1) Ignorance is not bliss
2) Ignorance is never an excuse.
3) Ignorance is almost never the problem.
Recently there was an incident in Canada, that I will not link to, where a woman went on a racist rant at a walk in clinic wanting a white doctor who spoke English. Thankfully there were people there that stood up to her, which always gives me hope, but the video of the event and her outburst was everywhere for a while. I was appalled at the time but became even more so when I heard the discussion about her behaviour.
The general consensus was that she was “ignorant.” People talked about her as if she was in desperate need of some kind of sensitivity training or diversity training or anger management training.
Because, of course, white people aren’t ever racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or ableist, or disphobic, or prejudiced in any way. We are just a little misguided. We just need a glass of juice, a cookie, and a 20 minute class and we’re back to being good, well behaved white folk. “Poor dear,” we seem to say as we acknowledge that what she did was racist and then we explain that while her behaviour might be considered racist, she certainly isn’t, “she’s just ignorant and needs some in class time with a teacher and a power point presentation.”
I’m tired of ignorance getting the blame for blatant prejudice and bigotry.
Call a bigot a bigot.
Call our prejudice where prejudice exists.
Explaining way someone’s behaviour brings into question your own behaviour. Why do you have a need for this to be ‘ignorance’ and ‘poor dear’ behaviour?
Remember when teens were coming to the gay area of Toronto and throwing slushies into the faces of people they tagged as members of the lgbtq+ community? The result of all the television discussion was that these teens need training.
No one needs training to know that you don’t throw slushies into the face of strangers.
It was blatant prejudice and those teens were wilfully and purposely homophobic.
That woman was wilfully and purposely racist.
Accountability begins with naming the problem. It is entirely possible that a woman who yells and complains in a racist manner is simply and maybe even irredeemably racist. It is entirely possible that she believed that everyone else felt like her but was afraid to say it. It is entirely possible that she meant ever racist thing that she said. And if it’s possible then that possibility needs to be discussed. We need to own racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia and all the other forms of prejudice, we need to recognize that these exist independently from ignorance or a need for training. That these things are even resistant to cookies and classes.
She was racist therefore she is racist. Isn’t that an easy step.
Isn’t then the question how do we deal with racism or how do we prevent racism or how do we support her victims? Yes, she had victims. Not one word has been said about the impact of her words on the doctors and nurses who were there, on the people of colour all over the country who watched that video, the kids of the people of colour who asked their parents questions about what happened.
That racist woman hurt people and that’s not okay and what needs to happen next? For her, for her victims, what needs to happen next?
1) racism is a deeply embedded attitude it is not ignorance
2) bigotry needs to be called out for what it is
3) giving excuses to prejudice reveals even deeper prejudice