Classroom Expertise

“I did a paper on that once.” Words of an expert. Sitting comfortably in a college classroom, this person obviously knows what it’s like to live these experiences, because they “did a paper on that once.”

I am not immune, though the words will come backward out of my mouth, born like hideous beasts of privilege, I remember to tack on, like donkey tails, words that show my lack of experience. I apologize, afterward, for sounding like the pompous white kid. Old habits die hard. I say stupid things.

“I did a paper on that once.” Sati in India. The Aboriginal rights movement in Australia. What do I know from having watched The Rabbit Proof Fence? I know about. I know of. I know really nothing, issues framed in black and white bodies, issues framed around the good or bad wife. They are outside my experience. I live something different.

“I did a paper on that once,” from the safety of the classroom, you did not see. And if you saw, you did not live it (the directed you; that you does not belong to everyone who reads this; that you belongs to some former classmates, some people with whom I lived, to some people whom I’ve not yet met, who don’t understand that there are no universals). No guilt, but fact– we are different, you and I. Of action? Yes, there are things which must be done. Carrying our differences in the light, maybe now we can do with less harm, with our subjectivities disclosed.

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