White supremacy relies very heavily on the establishment of this ignorance as outlined by Charles Mills. We can see the way in which the larger white population relies on ignorance about its routinely oppressive behaviors in order to maintain the privilege of oppressing others AND the incredible privilege of NOT admitting this fundamentally amoral choice. How ‘nice’ (for them) that they can continue to keep other people’s things while pretending to be ‘nice’ at the same time.
It seems that white people, as a group, have no intention of marking their ignorance so as to acknowledge their reality. As Mills says, they prefer their collective, mass hallucination over admitting their rift in basic humanity.
I assume this is not only because the historical crime is extreme, representing a shirking of human morality that may even be unprecedented in the human race, but also because they know they continue to benefit AT OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPENSE. To admit that they do this at others’ expense would mean to ask themselves how they can return stolen items. As a group, white people aren’t even able to admit that what they ‘have’ isn’t really theirs, never mind being ready to return it. Because the historical behavior is such a degradation of human morality worldwide, it represents oppression of entire swaths of the human race— and white people don’t want to acknowledge this. What they ‘have’ depends almost entirely on oppressing other human beings, approximately 90% of the human race worldwide.
Not only did the faculty of Harvard ignore Bell, they continue to ignore their privilege and hand rich white people, along with their underperforming children, positions in these universities which set them up for a lifetime of gaining at other people’s expense. White women have also been historically handed these positions through the diversion of affirmative action positions from POC to white women, unfairly privileging them with the lion’s share of what should have been slated primarily for black peoples and Native Americans. Even poor white people have gotten these positions: I ask, after reading Hillbilly Elegy, how this person got into an Ivy League school AND graduated with a degree in English. Vance’s acceptance to IL, given his writing ‘skill,’ in and of itself indicates that white people are privileged regardless of wealth or lack of it. Who didn’t get that spot because Vance got it? Even after getting that degree, his writing isn’t very good.
Collectively, white people persistently refuse to admit that in order to have such a bed of ease, others are suffering. The world suffers also while performing POC’s are kept at bottom levels socially while yet another underperforming (or not performing) white person is given the POC”s promotion, award, etc. The world suffers when subpar mediocrity is falsely elevated above actual performance just to preserve the dominant’s distorted, entitled view of themselves. There are people with the stamina, capacity, and willingness to work hard, and these people cannot be rewarded if subpar is taking the higher level spots. Eventually, the real performers who aren’t being rewarded will stop trying. That leaves us with the under- or no performers, in charge again even after proving for centuries that they can’t handle it.
One assumes that Rawls and other philosophers of their time ‘didn’t mean it,’ that they were ‘ignorant.’ I believe it is time to eliminate this term and call it what it is: willfully looking away so as to avoid taking responsibility for the tremendous crimes that have been committed against the bulk of the human race for the last 500 years.
In 1990, when Bell resigned, I had been accepted to two postgraduate Ivy League programs. I took his lead, having read Faces at the Bottom of the Well as a younger teenager. Registering his reasons for resignation, I discussed with the faculty why I also had to say ‘no.’ These conversations were attended with the same white ‘ignorance’: a refusal to see the truth in order to avoid moral responsibility.
This persists: white people, generally speaking, continue to give each other things which rightfully belong to others. Again, the choice not to acknowledge this — not to see this, which is glaring to so many people of color — -is an ACTIVE CHOICE. The term ‘ignorance’ indulges white people as a collective group: it coddles them, once again (even though it seems that more coddling couldn’t even be possible!!)
As a society, I believe we should stop using the term ‘white ignorance’ and start using the term ‘white complicity’ each time a white person, like Rawls, pretends NOT to see that his advantage comes at a very high price to people of color: ie, 90% of the human race.
Isn’t it time to take collective responsibility for creating a hallucinatory hologram of morality where there isn’t any???