If you’re unaware of the Trayvon Martin situation, you can read up on it here.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this story from
the news an email I received from Change.org (seriously, I heard it from an email weeks before it gained mainstream attention), my reaction was not one of shock, incredulity at a highly probable injustice. No, my first reaction was, “oh no, not another one of these.” Though I can’t name specific examples, it feels like I hear about cases like this in the news all the time. By cases like this, I mean, instances where a crime is committed and a person of color gets the shaft from law enforcement.
I don’t mean to say I just brush stuff like this off as if it’s not important. What I mean by that is, it feels like it happens so often I’m almost desensitized to it. And it’s really sad that this sort of thing does happen so often that I’m no longer surprised when it does.
Truthfully if I had written about this a week ago, it would have just been a long angry rant about how this shit happens all the time and the cops care so little about minorities that in the most simple and obvious of cases, the police look the other way and pass the buck on to someone else to wait for “due process.” Though I do completely believe those previous statements.
But I wanted to take a different direction since a lot has been written about this situation already.
To piggy back on Sarah’s recent post, I want to use this space to say, yes, we need to be paying much more attention to what’s going on in our own streets.
But to take it a step further, I would say there needs to be much more dialogue specifically about issues of race, but also issues of class, gender and sexuality.
Because the truth is there needs to be more interaction between diverse groups.
Those in privilege quite often seem to be happy to speak about other groups’ needs, which generally is to say the other groups need to shut up and listen to those in power tell you what you need or don’t need.
The only way this attitude will change is if those in power stop talking and for a change, LISTEN TO THOSE WHO YOU’RE TRYING TO PUT DOWN.
People who have never experienced poverty need to go out into another community, stop being afraid of people who aren’t like them and listen to what they have to say.
We need to listen to the voices in these marginalized communities. We need to allow them space in our courtrooms, statehouses, churches, work places, even our homes and tell us what they need. Allowing them into our space is the only way for us to truly understand their daily struggles. If we don’t do that, then we forfeit our right to offer opposing views. I mean, how can you tell someone else what they need if you haven’t heard them out first.
We have to trust them that they have a better understanding of what needs to change to make the world a better place for everyone and stop telling them that they’re wrong.
We need to stop telling them what they should or shouldn’t be offended by.
We need to stop telling them that their problems and concerns carry less weight than our own.
We need to stop judging groups of people based on what we hear in the news, on TV or in the movies and gain some first-hand experience instead.
If you even take a few minutes out of your day to take in art from other cultures, you’ll begin to see that there are problems within our society. Public Enemy wasn’t saying “Fight the Power” because they just wanted to misbehave. Not that your exploration of other cultures should end after a four-minute song.
Diversity is a good thing, much more than an old wooden ship. The more we learn from each other, the better we can be as people.
If we expect to make progress against racism, sexism and classism, then we need to stop talking and start listening.
If we can change our attitudes about people who are “different” from us, perhaps there will be fewer cases like Trayvon Martin’s.