To re-shape your understanding of yourself.
‘Educate Yourself’, ‘Do your research!’ – These are the cries of educated people who want the rest of the population to catch up. After years studying complex theories, such as ‘intersectionality’ and ‘lived experience’, many academics are now thrilled that their work is being used to educate the masses. US and British public institutions are using the insights of these radically hip academics to discover racism everywhere. We are experiencing a roll-out of a national programme of re-education – from ‘Unconscious Bias Training’ at work to ‘Decolonising Education’ in schools. It is important that we prepare ourselves mentally.
Help is at hand. Radical hipsters and professional thinkers have dedicated their lives to their PhDs. Publishers are falling over themselves to promote books with titles such as ‘White Fragility’ (Robin DiAngelo) and ‘Me and White Supremacy’ (Layla Saad). But, sadly, most people still prefer to read novels and autobiographies. Disappointingly, cooking and gardening books have seen a surge in popularity during the lockdown and throughout the BLM protests. We must change our reading habits and DO THE RESEARCH!
Self-education is hard work
By learning about a subject, we can build on our knowledge and apply our understanding. However, self-education requires us to go much further. We must start by accepting that we are not who we thought we were and this can make us feel uncomfortable. Robin DiAngelo teaches us that “it is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience”. It can be uncomfortable to think of ourselves primarily as ‘white’ or ‘BAME’. But only when we understand that our individuality is entirely subsumed into racial identity, can we truly find ourselves. This is the ultimate goal of all our learning. We must learn that we are merely the products of the vivid imaginations of academics. Once we reconstruct ourselves in the image of the better educated, we can truly be ourselves.
DiAngelo teaches us that the process of “accepting whiteness” leads to “behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation.” She recognises that it will be difficult to accept new identities – especially ones that we don’t recognise – and she anticipates our negative emotional response. It is important at this stage to repress any urge to debate the validity of her ideas – this urge is simply a product of prejudice and bias and every effort must be made to resist it.
Critical thinking is resistance to learning
It is essential that you appreciate that the new education does not rely on the rational part of your brain. When you find yourself disagreeing, or weighing up alternative perspectives, you are displaying outmoded forms of thinking. Critically assessing an argument demonstrates that you are retrospectively justifying privilege, rather than willingly accepting your new self. You may seek to open a cookbook or do some gardening as a way of “withdrawing from the stress-inducing situation”, but this is no longer an option.
Self-education can be painful, but it can also be immensely profitable. Although millions of people are currently losing their jobs, the one growth area is the ‘diversity’ industry. Once you have completed your education, you can apply for a well-paid job as a ‘diversity consultant’ in a large corporation or set up a business carrying out ‘identity awareness’.
Self-education is the key to surviving and thriving.