I like to admit that at this point in my life, I am consciously aware of the things I do and don’t know. And in hindsight, I think I now know how I got here.
To explain more, I want to go back to a few weeks ago. This is when a friend posted something on social media that made me stop scrolling.
My friend posted something about racial relations – it was his opinion about a current racial situation. His opinion was not necessarily an opinion I shared. But instead of jumping into my own thoughts and posting a response to support how I felt, I stopped for a minute to be mindful of his post and thought, “Why does he feel this way?”
At that moment, I sought to understand instead of refuting or disproving. I used my teachings – and learnings – to realize that what he felt was how he felt. It wasn’t right or wrong (because who am I to tell someone else how he/she should feel?). It was a reflection of his emotions based on his current situation and the state of our environment.
Learn to Understand
In an effort to understand his point of view, I did something I often do. I sought information that does not directly align with my opinions. For instance, ever try to watch CNN if you are a Fox News watcher? Or the reverse (try to watch Fox News if you are a CNN viewer)? It is likely that you stick to the news media that shares your viewpoint and therefore, you don’t venture much into the media from the opposing opinion. Because why would you? You already decided that their opinions are not yours and you may even believe they are wrong or what they report is untrue.
However, I often take the path of learning what is on the other side. I want to understand others and find information to disprove what I think. In my opinion, that will either validate my thoughts or allow me to shift my perspective. So in the instance mentioned above, I decided that I would look for and explore a different viewpoint.
And what I found was eye-opening – and quite frankly, maybe a little embarrassing.
I realized that when it comes to race, I am not a racist nor am I anti-racist. While I am accepting of everyone and do not discriminate or carry heavy stereotypes, I am “Black Ignorant.”
Acknowledging “Black Ignorance”
This is a term that I coined to explain my situation and come to grips with the fact that as a result of not seeking to learn beyond the education I was fed. I was not educated enough on black history and culture. I didn’t carry the knowledge that would allow me to have a deeper understanding of the thoughts and views of my friends and colleagues – and that is a problem.
To provide a little more background, I learned black history and culture from my public school. We spent a month (and that’s about it) each school year discussing Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. And then we tap-danced around Malcolm X and the Jim Crow laws. So I only knew surface-level information. I was not aware that there was so much more beyond the surface never covered in the public school curriculum. So rather than continuing down the path of being unconsciously ignorant, I moved into consciously ignorant and therefore, decided to do something about it.
My first action was to create a list of books that would educate me on black history and culture and teach me about events such as the Orangeburg Massacre (do you know what this is? If not, I suggest learning more) and more about the Jim Crow laws and how voting rights and regulations have (and haven’t) evolved.
I decided to read these books and dig deeper into the topics. I wanted to open myself up to invite conversations and learn from others. Not being a black man, I know I will never be able to truly understand the impact of our country’s longstanding history of racism on their current state. However, I do know that I can seek knowledge that will let me be more compassionate and understanding. And in my opinion, that is important and a step in the right direction.
Connection Through Compassion, Not Complacency
In our current situation, which is a world in constant flux, one way we can all stay connected is by being compassionate, learning about each other, and finding common ground. We can seek not to agree on all things, but instead to understand. We can have constructive conversations that lead to new information and perspectives and learn how to move forward together.
But what we can’t do is remain complacent in ignorance and decide that our opinions are set and that we are certain we know everything. Once we decide our truths are certain, we stop growing. This ultimately means that certainty is the killer of growth and if we are finished growing, we will never evolve and will simply fall behind as the world continues moving forward.
And that’s not where anyone should want to be…
And where I refuse to stay moving forward.
Have you felt this way about an aspect of your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please join the conversation and share at @sanschagrinchad on Instagram or Cannonball Moments on Facebook – Let’s start a bigger discussion.