Reject Ignorance

The root of all bigotry is ignorance.

We don’t know, so we make assumptions. We fill gaps in our knowledge with misinformation and half-truths. We take one incident, one anecdote, one person and generalize that experience, turn it into a prejudice against which we judge others.

My friend tells me about his trip to the supermarket one afternoon. He says he saw a black woman talking on an iPhone, with four children in tow, pay for her groceries with food stamps and then leave in a fancy, expensive car. From this, I can extrapolate a number of prejudices. I can rail against blacks, women, single mothers, welfare recipients, or all of the above and then some. I can complain about government waste and rampant abuse of the system.

Or, I can take a step back, think carefully, and do some research. I can learn that most welfare recipients are black or white and have only one or two children. I can learn that a family of four, on average, will receive something like $900 per month on welfare.

Even without looking for any facts, I can use simple logic to realize that one person, or ten, or a hundred out of the millions of people who fit into a particular group do not remotely constitute a sufficient basis for prejudice against all members of that group. One person abusing a system does not mean the system is broken, or that everyone abuses the system.

Embrace Knowledge

When you are tempted to judge someone, or a group of people:

STOP and THINK.

Do you have all the facts? Are you stereotyping? Are you taking one incident and blowing it out of proportion? Are you relying on hearsay or anecdotal evidence?

The first step to combating ignorance is admitting that you do not know everything. Learn to say, “I don’t know,” or, “I’m not sure,” or, “Let me look into that.”

Commit to educating yourself. Learn as much as you can about the people who share this world with you. Don’t focus on only people who you think are like you, or whose views seem to mirror your own; read about people who espouse ideas that you find objectionable, too.

Always consider the source of your information and ideas. Some sources are more reliable than others. Keep an eye out for bias and focus on facts rather than how they are presented. Use as many sources as possible to get a complete picture.

Be aware of logical fallacies, mistakes that we all make when we’re trying to reason something out. Watch for them in your own thoughts as well as other people’s arguments and opinions.

Above all, never stop learning. There will always be something new to discover, and with a world as big and diverse as ours, even things you thought you knew may change or expand. This leads to the next step in “occupying” bigotry: REJECT RIGIDITY.

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