Blog / 2016 / Knowing What You Don’t Know

November 8, 2016

I failed. Not the whole quiz, but the parts that ultimately matter more. It was in an online article called “The Dark Side of Guardian Comments” about how the newspaper moderates reader responses, deciding what content is abusive and what is negative but still acceptable. Towards the end of the piece, The Guardian provided a few sample comments, asking readers to allow or block content based on the information presented. Once the reader made a choice, The Guardian either agreed or disagreed, explaining its rationale.

When the comments targeted people like me, I had no problem sensing when a line had been crossed. When the comments were abusive towards other marginalized identities or towards the paper itself, I got half the answers wrong. Worse still, my wrong choices only came after careful deliberation.

It was one of those moments when you suddenly see everything that you aren’t seeing—not that you understand it all, but that you understand that you don’t understand it.

On some level, you are aware that these gaps exist. In fact, you’ve probably had them pointed out to you before, but that doesn’t make it easy or fun to actually look into your blind spots. It is the most uncomfortable kind of confrontation, because it’s you coming face to face with yourself.

Every time it happens to me, it shakes me to my core. Then again, every time it happens to me, I also become a little more able to rebuild once the quake has passed. And the proof of that slow but steady evolution in my understanding is in the text itself.

Fennec fox marker art
Gwenn Seemel
Fennec Fox
2016
marker on paper
9 x 6 inches

I originally wrote this brief essay about the Guardian quiz as part of a draft for a magazine article. I cut this little story before sending the piece to Professional Artist’s editor, but she still pulled the piece, ironically because it caused her to come face to face with herself. I published the final version of the article along with a video explaining what the editor saw.


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