Try to Learn – Despite Your Ignorance.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the discussion of privilege and social justice. How do we aim for more awareness

Flickr credit to: Anton Khoff

in a country that chooses not to be? Admittedly, it can be and is rather frustrating to meet people who don’t know that racism still exists or feel that women have earned sexual assault. When you turn on the news, or read a new headline online – all the oppression is maddening. So the people who had dedicated a great deal of time – if not their lives – to combatting ignorance are justifiably angry. Or just plain frustrated.

To a certain extent you would think more people would be on board, that more people would just know so that we can move forward.

But not everyone knows.

There’s a lot in life that many people – myself included – will never experience. For much of my existence, I didn’t know about child abuse or its survivors until I made a friend who helped enlighten me. I have learned that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18. How more than 60% of pregnant teens are sexually abused as children. That 90% of abuse toward children is committed by people the child knows (relatives, family friends, etc).

With over 39 millions survivors of sexual abuse living in America, this should be something that people should be enraged about, ready to fight against. And yet – nothing. I would say that victims and survivors of child abuse are one of the most silenced, and marginalized members of our society.

But I can’t forget that I became aware of child abuse through friends and memoirs I have read. I can’t forget that I became aware of how pervasive rape is by attending Take Back The Night at my all-women’s college. I realized how powerful fat shaming had become by reading stories of women who were severely neglected by hospital doctors.

We learn by asking questions, by trying to understand where each person comes from. 1 in 3 women in the United States is raped, but that number might not mean anything to you until you’ve met the survivors, until you realize the extent that women suffer at the hands of a callous judicial system –  15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

And while all the statistics I listed here are readily available to you on the web, how many people would go out of their way to research it? Many men and women dedicate their time and energy to education, fundraising and volunteering to help spread awareness and yet many people remain ignorant. Disinterested. Or worse – indifferent.

Ignorance is much like a sleeping virus – you don’t know you have it until something triggers it. Then, you are bombarded with all this new information and an eagerness to learn.

And at this juncture we have a problem. The crossroads of where knowledge and experience meet YOU. You don’t know that you don’t know, so you ask questions. Maybe you’ll face rejection or insult. People saying that privilege has made you ignorant, and that you need to educate yourself. And yet here you are – attempting to educate yourself.

In a world where people continue to suffer daily at the hands of oppression, disinterest and hate – lack of knowledge is unacceptable. And yet there is it. In a world where numbers mean nothing until it personally affects us, the urgency for compassion can’t be ignored.

The need for both compassion and patience for those who “know not what they do (or say)” is overwhelming. We literally can’t have discussions with just ourselves or the people who support us – that is not progress. Even though it can be (and at times is) painful to talk to people who have no idea the kind of suffering many endure, to completely shut down is detrimental.

Some people are angry and belligerent – putting their ignorance on full blast. Some people are unassuming and timid in their ignorance. But no matter what – we must come from a place of compassion. If not for them – then for ourselves. Anger will stall the debate, and impatience will turn away those honestly seeking to learn.

I think it’s time to stop holding people’s ignorance against them. 

 

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)

8 thoughts on “Try to Learn – Despite Your Ignorance.

  1. Excellent post. BTW I know this may not be a question you want to answer but did you by chance attend Mt. Holyoke? (okay or Smith). :O)

  2. “Ignorance is much like a sleeping virus – you don’t know you have it until something triggers it. Then, you are bombarded with all this new information and an eagerness to learn” A great point! Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to learn. It is a lot easier not to face the statistics and be thankful you aren’t one of them.
    I am glad you put this out there for people to learn and hopefully take an interest in. Too much of this is important to ignore. Great post!

    • Oh thank you! I appreciate your support!

      I think it is important for people to be willing and open to having discussions, and realizing what life is like for a majority of the people who live in the US.

      But I’m glad you liked it!

  3. “We literally can’t have discussions with just ourselves or the people who support us – that is not progress. Even though it can be (and at times is) painful to talk to people who have no idea the kind of suffering many endure, to completely shut down is detrimental.” Oh so true, but oh so hard. The problem with having conversations with people who are ignorant about certain subject matters is that you first have to teach them what they “should” know.

    We live in such as repressive culture–one that requires or sparks no true debate or revolutionary thought. This mixes well with capitalism and all the other social ills we can’t overcome.

    As far as sexual abuse, I know as many women who have been sexually abused/molested as I know those who haven’t…sad…sad…

    • “The problem with having conversations with people who are ignorant about certain subject matters is that you first have to teach them what they “should” know.”

      Yes. I agree. This can be the greatest hinderance because you have to explain terms and give a lot of context. Even though I follow many people on Twitter (and their blogs) in terms of racial equality, when I have to explain privilege myself, I often find myself fumbling around. Which introduces a new kind of problem. How can I educate other people when I can’t speak eloquently and in depth about this?

      It is difficult to incite revolutionary thought when many people are determined to keep the status quo.

  4. I graduated with two degrees in sociology and women’s studies. I find that as much as I “know” about issues within that field, I must constantly search to push my own boundaries and accept that there will always be something I’m blissfully unaware of- whether it’s an experience, an injustice, a lifestyle or a perspective.

    We have entered an era where we are “without” racism or sexism. Truly, they exist, they just have been cleverly disguised in the post-civil rights era as being “resolved,” but they are living in a new insidious form- complete denial. Before in the U.S. when racism and sexism (and every other kind of ism) existed, it was “just the way it was,” now it has been “fixed” by the election of a black president and women in the workforce, etc. etc. On the other end of the scale, activists preach to the choir as it can be exceptionally hard to convert outsiders to the cause but I would agree, it is important to treat them with compassion and to take a good hard look at ourselves in the realization that we all possess some ignorance.

    Great post and I really enjoy your blog!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog!

      I also believe that it’s difficult to be aware of everything that plagues us as a country, without a lot of education and dedication to that particular -ism. And I go back and forth between how much simple awareness amounts to. Awareness means you know about the problem, but not educated on it. But I also deeply believe that it’s not possible to speak for everyone, and that we should create platforms for people to speak for themselves. I think also that justice is possible without equality because we’re not all born equally. Not even in the slightest really, but I feel like there’s this great incentive to make everyone be seen as equal. I think poor people will always exist, so our goal shouldn’t be to try to make all poor people wealthy, but to teach everyone not to discriminate or dehumanize people because of their economic status. And not prioritize the wealthy over the poor. Does that make sense?

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