Remember the encounter with the Morris Men from earlier this year? It turns out that a graduate student at UBC is making a short documentary film about the Morris men that “(examines) the the discussion that emerged from the controversy” (quoted from email).
I wrote back to the student and thanked her for contacting me, but declined to participate.
A good friend asked me a while back to help her with a project she was putting together to talk about sensitive conversations that have helped her grow and shift in her thinking. She’s a very warm, wholehearted person who has a huge capacity for understanding and empathy, but I told her that while I’m happy to have those conversations with her as an individual, I wasn’t interested in broadcasting my words to the world.
You see, I don’t want to be Your Black Friend. I don’t want to be The Black Expert.
Often there comes a time in situations like this where a white person wants to make a point about whether such-and-such opinion about black people is rooted in fact, that person will use me as a reference, as if to say “Well, my black friend Cecily says this is OK.”
I’m nobody’s get out of jail free card.
I can’t talk about the incident with The Morris Men anymore because I’ve said all I care to say about it. I’m not interested in having this conversation with The Morris Men or anyone else if they’re not interested in talking about themselves and their role in the perpetuation of racist thought or actions.
I don’t want to talk about this because I don’t want to stop being a librarian, a woman, a Southerner, an American, a Canadian-by-Choice, or someone who rides bikes. I don’t want to stop being black, but I don’t want to be a stand in for an entire group of people either. I don’t want to talk about it anymore because I don’t want to become “That Black Chick” in the eyes of the world.
There are a lot of books you can read about race, popular culture, and the intersection and interplay of both (most notably bell hooks’ Black Looks: Race and Representation amazon|library), and as a librarian, I will gladly help you pull together a reading list. But that is where my responsibility ends. I am not here to educate you, particularly if you haven’t put in the work to unpack what “whiteness” means in our larger society and what it means in your own interpersonal relationships and the way you see the world.
I am not your passport. I am not your certificate of accomplishment.