I care tremendously about social justice - and I want to be able to talk about things that affect people in ways that are unjust, unequal, and oppressive. But, I find that when I try, I fumble and sometimes even really screw up.

However, I am a researcher - and my research area has great potential for intersectionality. I am encouraged to look at race/ethnicity in my research - and frankly, to not do so given what I research would be irresponsible. Further, I really really want to because the disparities in my area of research are massive and so important to me. But I am hesitant because I feel like I can’t do it justice when I try to explain why taking an intersectional perspective is important and the implications of any racial/ethnic differences I find.

One of my works was reviewed today by a group of my peers. I tried to tackle race and ethnicity in my paper- but my attempts were not good. I’m really grateful for such great colleagues who tell me when I have misstepped - but I feel deeply embarrassed when I get it wrong, and uncomfortable asking why what I wrote was not right. I don’t want to appear like a clueless white person (which I clearly am).

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I can educate myself - and I do, and I will. But there are nuances to experience that an outsider can never get. Like when men try to talk to women about sexism and try to intuit what it is like to be a woman, more often than not, they say something off that seems so obvious to a woman. Often the conversation ends, or the man is discounted as “not getting it.”

It’s not the job of the person in the oppressed group to explain things to the member of the dominant group. It’s not my job to educate men about us womenfolk, and it’s not my job to educate heterosexuals about the life of the homogay woman. It is not the job of my co-author who happens to be a woman of color to explain to me what I am doing wrong.

We all need to be able to talk about these issues intelligently and productively so that it is not just the members of the minority group speaking up and raising the issues critical to changing status quo. So, what do we do? How do we learn?

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edited to add: I actually don’t have a co-author on this project (it’s my diss) - that was just a hypothetical.