Both people of colour and “computer expert” (a term that less computer-literate individuals use to refer to computer-literate individuals) friends and relatives are perceived as public resources whose raison d’être is to educate white people about race or provide personal technical support, respectively. While the two groups are not mutually exclusive, both people of colour and “computer experts” are perceived to have no lives or other interests, and are treated as if educating white people or providing technical support is “their job”.
This is why white people and less computer-literate people often complain loudly and indignantly during certain interactions, as if people of colour and “computer experts” are providing poor “customer service”. White people often complain that if people of colour do not present racial issues in a way that is appealing to whites, then white people will not want to learn about racism. (For some reason, they believe that promoting social awareness about a particular issue should be similar in process to a company promoting a product.) Less computer-literate individuals even speak condescendingly to or yell at “computer experts” with a similar sense of entitlement, as if their computer-literate relative/friend/acquaintance has the same social obligation to them as the paid technical support staff of, say, Dell.
Among anti-racist circles online, a common admonishment is something along the lines of “people of color are not responsible for educating white people about race”, which belongs in a list of Racism 101 axioms. However, this advice is often accompanied by the suggestion to ask a friend of colour about race, instead of a random person of colour.
While a white person’s expectation that any person of colour is required to act as a personal assistant to any white person is racist, white-centric, and perpetuates the assumption that people of colour exist to serve whites, the white person’s expectation that his friend of colour has some obligation to educate him about race is still problematic.
Friends of colour also have their own lives and other interests, just as random people of colour do. While a person of colour may be much more tolerant if her white friend asked her to educate him about race than if a white stranger did the same, this does not mean that educating her white friend is her job or responsibility. A person of colour may invest much of her time and effort into educating a close white friend because she deems the white friend as worthwhile, but it is at the person of colour’s expense. A person of colour has to deal with time- and energy-depleting racial burdens that people with white privilege do not have, and doing the work for a white friend consumes even more resources.
There are actually people of colour who are paid to educate white people about race, so it makes the most sense to engage with these people (during their work hours and at their work location) who have made the decision to deal with unscripted Racism 101 questions from people with unexamined white privilege. The same applies to “computer experts”: it makes more sense to call paid technical support to fix your internet problem than to ask your relative to drop whatever she was doing to help you fix your internet.