Race has been studied from as early as the 17th and 18th centuries. It was understood by scientists and philosophers, at the time, as a biological or natural, categorization system of humans (Fiske, 2010). Race has been the topic of political discussion, scientific debate, driven economies, analyzed by psychologists, the list goes on. If there’s one thing our society knows about best, it’s race. Yet, countless times I hear, and I quote, “I can’t believe this is happening in [insert year here].” And far too many times as a black female, I’m asked to explain my perspective of being Black in North America.
People. Let’s get with the program. Your innocent ignorance has to stop. There is too much data, too many stories, too much conversation on different medians around the topic of race. This data wasn’t curated yesterday; it’s been around for centuries. It is absolutely, inexcusable to exist in the year 2020, and to still expect black people to explain the centuries of hurt embedded in our communities.
Technology has revolutionized the production and consumption of data. Data went from a scarce resource to an inexhaustible, imperishable, and vital resource. Data is growing faster and traveling farther than it ever has in human history. Domo, a cloud software company, annually publishes an infographic called “Data Never Sleeps X.0.” “Data Never Sleeps X.0” provides insight into the world’s data generation and online behavior. In Data Never Sleeps 7.0, Domo reported as of January 2019, 56.1% of the world’s population has access to the internet, this represents 4.39 billion people. Every minute of the day, on average, 4,416,720 GB of internet data is used by Americans. There are ~4.4 million Google searches, ~511,200 tweets sent, ~188 million emails sent, ~4.5 million YouTube videos viewed, and the list goes on. There is data to support that innocent ignorance is a load of bs. Still not convinced? In 2013, IBM released “Bringing big data to the enterprise,” they reported an estimate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day. In that same year, Domo reported in Data Never Sleeps 3.0 approximately 3.2 billion people on the internet. Imagine the amount of data generated since 2013.
We live in a data-driven society. Data is everywhere, and used everywhere; in health care systems, financial institutions, transportation systems, manufacturing, agriculture, the list is continuous. There is no excuse not to understand race without it explained by a black person.
Ignorance is not innocence but sin. — Robert Browning
Innocence is a state of guiltlessness, where someone doesn’t understand any better. A baby is guiltless; they don’t have the cognitive capacity to interact and understand the world, and therefore, a baby cannot do wrong intentionally. Ignorance is the state of being uninformed or unaware, but you are not guiltless. You can be ignorant out of your own accord. Let’s take it a step further. If you were privileged enough to go to school and take a history course, you cannot, nor should not, use innocence as an excuse.
The educational system provides an introduction to race and racism. You can argue educational institutions don’t provide adequate support to help students understand the full extent of racism. However, the absence of information doesn’t make you innocent. You have an awareness there is an issue that is affecting an entire race of people for generations. It is your responsibility to fill the gaps in your knowledge using the available data. We know how to Google search; we know how to use YouTube, we know how to use a library. We cannot solely rely on educational institutions to provide accurate and complete data, in a compressed amount of time, about issues such as racism. Therefore, you are aware, but you choose not to understand when innocence is used to excuse ignorance.
It is not the responsibility of any black person to educate you about the centuries of mistreatment in our communities. Part of addressing this pandemic called racism in our international society is acknowledging that it is no longer acceptable to use innocence as an excuse for ignorance.