To most, particularly on the Kent School campus, ignorance is a dirty word. Being called “ignorant” is equivalent to being called a homophobe or a racist. But recent events on campus have left me pondering the word. We are all ignorant. Whites are ignorant of the struggles of people of color. Cisgendered individuals are ignorant about the experience of being gender nonconforming. But where is the line between willful and non-willful ignorance? When does claiming ignorance become a convenient excuse for discrimination?
I don’t believe Kent School is a discriminatory place. I do not believe there is a culture of hate and willful ignorance in our Kent bubble. Our bubble is the place in which I, as well as many other students, can fearlessly be ourselves. We publicly defend members of our faculty who have been disrespected, and we support each other at games, matches, and performances. Spectrum, Social Justice Club, and our various affinity groups are widely respected and supported groups on campus.
Despite all of the support our minority groups receive and campus-wide efforts to become less ignorant about experiences and privilege, the voices of the willfully ignorant are loud and becoming increasingly louder. I have become more scarce at SC dances due to the hordes of people screaming the n-word at the top of their lungs, just because they think that the “n-word pass” applies. As a minority in several senses of the word, I’m increasingly anxious about sharing my opinions in history and English classes because I know there is someone waiting to strip away my identity with stereotypes and hateful words.
Then, when confronted, these people plead ignorance, and I am caught in a cycle of subjectiveness. Did they really not know that the n-word is only meant to be used by black people, no matter the context, or is this new information? Did they really not know my pronouns, or did they purposefully ignore them? Ignorance has been contorted into a derogatory word because of its misuse by the willfully ignorant.
To combat the corruption of ignorance, Kent needs to provide diversity education. The only way to get rid of the willfully ignorant excuse is to educate everyone on the basics, including speech can be reclaimed only by certain groups of people, your discriminatory “jokes” aren’t funny, and that minority voices are not less important because they are the minority. While there are more issues contributing to discriminatory issues on campus, including a lack of teachers of color and a minuscule population of black and Hispanic students, increasing diversity education is a change we can make now, with the hopes that we can inspire majority groups to fight with us as we push for a more open and diverse campus.