- 1. lack of knowledge or information: “he acted in ignorance of basic procedures” synonyms: incomprehension of, unawareness of, unconsciousness of, unfamiliarity with, inexperience with, …
I live in Asia and one of the challenging things that a foreigner must go through is dealing with the language and the differences in culture. One thing I have learned in the many years that I have lived in Asia is to not assume anything. If you have someone come to install something like say a washing machine do not assume that it will be installed in the manner that you are accustom to. Now of course you cannot not expect everyone to do things the same as you, that only makes sense. But this is more than that. A very simple example is you take your car in for an oil change. Anytime you have your car worked on they put the parts that they took out in the trunk so you can see that they actually changed them. So when you pick up the car after the oil change you look in the trunk and there is nothing there. Well where is the oil filter? Well it turns out it is still on the car. So after you paid to have clean oil put in your car it now is running through a dirty oil filter. Now of course this does not seem that big a deal all on its own. But the more you try to get things done the more you encounter these types of things that defy common sense. Believe me this is not just about oil filters!
So at first you think that it is the language. Asian languages are quite difficult to learn and because they are generally tonal our foreign tongue just does not want to cooperate! So you get a local to help you the next time but you still have the same kind of problems. I have an American friend who was telling me that he often has the same difficulties. One day he said “it is more than a language barrier”. That made me think.
One day my wife was telling me about something one of the ladies she knew was doing. I do not need to say exactly what it was but needless to say it fell into this same category I have been talking about. Somehow the topic of the school she went to came up. It turns out that she had to quit school when she was in third grade! You see we live in a rural farming area and as it turns out many people quit school in third or fourth grade to go to work either on the farm or in some regular job to earn money for the whole family. This is nothing against them it is just a fact, they have to do what they need to in order to survive. So after I found this out I kept finding that one person after the next turned out to have stopped their education in elementary school. And this was across the board with every type of service job there was here. So when I thought back to the car and the oil filter I realized that it was the equivalent (educationally) of having my 8 year old son work on my car!
Several years ago when I moved to Hawaii it didn’t take long to find out that, what they call locals, do not like Howlies (non-natives) much. There was a rampant racial tension all over the islands directed at non-local whites. This was a bit perplexing to me at first. You see as sad as it is there are very few Hawaiians left living on the islands. Most of what they term as local are people of, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, or some other Pacific islander such as Samoans or Tongan, decent. I was curious why there were such strong feelings against the mainly white non-natives. Well after I befriended some local folks that did not feel this way I asked them why so many of the others disliked Howlies so much? They said that they felt that way because we came there and took their jobs. Well I could understand that. If people were coming from outside your area and were taking your jobs you would be upset to. The only problem was that I remembered something that happened to me before I came there that meant it wasn’t as simple as that.
When I was interviewing for the job in Hawaii the company set up the interview with a guy who they had hired to do technical interviews. He was the head of the computer science department at the University of Hawaii. He did these interviews as a side job to what he did at the university. After going through the formal part of the interview I had a chance to chat with him a bit. One of the curious things that I had noticed while looking for a job is even though Hawaii has one of the highest costs of living in the country the wages are some of the lowest even for technical jobs. He agreed that this was indeed a bit of a strange phenomenon. He commented that he could not really explain it other than that the companies must figure that the niceness of the place is part of the salary. He went on to say that this had created a problem for the companies in Hawaii. He said that very few locals ever went to college and that the few that did after they graduated they would compare what they could make in Hawaii to what they could make in California and then they would leave. This in turn caused a secondary problem. Over time parents that did not want their kids to leave the islands would actually discourage kids from completing school. They would tell them that they were never going to get a good job anyway so why bother, go surfing instead! If they did not finish primary school, then they could not go to college, then they would not leave the island. Problem solved! So in the end companies could not find locals that had the education to do the jobs so they would have to bring in people like myself to take these higher paying jobs. Later I did come across many people who fell into this category who were taught that education did not really matter. This is one of the reasons that Hawaii is kind of known for having poor academics at their schools. It is not really all the fault of the schools but really a fault of the parents of the kids that go there.
This in turn caused some other problems. Since they had no education they could not get any jobs except minimum wage service orientated jobs. At the very same time the people that they were bringing in to do the high paying jobs and the tourist industry were driving all the prices of everything to insane levels. Now I could see the problem! It was clear as day but not necessarily easy to fix. Since all the prices were so ridiculously high all of these local folks were struggling with a minimum wage income. My daughter had a friend at school that lived in a three bedroom house that was owned by her grandmother. All of the grandmothers kids, and their kids, and their older kid’s families were all living in this three bedroom house! This is how they survive there on these low incomes. So now I can see where the hate comes from!
