Everything hidden in darkness must come to light. This seems to be a relevant saying, considering the recent phenomenon of racial and gender scandals in the media. That means bigotry in the NBA, new domestic violence reports, and growing evidence of racist police forces. But when light shines on an issue, do we look for the roots of the issue or do we just just follow the headlines?
Follow the patterns. We are fooled into thinking justice has taken place, when time and time again systems are simply punishing behaviors and people who got caught, instead of the thinking and philosophies that led to those behaviors. Instead of healing, we treat symptoms. We medicate. In a similar way, when we correct people–racists, abusers, etc–all we tend to correct is behavior. People then adopt rules: don’t say nigger, don’t hit a woman, don’t do this, don’t do that. We never correct the way the dominating culture thinks. There are systems of thought and control laced in our political, economic, and religious culture. The monster you see peeking its head in recent scandals is only a symptom of the great cancer that lies in our systems of thought. If we never plan on attacking a way of thinking, that monstrous cancer continues to live–police brutality, racism (in the economic, judicial, and political world), domestic violence, even so called abortion rights. The root of all our issues seems to be the ancient storyline: one group of people thinks it is superior than another, and essentially that they are more human–or that they are the real humans, and the others are not. The self perceived superior group either cannot see the others’ humanity or they undervalue that humanity.
Some people only see only race, gender, or ethnic group. Today, whole systems of governance and socialization have normalized this view. The cancer seems to have been dormant, with a few complaints from its underclass. Today, however, the evidence is in the blood on our streets. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Janay Rice, and so many more.
In pursuing the cause for these atrocities, we point to all the wrong things: the victims themselves, the racist cop, the scared neighborhood watch, etc. For me it boils down to one thing: were these victims seen as people. On the contrary, the personhood of each of these people seems to have been in question, or at the very least it had to be proven.
They tried to show Trayvon Martin was sweet and made good grades. They said Michael was going to college. Every one of those efforts is to make the victim more relateable, more human to the average white public–as if them being human was not enough! There is a gap in the viewed personhood of a white 17 year old and a black 17 year old, in a beaten woman and the man who beat her, in a daughter from the Hamptons and a daughter from Detroit. I will skip the cute stuff, and say why. The measure of humanity and personhood is often dictated by a few things:
1. Whiteness, and one’s relation to it
2. The male sex, and one’s relation to it
3. Economic stability
Somehow, if you fail in anyway to have a father, or to come from an economically sound background, or you look a little too different–you lose the function of the mass culture’s ability to relate to you as a person. Your personhood erodes. Your humanity is in question. Tommy, we see. Rachel we can vouch for, but Tamika must prove to me that she is deserving.
Some of the greatest atrocities done to people happened because some one thought the other was a little less human. Once you are capable of thinking someone else is less than human, then you are the one capable of great inhumanities towards people. The Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, and so much more. Each of the people group victimized were thought less, just a little less, than full human beings.
There is something particularly sick with a society that cannot see the humanity of those different from their perceived selves. The symptoms of that sickness shows itself in the numerous displays of injustice towards black men and women in this country. Yet, we have an opportunity. A major light is shining on issues we have always known, all too well in fact, but were unable to protest due to lack of evidence and following.
We let the cancer survive. We let the erroneous thinking, that is, the root of injustice live. We forget that it is living inside us. We do not attack the cancer itself, the harmful thinking that is the cause of the deaths of young people, the oppression of women, the imprisonment of minorities, etc. We let the cancer live. We bill it and we let it give commentary on the news.