The definition according to the Cambridge Dictionary of Ignorant; not having enough knowledge, understanding, or information about something.
With that in mind, let’s move on. I was an ignorant white man for most of my life. Studying history at university and then teaching to the young minds of America, I thought I had a grasp on what reality was. I wasn’t prejudiced against anyone. I didn’t consider myself racist either, nor sexist. Not a bigot, or homophobic.
Thus, I was ignorant. I was all of them.
No, I was not them intentionally, nor are the vast majority of the white men of the world, and America specifically as a subject here. We were born into it. We were born into ignorance, racism, sexism, and so forth. Why? How? Because most of our parents were. Our country has been born into it for decades if not centuries.
In the coming weeks I plan to share some specifics about certain topics I’ve been exploring as I examine who I am, but for today I want to share this; white man America either doesn’t realize or chooses not to recognize, that things have been built in this nation from day one with White Man Privilege in mind, which in just a few generations became White Man Ignorance. Our nation has oppressed first the woman, then the Native American, and then the African. This is why people say racism is Institutionalized in America, it’s part of the framework.
As generations come and go they fall further down the hole of ignorance until we reach today. Today we Ignorant White Americans say let things be equal, but we, the majority, do not actively do anything to make a change, or we say things are already equally available to all and thus we show our ignorance by thinking equality is a reality.
Many years ago, Atlanta was home to something called Freaknik. It was like the Spring Break for young Blacks. Man did they go wild, just like the young people did at the beaches around the country, but were less reported on. There were news reports of cars being stolen, other thefts, attacks, and even defecating in people’s yards. I, however, did not let this deter me from attending the Atlanta Braves baseball game that I had tickets for. This was during their dominating years. (Sigh, those were the days.)
There I was, on the bus that was returning fans from Fulton County Stadium to the MARTA train station. All of us blissfully Ignorant White Americans, and one young black man. The bus was surrounded by Freaknik partiers. But you know what? I didn’t feel afraid. Not one ounce of fear came over me, even with some of the threatening gestures made toward us and the words shouted about us. I looked at the young man and he looked afraid but at the same time he was shaking his head at what was going on outside the bus.
Thinking back on that moment now, I reversed it all. What if that was an all-white crowd going crazy and that bus was full of Black Americans? Do you think they would not have had an ounce of fear? I can’t bring myself to think that. For one thing, we’re in Atlanta and the South in America still has that reputation from all those years of slavery and then the KKK during the Civil Rights Movement. So, I get it. (More on the truth of racism in the South and the US another time.)
The first step to shaking off your ignorance, and I am looking at you White Man, and yes, you too White Woman, is to realize equality does not exist outside of being a white man. And don’t begin to talk about affirmative action. What some companies consider a token position here and there just to avoid a law suit or to look good to others does not make a change, nor does a half white/half black President without the support of his Congress.
It’s time for each person to examine their own lives as well as the society they live in, wherever they live, and come to the truth. The Ignorant White Man might then be able to understand why Black Lives Matter is such a powerful and needed movement and why the #MeToo one is as well. But there is also an opportunity for the other side to realize the Ignorant White Man does need to learn, needs to realize the truth, but has a lifetime of ignorance to overcome. It all takes time, but as long as we move forward, always, then we are moving in the right direction.