Ignorance or hatred?

Photo credit: Kyle Sampson and I Am More Than. See the Montgomery Advertiser story that this appears in (and more photos) here.

In a blog post back in May, I asked, “Have you ever thought about how there is so much in the world that you don’t know?” And I’ve been thinking about that more lately, in a couple of ways.

In one instance, I think about how that applies to personal growth. I haven’t always been the person I am now, and I hope to be a better person tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and on and on.

I have offered apologies for past actions or words of which I’m not proud. I think those regrets come with an evolution in thinking, along with introspection, and really, basic human empathy.

In another instance, I think about how that growth and change applies to knowledge and my views on various issues. If we have a desire to continually learn about things and actually care about truth, we will evolve in our thinking. It’s OK if new information makes you rethink a position or change your mind about something.

Going back to the beginning of this: there is so much in the world that I don’t know or didn’t previously know. For example:

Today is Juneteenth. I don’t remember learning anything about that growing up. I don’t remember being taught about it in school. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was at least in college or older before I even knew the word, much less anything about it.

It was this just this week that I had even heard of Seneca Village.

I was an adult before I realized the “Lost Cause” narrative was both wrong and a deliberate attempt to rewrite history.

It was only this month that I finally took the time to actually sit down and make it a point to learn about Malcolm X.

It’s been very recently that I have tried to educate myself more about the history of policing in this country and what the calls to defund or abolish police actually mean. (Hint: It’s a lot deeper than a hashtag.)

I didn’t know about the Tulsa massacre or Black Wall Street until recently.

I literally just learned about the Rosewood massacre today.

Until working on the documentary Remembering Anarcha, I knew very little about J. Marion Sims and the “mothers of gynecology” – Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey.

And even with the level of knowledge that I have gained at this point, I’m still not an expert because there is still so much to learn and so much I don’t know.

So… taking all of that into account, I got to thinking about many of the comments and arguments I’ve seen recently.

I’ve seen some people (mostly people who look like me, honestly) who have expressed how tired they are of everything going on in the world right now, or at least tired of hearing about it (i.e. the Black Lives Matter movement, the removal of Confederate monuments, rebranding Aunt Jemima syrup, etc.) And I think, if they’re tired of hearing about it, how tired are the people living it? I can’t imagine the exhaustion that people of color must be feeling right now.

(And really, the fact that so many people who look like me can go for years – sometimes entire lifetimes – completely unaffected by these racial and policing issues that are prominent in the news is an example of privilege. Yes, white privilege.)

And regarding these conversations I’ve seen recently, I think about motives, and how I attempt to decipher if someone is speaking out of ignorance or hatred, because I think those things are different.

Some people are just hateful, and I don’t think much can be done to help them see any other perspective. I don’t know how to make someone empathize if they don’t have the faintest desire to do so. I’d love to be wrong here, and if you’ve got the patience to try to reach them, by all means, give it a shot; I wish you luck and much success.

In others, however, I think maybe they have a good heart, but haven’t taken the time to actually listen and learn. Maybe they don’t have the experiences that come with a diverse friends group, or maybe they haven’t yet tried to ask questions or learn new things. I hold out hope for those people. I don’t know exactly what it takes to get through, but I do hope that something clicks within them.

And my reasoning for that goes back to what I started out talking about – I wasn’t always the person I am now with the level of knowledge I have at this moment. And hell, again, there’s so much I still don’t know, and I think personal growth is never done.

So maybe I can help someone else understand things that I’ve learned, or at least maybe help them to pause long enough to think about another perspective.

And in the meantime, I can listen to others and try to learn more myself.

Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep reading. Keep listening. Keep working for positive change.

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