By Charles Fick
I keep coming back to this sentence from Humilitas by John Dickson. He says, “Expertise could legitimately be described as uncovering the depths of my ignorance.” (p. 54)
In my ethnic journey as a privileged white male I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good at admitting my own ignorance. I want to project strength, competence, and intelligence. My arrogance and pride often convince me that I know much more than I do. Some have even gone so far as to applaud their ignorance. Arrogance of ignorance is a thing now. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Arrogance of ignorance
is a thing now.
Ignorance is bliss, right?
On the contrary, ignorance is dangerous; and ignorance of your own ignorance is very dangerous. Ignorance of others’ ignorance can also be dangerous, especially when combined with a semi-anonymous social media communication method. I see this daily in my Facebook feed. Ignorance combined with arrogance has led to…quite a mess. It’s gotten pretty ugly out there on the interwebs.
It’s much easier to point out ignorance in others, especially if you consider yourself a “woke” white person like me. Moral superiority is a powerful drug for the ego. The election of such a morally flawed President as Donald Trump only adds fuel to the fire. This is a recipe for relational disasters, and I’ve had a few.
But lately I’ve been weighed down by how much I don’t know and how hard it is to grasp the truth of things that are happening. It’s really difficult to sort through the piles of biased propaganda and biased news left and right to ascertain what is actually going on.
The possibility of believing lies, repeating them and basing our actions on them is very real. The miscommunications keep piling up and anger begins to boil inside me. Arrogance of ignorance is exhausting. I lament the ignorance in me. I lament the ignorance of white supremacy. I lament the ignorance of history. I’m so so tired of ignorance. Tired of my own, and especially tired of others’ ignorance.
So how do we invite our “un-woke” brothers and sisters to join us on this journey that we are on? How do we fight this ignorance? I’d like to suggest these three action steps that I hope to make myself in the days and weeks ahead:
- Fight ignorance with relationships. Get to know them deeply. Ask lots of questions. Learn from them. Have them introduce you to their friends and introduce them to your friends. They need to know you and you need to know them. We all need to know more people who are not like us who can begin to fill in the blank spaces is our knowledge, correct some misconceptions and just maybe open our eyes to our blind spots and prejudices.
- Fight ignorance by telling your story. Tell the stories of your journey face to face. Politics is contentious. Ideologies conflict. But stories? No one can argue with your story. My own ethnic journey was blissfully ignorant until I moved to Atlanta in 2001 for Mission Year. My whole purpose for being there was to love my neighbors and I quickly figured out that meant listening to their stories. Their stories changed me. Your story can change others too.
- Fight ignorance with the truth, gently. Read and discuss a book on the history of racism, white supremacy, oppression, inequality, injustice, slavery, poverty, civil rights, reconciliation… Or take a class with them on one of these topics. I thought slavery wasn’t that bad until I read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass for an Africana Studies class at Cornell. I’ve been reading books like it ever since.
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is darkness. Every time I connect with a person who is different from me I see a flicker of hope. Every time I share a story from my ethnic journey with a friend the world seems a bit brighter. Every time I share the truth in love, the light shines forth. The antidote to ignorance is the light of the truth.