I Will Not Make Excuses For Your Ignorance
Is it our responsibility to correct your ignorance?
At what point is it your fault for not attempting to learn?
If you have to start your sentence with “I know I’m about to be very ignorant right now” maybe you should’ve never started talking.
Just because I’m a teacher and Muslim doesn’t mean I’m required to answer all of your questions.
It doesn’t mean I’m required to unpack every conflict, microaggression, and invasive encounter just to meet your ignorance at your level and relive every other time someone asked me that.
It’s not my responsibility.
But here I go anyway!
Arab and Muslim are NOT synonymous. I don’t know how many more times we need to say this for you to understand that people have complex identities when you live in one of the most diverse countries in the world. This shouldn’t be that hard.
If I hang out with other Arab people sometimes it’s probably because you’ve created an environment where I need to escape your presence and seek people who I know won’t say offensive nonsense to me. I don’t call your group of friends a “white” club so stop calling mine an “Arab” club.
Saying things like “We hired you to replace the Arab teacher that resigned” isn’t cute, clever, or funny. It’s tokenizing, uncomfortable, and rude and it means that somewhere in your subconscious you really believe that one Arab teacher is more than enough for your school.
When you think it’s appropriate to tell me that you used to always “stare at covered women” because you were so curious what they looked like underneath that’s called fetishizing, dehumanizing, demeaning, and orientalizing Muslim women. If you don’t know why that’s a problem then there is a deeply flawed gap in your knowledge of the history of islamophobia and colonization and you’re responsible for learning it. I’m not required to teach it to you.
Don’t ever call me exotic or foreign. Your FOREIGN ancestors colonized my home and kicked out my grandparents.
Asking me questions about my identity is really personal and I have a right to choose when/if I want to divulge that information. Just because you see something in the news about Palestine doesn’t mean you have to rush over to tell me in the middle of me greeting my students. The fact that you can bring it up and compartmentalize it without any emotional baggage is a privilege. At least ask to have this conversation and give me the agency of deciding when to continue it. Don’t bring it up like you’re talking about the weather. Don’t assume that just because you won’t be affected for the rest of the day by unpacking the most recent news story doesn’t mean I won’t be carrying on an additional layer of trauma that I was not mentally prepared for.
You shouldn’t be asking your students to argue whether or not islamophobia in media is acceptable. Stop normalizing oppression as an opinion. Follow-up: you shouldn’t backtrack your lesson once you realize a Muslim person is in the room. Your ignorant lesson shouldn’t be dependent on who may or may not be offended in the space that you’re occupying. If you can’t give the same lesson to any audience you need to confront the bias in your teaching before you speak to children again.
Don’t objectively talk about drone strikes like they are a positive military way to deal with this country’s racialized definition of terrorism. You’re oversimplifying and ignoring both the role this country has played in creating these groups as well as the suffering and murdering of civilians because of drone strikes.
I literally have ZERO interest in hearing about your trip to Israel or your friend’s trip to Israel or how big of a Zionist your friend is. The word “birthright” alone is triggering for me so I need you to go somewhere else.
I will not makes excuses for your ignorance. I will not make excuses for your ignorance. I will not make excuses for your ignorance.
I’m sick of the low standard we continue to have for educators. Yes, I vehemently believe that all educators have a responsibility to constantly address any and all ignorance and bias they have. That’s not to say you cannot have a productive conversation with your colleagues that is based in an intention of growth. However, it is to say that if you are confused as to why any of the aforementioned encounters is a problem then you have some work to do. I’ve had way too many conversations with other teachers of color and muslim teachers about this burden we’ve taken on of constantly addressing people’s ignorance. It cannot possibly continue to be on us all the time. It is a requirement of teaching to know this expectation of decolonizing your mind is non-negotiable.