Turns out, I don’t know a lot. And it’s important to really know that.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of passionate people who work in social justice, so in the last month since Mike Brown’s death I’ve heard a lot of dialogue on Ferguson, race, and related topics. And because I care about social justice too, I want to partake in these conversations. But I have been having a hard time figuring out what I can say.
I don’t know what life is like as a young man, as a person of color, or, honestly, as any other person excluding myself. Like everyone, I can only really know my personal experiences because I was the only person there, experiencing them all.
But ignorance is not an excuse for complacency. Just because I can’t know everything, doesn’t mean I should stop trying to learn more.
When trying to learn more about what I could do about Ferguson, I found this page of resources: http://newsite.karenhousecw.org/?page_id=900
You may agree or disagree with some of the arguments presented in those resources, but I find it’s always good to read more ideas that may challenge my perspective. And I can always make more of an effort to learn about people and their experiences. I can listen more than I speak. Instead of trying to be the authority on what it is to be another person, I can listen to what a person wants me to know about them.
But in the end, if you listen a lot, and do a lot of research, it’s still important to acknowledge there is still a lot we don’t know.
If we do want to speak up on a topic, I think it is important to acknowledge the pieces that we don’t know. Artists and fiction writers speak about a specific worldview, and perhaps there is more latitude in those mediums. But when we are trying to present facts, it is our responsibility to clarify that the facts don’t and can’t tell the whole story.
I don’t know how things would be different if we admitted to not knowing things more often. I think we might find commonalities in our faults. I believe that we would treat each other with more respect. I know that we would learn more about one another. And for me, that is a step in the right direction.