While I understand that these people have lived on the islands for generations I cannot agree with the idea of minimizing the importance of education in order to keep them there. You are effectively sentencing your child to a needlessly difficult life. This also means that the hatred was actually misplaced. The people who were coming there to take these good paying jobs were not the problem. Even if they did not come these local people could not do the job, they just did not have the skills and education required.
One day not long ago I was reading a blog that was all about white privilege. The person writing this blog was saying that this this was the main reason that that blacks could not get a good job. Because privileged whites got them all. I tried to bring up the importance that poverty, and education or lack of it played but she was not having it. She had been 100% convinced that it was purely a white and black issue. That the color of your skin was the determining factor of your success. I tried to explain that I was from a poor family and that I did not have money to go to college. She said that it wasn’t the same and that I was still privileged due to the color of my skin. In a previous blog of mine “Politics of what a tangled web we weave” I told a story of a black friend of mine who grew up in the inner city of Baltimore. Since it is relevant to this discussion I will include an excerpt:
“When I worked in Japan I had a black friend (just saying that has become cliché, not politically correct, but he was a very good friend and he was black) and co-worker who came from the intercity of Baltimore. So you would think that our experiences going up were completely different. Not so. I came from a poor family from an all-white depressed rural area. He grew up in one of the worst parts of Baltimore that happened to be all black. Where I came from education was not stressed because when you became an adult there were no jobs to get and you were going to just be on welfare anyway. So why bother. Where my friend grew up the culture said that if you did well in school that you were a sell out and were trying to be “white”. He said that if other kids saw you bring home your books that they would actually beat you up. We both never had any real aspirations to go to college because our families just could not afford it. The turning point for us both came out of the blue in the form of a stranger. I had a girlfriend when I was in 9th grade and her Dad was an ex-Marine (Marines will say there is no such thing as an ex-Marine). He asked me one day what my plans were after I finished school. I told him that I could not afford to go to college and my grades were not good anyway. So I would probably just stand in line trying to get one of the few jobs from the couple remaining saw mills. He told me that I should try hard at school and get the best grades I could. After I graduated from high school I could join the military and they would train me and pay for college as well. He said that if I didn’t do something that I would be working in a gas station the rest of my life and he asked me if that was what I wanted. My friend had exactly the same experience. He met an older guy that had been in the Navy for a number of years. He told him that no matter what the other kids said that he should study hard and get good grades. He even offered to give him a ride home from school so the other kids would not know that he was carrying his books. He also suggested that he should join the military.
The point of this story is that even though neither of us had any advantage, I was poor white and he was black, we both ended up sitting right next to each other in a job where we made over $100,000 dollars a year! Why did it work out that way? The first thing is education, it is critical. The next thing was having a mentor or someone who just explained to us that there was a way out. They also told us that even though the conventional way to get ahead wasn’t there for us, college, it wasn’t the only way. Lastly we were willing to do the work that was needed to get ourselves out of our disadvantaged start in life.”
So what this story points out is that poverty is a problem regardless of the color of your skin. It directly affects the education you get. It also points out that like all the previous stories the root of the problem is really Ignorance. As shown in the definition at the beginning of this blog Ignorance does not mean stupid. It means:
“a lack of knowledge or information”
Isn’t it clear that the workers where I live are ignorant? That the parents and the kids in Hawaii were ignorant. That the people telling myself and my black friend that we had no hope to ever change our life were ignorant. That the blogger that was convinced that white privilege was the cause of all the problems that black people faced was ignorant! They are ignorant due to no fault of their own. They just have not been given the opportunity for an education that lets them rise above where they began.
This brings me to racism. What is the root of all racist feelings? Ignorance and fear. There is absolutely no scientific provable reason why anyone should hate or dislike anybody simply on the basis of race!!! It is totally illogical. Why is there fear? Because the racist is ignorant of those he hates? He really knows nothing about them. I often mention that people base their opinions on their own personal experience or limitation there of. I am convinced that the most racist people we have in our midst have actually zero real experience with the people that they hate! Why do they hate so much? Because of ignorance!!! They have nothing real to base it on so they base it off the ignorance they are taught. RACISM EXITS BECAUSE IT IS TAUGHT!!! So instead of people actually experiencing each other or being taught that we are all humans and there really are no substantial differences we are taught the opposite.
What do the poor inner city blacks and rural whites have in common, they are poor. Why are they poor, because they have no education to get them a good paying job. Why do they not have a good education? Because their schools suck and they are lacking the mentors to give them any hope for a better life. Why do their schools suck and they do not have any positive mentors? Because all of our leaders are ignorant.
All these people just suffered from a lack of knowledge or information! Could it really be that simple? Can education really be the answer? I ask you that question?