This week I had planned on writing about the responsibilities of privileged persons. I wanted to share my opinion that those who are unaffected by discrimination, prejudice and unjust biases are obligated to focus their attention on both thoroughly understanding and dismantling these issues. For whatever reason I was struggling to translate these thoughts to paper. That’s when Ivy Elgarten ’19 saved the day.

For those of you who do not know Ivy, she is a white cisgender Bowdoin student in the Class of 2019. Frankly, she is wonderful and you should all get to know her. This Tuesday, Ivy posted a Facebook status where she admitted to once having attitudes toward certain groups of people that she now recognizes as inappropriate and misguided. She went on ask others who share her position to reflect and address their own inner biases as well. She took accountability for her actions and asked for others to do the same but only after leading by example.

What Ivy did in 751 characters is what we should aim for in dialogue and our overall pursuit of harmony. The purpose of addressing these types of issues should be to generate an understanding of a different perspectives. This often results in an understanding of previously misunderstood issues. We need the receptors of these messages to be as willing to be wrong as Ivy is. For that reason, I think we as a community should applaud Ivy and others like her who submit themselves to the purpose of progress.

However, it is important to recognize that we should not be celebrating Ivy. The only reason to applaud those who overcome their prejudices is because people are not naturally compelled to do so. Not being ignorant should be nothing less than normal. Unfortunately, things are not as they should be. We live in a world full of ignorant influences. As a result, many, if not all, of us hold biased beliefs. For these reasons being educated in this regard is special. This is not to say that people like Ivy deserve more attention and recognition than members of marginalized communities and participants in movements that direct their efforts toward issues of difference as well. We still need to recognize that the leaders of any type of progress are those who are overcoming an obstacle(s). That being said, a pat on the back will not undermine progress altogether.

Acknowledging Ivy’s deed as a good one only encourages further similar behavior. Hopefully, if in the fight against inequality and oppression we incorporate positive reinforcement, more will be accomplished. Now, these are obviously my opinions. I cannot tell others how they must handle those who are ignorant to their situation. I do not feel I have the right to tell anyone how they should or can react to unfair treatment. That being said I do believe inclusive behaviors are more productive than exclusive practices in the grand scheme of things.