In a world where an openly racist, sexist, ab*sive, and intolerably horrid man is elected president, there is certainly enough hatred to go around. Hatred in all its forms – prejudice, discrimination, bullying, etc. – often stems from one single culprit: ignorance.
Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness, and we all fall victim to it to some degree. The sad truth is that most of the time people are hateful because they simply don’t understand.
People don’t understand how a person can love someone of the same sex, so they exclude them. Teenagers don’t care to try to comprehend why rape jokes aren’t funny, so they continue to say them. This all comes from a place of lower-level thinking. Any feminist knows this is true because we all were born and raised in a society that pushes ignorance onto us. You’ll be hard pressed to find a woke intersectional feminist without a problematic past. It is up to us to educate ourselves and reach out to others in order to bring about change. A majority of the teens who say the n word don’t even know it is racist to do so. And how could they know if they’ve never been told otherwise? If they’ve never come across feminism or been introduced to the black lives matter movement? If their friends, family, media, and government teach them that it is okay to be racist? How is someone who has been conditioned to accept their ignorance rise above it?
Ignorant people often don’t want to be educated because it is comfortable to be ignorant – “ignorance is bliss.” Ignorance surely is bliss when the reality is hard to swallow. Once a person opens their eyes to the magnitude of the hate crimes, murder, and injustices that happen around them, it is impossible not to notice it anymore. However, it is important that we strive to change this culture of hatred and ignorance that plagues our society. Here are 5 tips for educating the ignorant:
- Point out the problem
As mentioned before, it is quite possible that your friend who just said something problematic doesn’t even know that what they said was wrong. It’s important that if you are around someone and they say something problematic, you point it out immediately. I know this can seem intimidating when you’re not in a private setting, but if you don’t address it the moment it happens, then it will be harder to fix. Additionally, if you’re worried that speaking up in front of your friends will make you seem lame, then you definitely are surrounding yourselves with the wrong friends. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. All you have to do is say “Hey, that wasn’t cool to say. That’s a serious problem and it shouldn’t be joked about.” Bonus points if you include a small explanation along with that.
- Be vocal
Practically anyone who hangs out with me knows that I will call them out if needed. You will never witness a white person saying the n word in my presence and it not be addressed. Take a look at my Twitter and it’s easy to see that I’m a feminist. If politics ever comes up in conversation, you bet I’m putting my two cents in. Bring up important issues if you get the chance, and don’t shy away from a heated debate. The more vocal you are, the more people will be introduced to a new line of thinking.
- Remain respectful even if others don’t
When talking about opinionated issues, it can get pretty heated very quickly. Your message will not be heard if you fight hatred with hatred. You must remain the bigger person, even if someone is spewing slurs and hateful remarks at you. It does no good to be a bully and it definitely turns people away from understanding your message. People are more likely to be willing to open their minds to something new if you introduce it in a welcoming, non-threatening way. Being petty on social media will not educate anyone.
- Stay factual
If you’re claiming to be educated on the subject, then make sure you are sharing facts that are correct. It is super easy to discredit everything you are saying if you cite a false statistic or simply say something completely incorrect. If you want people to follow your message, then take the extra steps to keep yourself thoroughly educated. The last thing you want to do is spread more ignorance and do more harm than good.
- Don’t overstep
Don’t overstep your boundaries. Make sure to check your privilege constantly. If you’re not part of an oppressed group, then don’t speak over them. Yes, you can be white and still support the black lives matter movement. Yes, you can be neurotypical and still support the mentally ill community. However, don’t use your privilege for bad. Remember to acknowledge your own ignorance; if you are straight then no, you don’t fully understand the hardships of being LGBTQAI+. Keep these things in mind in order to avoid being a problematic activist.
Faulty activism can be worse than a person who stays silent. Keep these 5 tips in mind when educating others and you’ll be well on your way to helping those who need it most. Implement these tactics when walking the halls of your high school or when logging onto Tumblr. You can make a difference, even if it is just with one person – it still matters.