This week has been an interesting one as it brought the issue of race to the surface of campus conversations. Along with those issues, something else was brought to my attention and it was the concept of willful ignorance, but not in the traditional sense.
After Wednesday’s chapel in which President Schubert addressed the difficulty Christians face when navigating a divisive world in response to a racially-charged video, the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted a demonstration outside the campus center where students shared their testimonies of racial issues experienced on and off campus. The demonstration was on the minds of a lot of students and I have heard that some stayed away from it because they didn’t need to attend because they’re not racist. This, to me, is a type of willful ignorance.
Typically, willful ignorance is when someone knows there is a problem and chooses to ignore it, but in this definition, a person knows there’s a problem and knows a bit about it, but chooses not to advance the issue by asking questions or engaging in conversation. For example, you see a leaky faucet in the communal bathrooms in your dorm, you tell your RA about it so they can have someone fix it and you go about your life as you normally would. But, no one ever comes to fix the faucet and it continues leaking until it finally rusts the hardware of the sink and it all has to be replaced. You did everything right: you saw the problem, you acknowledged it, but because you didn’t further the conversation, it ended up being a bigger problem than it started out as.
Now, it is not your responsibility to fix all the world’s problems (or leaky faucets) but it is your duty to at least educate yourself about them. We all have to live on this spinning blue sphere, the least we can do is try and make it a better place for everyone to live.
Another concern some had when it came to contributing to the tough conversations on race was that they were afraid of coming off as ignorant or racist in their attempt to gather knowledge. I guarantee that if you show just a little interest in any of those conversations, your inquisitiveness will not be met by mocking. It most likely will be met by compassion and maybe a good ol’ fashioned side hug.
We’re faced with challenges on the regular, from the challenge of getting out of bed to go to class to those of the mannequin variety, but still, I challenge you to set yourself free from the fear of judgement and dare to ask questions, participate in forums and talk to people outside of your normal realm of comfort, now that is a trend that should really go viral.