Understanding Ignorance: Why What We Say Matters

Because there is beauty in diversity

Ghandi once said, “Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.”

marie claire recently joined forces with T2 in an initiative to challenge people to start an open dialogue on an issue that is pertinent in today’s world; ignorance.

In pop-up boxes in Sydney and Melbourne, people were invited in for a cup of tea with a side of honest discussion, with the goal of understanding ignorance, gaining knowledge and to help us all stop making assumptions.

To understand ignorance, we must first understand difference, and to overcome ignorance is to accept difference. During the campaign, a wide range of issues were dissected, from understanding disability and the LGBTQI+ community to gender biases, common assumptions, ageism and feminism. No topic was off limits and no conversation was too difficult.

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“Difference in other people makes people very uncomfortable,” writer, speaker and appearance activist Carly Findlay told marie claire as part of the initiative with T2.

When people make assumptions, it says more about the person making them than the person they’re making it about. Assuming because an LGBTQI couple no longer face prejudice because same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia, or assuming that because someone has depression, they are weak, is not only narrow minded and ignorant, but it also can be destructive. Making assumptions may not be intentional – but that’s the thing about ignorance; just because it might not be conscious, doesn’t make it ok.

AJ Clementine, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in her teens, knows first-hand the effect ignorant attitudes and assumptions can have.

“If we can just start focusing on human beings and getting to know them as a person besides their labels or who they are, it’s up to you whether you want to combat that ignorance and find information for yourself.”

But if ignorance is a lack of understanding, then how do we know if we are ignorant? And therefore how can we overcome it?

We overcome it by having the difficult conversations; by recognising when we are making assumptions, then asking questions, challenging our own beliefs and digging deeper to enable us to open our minds further to a place of understanding, tolerance and compassion.

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So often growing up we were taught that there are certain topics that are not polite to discuss, like sex, money and politics. But we need to throw that way of thinking out and start approaching the difficult, taboo or awkward conversations from another direction – from one of open-mindedness, education, learning and acceptance. 

Knowledge is power but empathy is empowering. What we say, and how we say it matters so sit down and start a conversation, take the time to ask questions and really listen to the answers. It is then, by having these difficult conversations that we can start to overcome ignorance.

For more articles on how you can help to challenge ignorance, click here

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