Empathy as Minority

As I dive back into reading for self study, I find that I often have to pause in what I’m reading because it makes me so angry. I made it only halfway through the New Jim Crow before I had to return it to the library (I plan to finish it eventually) because every other page I had to put it down. It is so frustrating and anger-inducing how society as a whole is so inhumane toward people of color.

Right now I’m in the middle of reading Dr. Jonathan Rosa’s “Standardization, Racialization, Languagelessness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies across Communicative Context.” In it he describes how during field research at a predominately Latinx high school, the Latina principal – who herself is bilingual in English and Spanish – pushes the idea that to be ‘bilingual’ is to be of an “inferior status.” There are excerpts of dialogue between Dr. Rosa and the principal where she says that bilingual education is utilized as a ‘crutch’ and that full immersion into English speaking classrooms should be used instead. As Dr. Rosa writes, “there was no formal way in which their Spanish language abilities were recognized as academically useful.”

That, dear reader, just sets a fire inside of me.

He also writes, “…[W]hile bilingualism is understood as a valuable asset or goal for middle-class and upper-class students, for working class and poor students it is framed as a disability that must be overcome.” I must state that Dr. Rosa argues against this idea, and whole concept of raciolinguistics (as so far as I have read thus far, which is admittedly minimal), is that multilingualism for racially minoritized people is demonized because of their “inability” to reproduce ‘standardize’ language when compared to white people, even when they linguistically are able to do so. I know I’m not describing it very well, and I plan to get more into what that means later, but for now, I’m writing about my FEELINGS.

My FEELINGS are anger, frustration, disbelief, incredulity about how callous WHITE PEOPLE can be toward POC who speak a little bit different from white people. There are so many examples out there of ways in which white people try to use language as a means of demonizing or controlling the narrative about POC. Here’s one.

It’ll be interesting for me to come to terms with these seemingly majority-held beliefs – as in, trying to power through reading about it. I didn’t think that my empathy was something that only a minority of people hold, but I’m quickly finding out otherwise. Me, a white person, am very much in my feelings of discomfort at this epiphany. I’m sorry there aren’t more empathetic people out there who are taking action to combat the inhumanity of white supremacy. But I will do what I can, learn what I can, to help dismantle it.