I truly believe there’s a big difference between “educating someone” and “fostering someone’s education.” One is teaching someone your beliefs. The other is helping someone grow and find their own truths, their own beliefs, and perhaps it’ll align with yours.
On the one hand, I’ve had experiences as someone with information to share, and being unable to “show them the truth.” On the other hand, I’ve also been someone who didn’t have a lot of information or opinions regarding a topic, and having people “educate me.” (Not fun.) I firmly believe in the healthiness of people having different opinions and beliefs, just as long as it doesn’t harm somebody else’s wellbeing. Yet, we must be open to having a dialogue, to the possibility of being wrong, and we must have patience.
Have patience — not for the other person in the dialogue (or argument, in most cases), and not because “they’ll eventually come around” and join your “side.” Have patience with yourself to accept the fact that they think differently than you, and have the courage to explore why they might.
I hate the term “educate” — “let’s educate them.” It seems so high and mighty. It’s this kind of strength that sometimes scares me because it means, to me, that these people are unwilling to hear the other side of the conversation, and perhaps unwilling to accept other people, and it feels so fucking elitist.
Perhaps they’re unwilling to accept me, perhaps they’ll judge me, perhaps I’ll anger them. These thoughts are what’s preventing a lot of dialogue from happening because people are afraid of being attacked. People need to explore their thoughts before they can solidify them. Thus, we mustn't falsely advocate for a safe space if we are not courageous enough to hear what they have to say and to have a genuine dialogue that doesn't involve preaching to the choir. Who wants to listen to someone who thinks they’re better than you? NOBODY.
Perhaps my approach to activism is too tame and withdrawn for the non-privileged, for those who are currently facing issues that are detrimental to their livelihood, to those compelled to take a more aggressive approach. I try not to preach, and I try not to advocate for a singular way of going about anything in life. It’s important to have those on the front lines fighting the fight, and I admire those people. (Just look at these amazing women!)
But I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about how we talk to one another. I’m talking about how we interact with people who have a different point of view from us. I’m talking about how we choose to discuss issues we’re passionate about, and how we should encourage people to learn. Driven by emotional investment, how are we choosing to spread our messages? How are we “showing people the truth?”
You were once uninformed, unaware, unwoke. You deserved respect and acceptance then, did you not? But even that phrasing makes me cringe. We cannot assume that with our knowledge, our biased knowledge, that we are better than another human being. We must build each other up to be the most informed people we can be, and practice kindness and respect.