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Kenyetta Whitfield

Popular Progression: People should not have to explain their identity if you can search it online

Before asking someone to talk about what their culture means, look it up on an Internet search engine.  


Whenever I enter activist circles, whether it be a student organization or a group of passionate friends, deep down I feel quite anxious. There is always the crippling self-doubt and the fear that I could say something ableist or dripping in gendered language. The possibilities of extremely terrible things that could be said are endless.

Much of this fear comes from a place of lack of knowledge. Yes I know what things are sexist, ableist and transphobic (to name a few). Yet still, in our society micro and macro aggressions and other things are embedded into our language. That however, is no excuse to say offensive or rude things. Ignorance has been used as a scapegoat for many and I for one know it is a sheet that can only be stretched so far. This is where the vast World Wide Web comes into play.

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Due to the nature of our education and the climate of our nation, most of us aren’t taught many important things about oppressed persons around the world. Even in 2015, as people begin to understand sexuality and gender as spectrums, many Americans do not know terms such as genderqueer, pansexual or two spirit. The same goes for the meaning of terms such as systematic oppression or even things as simple as the different names of Native American tribes.

No, I am no expert. However, a simple Google search, surprisingly enough, can reveal a wealth of knowledge on these subjects. We should be encouraging people, young and old, to dispel the myth that you should be ignorant to something until it is pertinent to you.

Often after talking to family members or friends who are middle age, I find myself feeling like a teacher. It is exciting to share my knowledge with them but I can’t help but think about how much farther our conversations could go, if for the first hour I didn’t have to explain everything to them.

Pop culture references such as the “selfie” have become commonplace very much due to the fact that people found out what it was and spread it like wildfire. Encouraging people to do their research on issues and terms can help combat people of color, LGBTQIA people and other oppressed people from having to live their lives feeling as though they are walking encyclopedias.

There is nothing wrong with someone, such as, actress Laverne Cox, using their social presence to education people on trans issues. There is a problem with expecting every person of a varying identity to explain their identity to you. As an American, it would seem weird to have to explain every facet of your culture to someone else. It is inherently common knowledge to most of us.

Use the Internet; it’s fast and can provide insight, even if it’s only a basic understanding. Don’t let ignorance be your excuse. It’s 2015. Nobody should have to act as your personal search engine.

Kenyetta Whitfield is a sophomore studying journalism. What do you think about researching cultures instead of asking someone to explain them? Tweet Kenyetta @Ken_Whitty or email her at

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