I cannot fathom the depth of despair and rage of those who are affected by prejudice. I try, to better help and support, but I can hope to never fully understand through experience. I am a young, fit, white, middle-class, college-educated, cis-gendered woman. The oppressive -isms I learned about in school very rarely apply to me. With ever fibre of my being, I want them to not apply to anyone. The town I live in embraces difference, embraces individuality, embraces community regardless of skin color or sexual identity. I live in a town where, at midnight on a Thursday, I had zero qualms walking alone half a mile to my apartment, on streets with minimal lighting and a cell phone about to run out of battery, because I knew that the most likely cause of human interaction at that hour would be a late-night jogger with their dog, and if a patrolling policeperson decided to see who I was, I could jovially chat with them until they continued on their way. I deeply, honestly, cannot understand how it feels to walk that same street at that same hour with a different set of potential outcomes, including being shot and killed. I have asked friends about this, I have seen facebook posts about this, I have read articles and watched interviews and observed strangers, but still I do not understand how it feels. It seems so arbitrary, so senseless, so infuriating, to have such a large part of your interactive life be out of your control.
The twitter and instagram flood of #iftheygunnedmedown has helped increase perspective. If any one of your documented moments could be used as a pattern for the rest of your existence, and as validation for your murder, wouldn’t that change how you view media? If, at any moment, you could be stripped of your most basic human rights, wouldn’t that change how you interact with people? And if, without provocation and perhaps without warning, your life could be taken by government-sanctioned brute force, wouldn’t that change how you move through the world?
No wonder there is such an overflowing of fear and ignorance. Those who don’t experience oppression cannot fathom the fear and anger of those who do, and those who live with the unknowns cannot fathom the ignorance of those who do not. Education, experience, revelation of circumstance; if you do not live this, learn it. We cannot hope for cooperation and change if we do not see through each other’s eyes.
I still do not understand how it feels to be oppressed. I hope I never experience it. But I will talk to those who do. I will give when I can, and spread knowledge even when I can do nothing else. Please, if you have insight, if you have words that can help me better support and assist and feel not only what it is like to live under prejudice but also how to change it, let me know. Let everyone know.
(Here are some useful links so far, for practical help to the current situation: http://clairelitton.tumblr.com/post/94723318273/i-feel-so-useless-sitting-here-what-can-i-do-to-help)