine
At least I count myself lucky
That I can communicate in the world
At least I am privileged
To have a voice
I’m not angry at you
Because my exoticism attracts you
It’s normal in ignorance
It’s normal in novelty
At least you’re looking
You’re listening
And someday the exoticism
Will fall away
And you will see the human
In me
But I’ll tell you what makes me angry
When one of my people
Commits a crime
And you generalize it to us all
When the weakest of my people
Seek refuge in your land
And you vote to refuse them
When those very people
Are people whose land and what’s in it
You stole
Without permission
For years
When you could have helped
With their plight
But instead you repeatedly voted
To make their plight worse
And then you refuse to help them
For years
I’ll tell you what makes me angry
I’m angry when I tell you my story
In your OWN DAMN LANGUAGE
And you change it
Because you think you know it better
You don’t
Because you think you can express it better
You can’t
That’s YOU colonizing ME
I’ll tell you what makes me angry
When I so carefully choose my allies
And you, from your haughty distance
Presume to know
To judge
My story
And tell me I can’t see colonialism at work
You
Who have never been colonized
Telling ME
That I don’t know what colonialism looks like?
Are YOU KIDDING ME?
What makes me angry
Is YOU
Calling yourself my friend
For years
Then supporting someone else
Colonizing, bullying me
Supporting their right to free speech
Bullying those who support me, even
If I were black they would be called racist
If I were Jewish they would be called anti-Semitic
If I were gay they would be called homophobic
But you call them none of those things
Because there isn’t the right buzz word for it
Because it really isn’t Islamophobia
Because it has nothing to do with Islam
But it’s a white man
Abusing a postcolonial woman
And there’s no word for what that’s called
Because it is beyond sexism.
It’s not that a white person
Can never critique a non-white person
We are all people
We all make mistakes
But it’s that a white person
Cannot possibly understand
Experiences of racism or postcolonialism
Cannot possibly understand it
Better than the people experiencing it
DON’T SHAKE YOUR HEAD
It’s NOT possible
No one should feel guilty
Because they were born white
Just as no one should feel guilty
Because they were born brown
But every day
You have a responsibility
To speak out against injustice
To question your own actions
To consider your own words
And if you don’t know
How to make it right?
I suggest you shut up
Or you’ll just make me more angry

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