Optimism vs. Ignorance

We all want to assume the best in people, in communities, in our country, and this is often wonderful. Assuming people can be good inspires them to be, but when is it time to throw in the hat? When does this optimism become ignorance?

When I first started to ponder this question, I quickly thought back to the movie we all watched last year, “I’m not racist… am I”. Racism in the University Prep community is something I think many people are ignorant of too. As someone who is white, I often find myself erring on the side of optimism, partly because I have privilege too. All the guest speakers were white? It was a mistake, a fluke. It can be easy to fall into this mindset; optimism often provides an easier explanation, especially when you yourself don’t directly feel the impacts of the collective ignorance. Viewing microaggressions as mistakes, instead of one piece in a much larger picture, makes them less overwhelming, but ultimately it is what allows them to continue to exist.

The example of guest speakers might seem small, but this mindset can have much bigger implications. It’s the same one that leads so many people to place blame on survivors of sexual assault instead of on perpetrators. In fact, there is even a name for this, the “Just world Hypothesis”. This hypothesis is the idea that people deserve all outcomes and consequences, and that we must live in a just world. It’s a great idea, but continuing to hold on to that “just world”, even when the world is very unjust results in victim blaming, in many situations. I would like to say I’m not asking you to be pessimistic. I, myself,  like to expect the best from people, and that is great. I am asking that we take a critical eye to our actions, because if we can’t recognize our own mistakes how can we hope to fix them.

If we are always looking at the glass half full, then how do we grow? If we can’t acknowledge the issues that persist in our county, our communities, and ourselves, how can we ever have room for the growth that we need? So I challenge you to see the glass as half empty, but only because I am optimistic it can be full.

By Allison Bunker