The Confidence of Ignorance

Becoming aware is the first step towards change

stephen matlock
5 min readJul 25, 2020


Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels

It’s really sad when white guys don’t get it. There’s a sui generis difference between the experience of Black Americans and everyone else.

I was in a discussion with some people, including some white guys, one who demanded to include his own viewpoint into any discussion about the value of Black lives, often expressed by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

It was . . . an interesting discussion that went nowhere, because the discussion started from ignorance by this gentleman and never went any further than what he already was convinced was the whole truth.

The sad thing isn’t so much that he didn’t listen. (Reader: he didn’t listen.) The sad thing is that he didn’t want to listen. He had all the information he needed for his opinion, and he was eager to tell my Black friends that their own lived existence, today in America, was less value than his assumptions about the lived experiences of others who also had it bad.

The ignorance is a choice at this point. We can present resources to help us uncover more about what we don’t know, and discover how to improve what we do know, but it takes an act of courage and even a leap of faith to say “I might not know what I’m talking about. Help me learn.”

So, for us white people — especially us white guys! — I recommend the book “Waking Up White,” by Debby Irving. It’s both a memoir, of sorts, as well as a workbook for oneself or a study book for a group. (You can find it here on Amazon, but of course you can purchase it from your local independent bookstore or check it out of the library. I’d recommend buying it so you can take notes.

My own set of writer friends here in the Pacific Northwest invited me in to join them in the journey. We read through the 46 short chapters and journaled our own thoughts and development. It was a rough experience at times-the work required to dig into our own selves as white people who are white was difficult — we are simply not used to seeing ourselves as white; rather, we’re used to seeing ourselves as just “normal” and “regular” and “ordinary” — and added to that, we see ourselves as starting from innocence.



stephen matlock

Writer; observer; sometimes doer. Fiat justitia ruat cælum. More at Mostly off Medium now & writing elsewhere