I grew up the daughter of two college graduates. My entire childhood, I knew that my education would not end until I, too, had gone to college. It wasn't just the next logical step, it was the only step. When I was a sophomore in high school someone asked me if I was already thinking about college. "Are you going to go?" they asked. I paused for a moment. It had never occurred to me that people didn't go to college. That was never presented as an option to me- to go or not go… For my parents (and then for me), college was a must. 

Of course, I soon realized that attending college is a luxury not afforded to many. I also know that many people who could go, choose not to because thats the right decision for them. I write about my experience not to shame or judge anyone who made a different choice (or couldn't make the choice), I write it only to underscore how important the idea of traditional education has been in my life. I am descended from a long line of principals and teachers. Even my great grandfather, born in 1906, had a masters degree. I mean its serious around these parts, people. Because of this, I have often relied on educating myself to teach me about the things that matter to me. I've spent years reading books by Paulo Friere and MLK Jr. I've read Soong Chan Rah, Brenda Salter McNeil, and the great Dr. John Perkins. Divided By Faith is so marked up, I don't think anyone could barrow it; reading around my notes could prove impossible. From Black Like Me and To Kill A Mocking Bird to Caucasia, and Five Smooth Stones I devour books that play with our ideas and experiences around race. Ntozake Shange, Pearl Cleage, Nikki Giovanni and others have given me words to explain myself. I have an armoire in my bedroom; its filled with books, and this particular stack is dedicated exclusively to racial justice.  

Most of you know the vast majority of my twitter feed contains more things to read- articles, studies, biographies- anything interesting is fair game. I want to know how people are interpreting the importance of race. I want to know how people are loving, hating, engaging, or withdrawing. I.want.to.learn and so much of my learning has come from books, professors, classes, conferences. I've used traditional forms of education to try to understand the world. But I am finding that now I am entering a place in my journey of racial justice and reconciliation that has focused far less on learning. I am unlearning. 

1. I am unlearning the need to be all things to all {white} people. I am growing a backbone. I am choosing when I want to teach and when I don't. I am learning that I don't have to bust out my scars to prove their presence. I am learning to trust myself, my needs, my body, my emotions, my discernment. I am choosing when to walk away. There is nothing in me that needs to be the one black friend of every white, progressive, evangelical who has just discovered the existence of racism. Some people need to go read a book first. Others can have a coffee date, but nothing more. Still others I will be in relationship with- some for a season and others a lifetime. Both are okay. I no longer feel the need to change the minds of white people by showing them how great we (black folks) can be. If you don't know, your loss. Finally, I'm not fighting with folks who don't want to fight for themselves. I refuse to care more than you do. And by doing this I have more energy, more life for the people and institutions who are ready to move forward. But I first unlearn my "duty" to teach anyone who expresses even a passing interest. 

2. I am unlearning to center whiteness instead of the stories of people of color, even when those stories are divergent. For such  long time, I have been so focused on number one, on the incredibly importance of teaching white people so that the world will finally change, that I forgotten to pay attention to the healing of people of color- and more specifically women of color. I have been so focused on whiteness, that I stopped investigating what it means to be a person of color for the sake of our healing. And the result of focusing so much on the education of whiteness, has produced a need for people of color to share a similar story. Though I know our stories, our journeys are unique, I haven't always let those diverging stories live. I am unlearning the constant centering of whiteness and by virtue of this, I am learning to enjoy without hesitation the diversity of stories contained within communities of color. Its quite liberating. Recently there was a campaign on twitter called #WhatKindOfBlackAreYou. It was so much FUN! It proved that blackness is deep and wide, that there are things we share, and things are that are vastly different. It showcased subcultures of blackness and celebrated them all. It was wonderful. That is the atmosphere I want to create- where are similarities and our differences are truly (not just claimed to be) celebrated. (I should note that the longer this hashtag trended it of course garnered negativity, so be sure to filter if you check it out).

3. I am unlearning the ways I perceive my own areas of privilege as "normal". I am so aware when white people normalize their cultural decisions (or even declare them holy). I can smell when patriarchy is leaking all over a man as he interacts with me. But there are plenty of other ways that that I engage in oppression, ignorance, avoidance, and all kinds of crazy. While I want to continue learning- owning my education so that I am not reliant on the scars of others for my own edification- I also want to focus on unlearning the ways my unchallenged mentality assumes that anyone who is not Christian, able-bodied, cis, a singular race, etc is a deviation from the "norm". I don't suffer from believing that everyone is like me, but I do sometimes still have a knee-jerk reaction that goes, "Ohh! how interesting" which is my internal code-word for "different" in an alien sense of the word. It must change. But this I cannot learn from a book. This is learned through interaction with the world as it is, seeing people as they are, being a safe place for others to be themselves, and expanding my world. I have some unlearning to do.

I love books. I will always love books. But I don't just want to be informed, I want to be transformed. I am in need of a transformed mind. Its all pretty scary, but its all exciting. 

Perhaps you are unlearning, too?