Monday, July 15, 2013

Stand Your Ground

...or clothes doth make a man...at least in Florida.

Race isn't something I'm totally at all comfortable talking about.

It's not something I feel I have an intrinsic understanding about, not the way many, though not most, Americans do. I grew up in an almost entirely white, very homogenous society, and though this has changed since then, both for my country and I, I still feel I only have the most rudimentary understanding of how race and privilege work and a certain naiveté about how they should work. However, I would like to think that I have as finely tuned sense of justice as any other striving-be-a-decent-human-being does. And I'd be willing to wager that so do you.

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The question, as ever is, what we do about it? Most of the time it's nothing. In a complicated world it's easy to just say nothing, or to loudly condemn injustices, while silently approving them by lack of action on our morals and beliefs. To hide behind  jingoism, preaching to the choir and cynicism, or claiming that as we're not actively committing wrongs, we're doing enough.  In the echo chamber of social media this is more possible than ever.

Instead of acting on our convictions, we post clever memes and vent our outrage. On the new basic hierarchy of communication, tweeting and facebook statuses have got to be barely above talking to yourself on the bus. What that makes blogging, I don't even want to know, but hear me out, since you're here:

Action is always better than inaction.

But impotent rage is only marginally more meaningful than not caring at all, or doing nothing at all. Be mad, be frustrated, but do something about it. Something more than just a facebook status, or talking to your like-minded next door neighbor. Go to a rally, stand in solidarity, protest injustice, or if you can't do anything else, wear a hooded sweatshirt to work today, maybe to feel a little more empowered, maybe so that other people might pick up on the fact that no, you also don't really think clothes, or skin color, or social class make a man.

Just make sure your smallest, meekest act of dissent in the face of injustice leads forever towards bigger and better ones. Don't just wear a hoodie. Write to your state representatives, your congress persons, your senators. Lobby against racist laws in your state or city. Connect the dots between the seemingly disparate parts of our society that seem to have gone hell in a hand basket and then connect them to your own life. Understand that whether you like it or not, you're part of a bigger picture.

And don't just be incensed by one particular travesty of justice, or environmental outrage, or assault against human or animal rights. Be outraged by the systems that permit these wrongs to continually happen and the part you might be forced to play in them.

Activism is not about making oneself feel righteous, but it is about declaring independence and standing your ground on issues you believe in.

Do you? Will you? Why? Why not?

10 comments:

  1. I was having the same kind of thoughts about this verdict, Milla. But more in a disheartened way. As in : this is one case in so many similar ones - where prejudices and distrust (and racism) rule the day.

    The ratio of non-white people in jails (or killed) in this society is another blatant testimony of the set of keys you are handed, from your very birth, according to your social/cultural background: where you live, the school you go to as a kid, the violence in your everyday environment.

    It is not very different in France, where I come from. So every time I go there, or even here in Montréal, I never let a racist comment pass unnoticed. I try to bring the whole picture on the table. So that at least a little seed of understanding can be planted here and there...

    But I realize that other things can be done, too. Thanks for pointing them out, Milla.

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  2. So very well put - thank you.

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  3. before i read this post, i googled "what can i do about trayvon martin?" because i literally didn't know what else to do. i'm angry, i'm frightened, i'm bewildered. it is easy for me to say, "it's that part of the country, i just won't go there. those people don't understand me or my values. because apparently the murder of children in florida (two cases in 2 years) is just a thing that happens."

    my other notion is to love twice as much. like you say, everything makes a difference. i can show my love through community support, writing letters, using my voice whether or not anyone is listening, even just fucking going to the farmer's market. making connections, feeding the wolf of love rather than fear.

    is this a cop out, or what is actionable in my realm?

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  4. Another action to take, if we want justice - when called to jury duty - AKA jury service - SERVE! So important!

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  5. People think that Canada is a super multi-cultural country and that we all get along great but racism is a big problem here...especially when it comes to First Nations people.

    Having African American cousins and a Jamaican sister-in-law I've also seen a lot of racism towards people of color.

    I suppose I'm not sure what to do about it. Of course, like any decent human being, when I hear someone make a racist comment I'm quick to inform them of their closed-mindedness, but other than that I tend to get a bit discouraged. I've been to rallies and protests to stand in solidarity with the Aboriginal people of my country but it all seems fruitless.

    It is really hard to not get discourage when you aren't really accomplishing change in the big picture.

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  7. For as long as I can remember, I have has strong feelings about racism. I can remember my grandfather using racial slurs, while he might get a quick look from there's around, no one really saying much, except me. I wasn't about to let that slide. So there I would be, 8 years old, letting my grandpa have it...and what I have never understood is the excuse others would make. Well, it's just a generational thing. I mean I get it our older generation way raised during a different time, when things were done differently, esp here in the south, but that is no excuse. Regardless of your age, location, sex, race, religion, that is no excuse. We are all of value, we are all in this together. So like others have said, I have never let a bigitory comment pass by me without making my voice heard, sadly I haven't done much else. I am learning that I don't have to go on assuming my little voice will be able to do much in terms of making a change, I can make my voice be heard. Racism is wrong, the end.

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  8. I'll say something if I hear someone using a racial slur, but that's about it. Why don't I do more? Because, honestly, it doesn't matter what I do or feel. The government isn't going to change. The judicial system/process sure as hell isn't going to change. I can protest until I'm blue in the face but in the end it won't change anything. The problem with this country is our lack of empathy. So many people don't give a crap about anyone but themselves. They're not able to take a step back and say "Damn. What if this had happened to MY kid?" Recently, in New York City, an Asian man was murdered and left in an alley of sorts. He didn't do anything wrong. In fact, he was trying to protect a woman who was being attacked by her husband (or boyfriend, I can't remember which). In this alley there were surveillance cameras. Hundreds of people walked by this bloodied man before someone stopped to help. And this is just one "story". This kind of ignorance happens everywhere, every day. The change has to come from inside. It's not about changing laws. It's about changing how people feel and think. And that, my friend, is a very difficult task. The most terrifying part is...ignorant people raise ignorant children. If a man is a racist prick there's a very good chance his son will also be a racist prick. As much as it kills me to admit it, I know there's nothing I can do about that. So, I cry and throw things at the TV and pray my daughter's heart is filled with empathy and compassion. We need to teach our children well in the hopes they will be the change.

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  9. On a daily basis I am dealing with my privilege of being a white female. It allows me to get out of speeding tickets, and just a few days ago someone bended the rules so that I could get something delivered to me that day. I know that if I were an African American or Hispanic these privileges wouldn't be so frequently handed out to me, and sometimes it is hard to know that I am reaping the benefits of simply being white.
    And there are so many instances in history where the passive people were just as much to blame as the victors themselves, and despite going to protests and marches, it is still so easy to feel that I am quite powerless to corruption and bigotry. Not to mention that when issues like arise, all the cute and fun ways I spend my time seem trivial and misused.
    I'm happy you posted this - it's prompted a lot of thought!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I love hearing the different views and really think that just being aware of your privilege is such a great start to a activist life. "Just living your life", cute, fun, hard, awesome, whatever we feel it may be at any given time, should not be an excuse to not act, but a privilege we are grateful and that inspires us to be our best selves. I think you're well on your way, girl ;)

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