by Princess Harmony
Many of us have had the privilege of access to educational tools to learn about ourselves, our histories and/or our positions in society. As knowledge becomes more available in new ways through technology, it can be easy to forget that there are still many of us who are not able to reap the benefits.
I have noticed that we can be quick to dismiss questions in activist spaces. Instead of helping each other, we often tell folks to “Google it” on their own time. Looking up a concept on Google is not available to everyone. For reasons of class, disability, and educational privilege, we need to be wary of answering people’s questions by telling them to just look it up themselves.
Of course, there are times that saying something like “Google it” protects us from having to offer unpaid teaching moments to people who hold privilege over us. These people ask us to teach them about oppression as a way to demand labor and to derail conversations, and in that context, telling them to consult Google is completely okay.
That said, we need to rethink telling people in our own communities, people whose participation we need in our movements, to just go learn these concepts for themselves, especially when these are people who we hold privilege over.
I want us to aim to be as helpful as we can in ways that serve all of us instead of deferring important questions in our communities to Google searches.
Here’s a few reasons why “Google it” and similar sentiments aren’t always the best response to questions.
1. People may need more support
I once told a person to “Google it” without knowing that they had reading issues. I had unknowingly perpetuated ableism by assuming they learned best by reading.
At the core of the “learn it on your own” philosophy stands the ableist assumption that everyone can learn by reading on their own and that’s simply not the case. Mental illnesses such as depression, certain learning disabilities, and disabilities affecting memory can make learning abstract concepts difficult and perhaps even impossible.
In many activist spaces we talk about centering those most affected by oppression but isn’t it contradictory that we tell those very folks to figure out things on their own?
Those who are neurotypical hold privilege over those of us who are neurodivergent. The way that many revolutionary spaces are run erases neurodivergent people. Rather than finding multiple ways to communicate ideas, these spaces rely on the written word. As members of various social justice movements, we need to remember that to create a more accessible movement means recognizing that learning doesn’t happen the same way for everyone.
2. Barriers to academic language
Often, these concepts are written about at a graduate school reading level. Many academic books about trans liberation are totally inaccessible to trans people because of many barriers for us to receive higher education, such as high tuition rates and discrimination.
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When I was trying to learn about ideas such as gender performativity, I had the privilege of being taught by other trans people. If someone had told me to “Google it” instead, I’d have been lost and completely unable to understand it.
I learn best through conversations when I can share my own experiences and connect them to struggles of other people. I’ve had conversations on Twitter and Facebook that were really helpful for understanding and applying new concepts.
When we say “read a book” to someone in our community who asks a question, especially when they don’t understand the academic language being used, we block them out of conversations where their input is critical.
Even at times when we cannot give personal responses to each other’s questions, there are countless YouTube vloggers who talk about social justice concepts, whose videos are great resources to show to people.
3. Inaccessible resources
Even in our revolutionary spaces, we replicate the very systems we aim to fight when we tell folks to figure out answers to their questions on their own.
Rural areas often lack the infrastructure to provide the Internet that some of us enjoy and rely upon to learn revolutionary theories. In the United States, there remain many homes without an internet service subscription. For example, only 57% of black households have access to the internet at home. And there exist even more homes, often in rural areas, without access to quality internet. In order to reach Google, there has to first be working Internet or data connection.
While I experience oppression for being afrolatin and trans, I also have the privileges of access to higher education and high-quality internet. I want to move away from telling folks without that access to “Google it” if they asked me a question.
4. Liberation is collective, not individual
In order to uplift ourselves, we have to uplift all of us. We cannot educate ourselves about liberation and consider our work done. Concepts of liberation need to be available to everyone in our community who wants access and not just those of us who learn by reading Google search results. This requires a willingness on our part to make a point of helping each other beyond deferring to Google searches to teach us.
Whether it’s linking to videos or specific pieces, personally talking to people, or communicating it through art, there are alternate ways of teaching each other without resorting to “Google it.”
Realistically, we can only do what we have the energy to do, but we should still make a point to help each other, so we can all go on and share what we learn with even more people in our communities.
I want to see a world where everyone is free. Everyone reading this should want that, too.
Princess Harmony is an afrolatin trans girl obsessed with vaping, anime, and video games. She loves candy-flavored e-juices, tasty clouds, the Gundam multiverse, and niche import games. Nobody keeps a Princess down! She can be reached on @sluttybitchcock and is always interested in fun conversation.
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