My education should have started years ago. But it definitely must start now.

I choose to educate myself here and now. To do the hard work and make good on my vow to help the hurting. I know that there is so much that I don’t know, but I also know that I’m willing to learn what I need to do to help enact social change. I don’t want to co-opt the movement, but I sure as hell want to help.

The work, the education, starts now. I acknowledge my privilege, the systemic racism that courses through my veins and the veins of American society as a whole. I choose to learn from those who know so much more about the plight of brown and black people than I could ever know. I choose to listen to these voices who have been screaming into the void for too long, to use my privilege to amplify those voices. I must. We all must. Because if we don’t, we reinforce the racist thread that runs through the fabric of America. 

I look around me at what is happening in the world right now, what is happening within a mile of my apartment in the streets of Philadelphia, and I realize that I am entrenched in a learning environment every single day. And though I haven’t intentionally done so, I have closed myself off to embracing this, to letting the plights of others, of the world built around me, educate me and challenge my worldview. This is, frankly, unacceptable. As a future social worker, as a human being, what else can I do but open myself up to the voices and experiences of the marginalized who are screaming out in pain right now? Who have been screaming out in pain for years, centuries?

As the beginning of my masters’ program draws near, I sometimes get plagued by doubt that I will fail. I’ve been out of school for too long, a voice in my head tells me. I’m going to fail. I’m not used to being educated.

But that’s no excuse. Because the education opportunities have always been around me. I just didn’t see it. And that is privilege.

It’s time for me to sit down, listen, and educate myself. To do the hard work. To do what I can to support. Because it’s not about me.

Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.

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