When Ignorance is a Privilege

Everyone has a story. Stories are wonderful because they invoke connection and sympathy. They both connect our humanity and connect us to our own humanity. Unfortunately, your skin color affects how and if your story gets shared. Somewhere in my frustration I stopped listening.

News channels were disheartening, so I stopped watching. Articles online were depressing, so I stopped reading. Discussion with others was frustrating, so I stopped listening. I thought I could reduce my stress level by ignoring other people’s stories. Well, long story short, it didn’t work.

Actually, it worked for a little while. I drove to work everyday, taught in my elementary school classroom, and came home to have dinner with my husband. I no longer found myself crying over what happened to other people in the world, and I no longer found myself wondering how to address issues with my students. I no longer had thought-provoking conversations with my husband about life.

It took me far too long to realize this ignorance was only possible because I am white. I don’t worry about making my rent payment. I buy groceries without tallying the bill as I shop. I walk down the street without worrying about police officers. If I want, I can ignore other people’s stories. It is a privilege I am ashamed I have, and I can no longer afford to exercise it.

Years ago I realized my head was full of racism, and I am still working hard to uncover my biases. Ignoring others’ stories is stopping demolition on the racism, and that is unacceptable.

Here is what I am going to do, and if you relate to my story, please try it with me. If you can offer advice, do! First, I plan to deepen relationships with people in my life who do not look like me. That is where this journey began, and I know that is how it must continue. Second, I plan to read more news articles from various sources. I have already set up some apps on my phone to help with this. Third, I’m asking family, friends, and you to hold me accountable.

Becoming a better person is painful, like when Aslan ripped the dragon skin off Eustace. It hurts, but most often I find that the dragon that must be slain is inside myself.

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