This could be controversial. It could make some people angry. Of course, neither of those two things have ever stopped me from speaking my mind before (at least not from the safety of my blog), and so they will not stop me now.
Recently I have taken part in a couple of different conversations about ignorance and what it means to society. Is ignorance an excuse to cover the wounds caused by words that people speak? Could ignorance be equivalent to a guilty plea when being publicly or privately tried? Or could it be that ignorance is simply something that exists before people learn important values, lessons or facts. Maybe, in most cases, ignorance is just ignorance. A misused word that has taken on a meaning that it should not have.
Let us start with a definition (mostly just because I like an excuse to use a dictionary). Mariam-Webster defines ignorance as: the state or fact of being ignorant: lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. It is so simple. So basic. Being ignorant means that you have no knowledge or education of what you are ignorant of. None! How fantastic!
The definition of the word leads to a grave misuse of it. Example: two socially educated friends walking down the street. Person 1, “Oh my gosh! Look at that person! *insert racial or social slur here*” Person 2, “Stop being ignorant.” Almost always, this is not ignorance. Almost always, this is just one person being terrible, and another person calling them ignorant because they are, in fact, terrible.
Here is my problem with this misuse. Using the word in such a way has caused people to equate ignorance with hatred. Not all people who say or do or omit things out of ignorance are hateful. Projecting hate into someone’s heart when it is not there, is mean and, to be honest, somewhat hateful in itself. Some people just do not know the difference between what is right and wrong. The only way to mend this, is to teach. To teach with love and respect, I should probably add.
I do not want to make this much longer, but I do want to address one more problem. Do we convict people morally or legally based on their ignorance? Should the mothers that have kids that were born with defects due to the insulation in their homes, the lead in their pipes, or the alcohol they consumed before those things were known to be harmful be condemned for being ignorant? Should the wife of a notorious serial killer who never suspected her husband to be something so heinous be tried and convicted as an ignorant accomplice? It all seems a little sticky to me.
I think that sometimes ignorance is just uneducated people (and I mean uneducated in any way, not just in the traditional sense of the word) who do not know they are hurting others. That is what it should be. Misuse of the word is really what is to blame. I think that people need to remember that when they are defending the helpless or those abused by someone that one finds to be ignorant, that it is not done in a hateful and hurtful way to the one you are defending the original person from. Does that make sense?