Hello. I’m An.
I could spin that into the old trope entrance – It’s an honor to be among such articulate and intelligent people, and it’s also incredibly intimidating, thank you for letting me be here – but while it is an intimidating honor and I am glad to be here, I’d rather touch on it and then jump into a different-though-related topic with both feet.
That being: hi, I’m new at this.
I’m a member of quite a few out groups. I’m also a member of quite a few in groups, and I come from a position of marked privilege. Relatively comfortable economic status, college-educated family, good neighborhood, excellent school district, extremely accepting and supportive church environment, so on. I wasn’t forced to confront issues of privilege until recently – not in any real way. (The rather euphemistic “Yes, racism is bad” I got in public schools doesn’t count.)
When asking to reprint one of my rambles here on Alas, Mandolin mentioned “You are *very* good at stating 101 stuff in simple, easy-to-understand language.” To which I responded, “Possibly part of it is because I’m in the process of learning so much of it, myself.”
That’s great for writing with empathy and compassion. Not so great for the niggling fear that I’d post and wind up with my foot so far in my mouth I’d get my tonsils stuck under my toenails.
So as I sat under my rock and avoided writing this introduction, I also considered what I’d bring to this blog and what I’d get out of it. 101 stuff, probably. Another voice with another set of personal experiences. Some observations on social expectations, on family structures and neuro-atypicality, on transmission and acquisition of culture. And it struck me that perhaps two things needed to take front seats in this consideration: (1) If no one spoke for fear of making mistakes, that silences a lot of voices, and (2) Maybe the stigma against making mistakes is a cultural element that should, in itself, be resisted.
We live in a society where ignorance is an insult. It’s not admirable to admit that you don’t know something; sometimes it’s damning. In political campaigns, changing one’s mind is taken as evidence of a candidate’s unsuitability. How dare anyone revise their opinions, even over the course of several years? I can’t help but feel that the end result isn’t a reduction of ignorance; it’s a reduction of people willing to risk being called ignorant, even in an environment where it could be addressed.
Personally, I think ignorance is a prerequisite for learning, and it’s not ignorance that should be called out, it’s resistance to education. If you hold all the same convictions at 50 as you did at 30, I’d wonder what you’d been doing with your life. But that doesn’t make admitting to ignorance any more palatable, and there aren’t a lot of good examples out there of people standing up and saying, “Hey, I was wrong about this, here’s a correction,” – or of other people reacting in a way that validates or normalizes it.
I think there is a need for a safe place to be wrong.
It’s often better to make mistakes in the company of experts than the company of the uninformed. Experts can correct you. It’s the same reason that there are no stupid questions in a classroom, and it’s why my old marching band instructor told us in practice that if we made mistakes, he wanted them obvious: you make them, you get called on them, you improve, and you do better next time. And if all else fails, takedowns of common misconceptions can be useful resources, even if they just go on the “link people to these if they don’t get it” card.
So here I am. I’m going to write things. Despite my best efforts I’m probably going to make mistakes, and I hope I’ll be able to fix them, to make them part of the dialogue rather than stumbling blocks to discourse. And if some of what I write is quite basic, call it a 101 document and I’ll work up through the curriculum as I go.
It’s a pleasure to meet you all.