I attended a talk yesterday afternoon on conducting Anti-racist and feminist work chaired by Sara Ahmed. During the panel the idea of confrontation was raised which made me think about my own work.
The panel discussed how using non-confrontational terms might be a way to travel further. However, it creates a paradox in one’s inability to use the terms they actually need to to describe a situation they are witnessing. Does one go further by being less confrontational? Why is it that by exposing a problem we become one?
Education is seen as a site for transformative change, as liberating, but there is an institutional mechanism at play that breaks marginalized groups apart, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. We see education as the solution to many issues, but education itself is a flawed institution.
Within my own work there have been many instances where I could have been confrontational, called something out that I saw to be racist, but there is a certain level of editing out that I have found needs to happen. If I want people to listen to me, if I want a seat at the table, I have to find a way to navigate difficult terrain that is then understood and taken up by two opposing sides.
The question is: is this a form of diplomacy? Is this a way to bring about change? Or am I actually compromising myself?
Yesterday’s panel raised these questions for me. It introduced the idea of being a ‘killjoy’–of having ‘no’ construct a career trajectory. Audre Lorde says we write about what will say no to, what we cannot put up with–in this way my work is a form of ‘killjoy’. However, it’s far less of a killjoy than it could be and that’s because there is a level of self-preservation at play. Self-preservation over the sense of urgency that change needs to happen and it needs to happen now.
My experiences in educational spaces structures my orientation towards the education system, towards the racism and classism that are endemic within it–it is because I have experienced it that I can see it so clearly. How do we, as researchers, help others without those experiences to see the same? Opening one’s eyes to systematic inequality would certainly be a ‘killjoy.
Are you a ‘killjoy’? About what? Have you found that there are times where you have to be less confrontational about a matter deeply important and emotive for you? Did you feel you were compromising yourself?