This is not going to be a happy, feel-good post. Consider yourself warned, and walk away if you wish. And if you decide you need to unsubscribe; no hard feelings.
Yesterday on Facebook I saw a post from a friend speaking of being tired of all the political arguing, the negativity, the bad news. It went on to say something along the line of, “I’m going to limit my newsfeed to positive quotes, dog pictures, and memes.”
I get that all the horrifying things happening in our culture—the border crisis, the racism, the violence, #metoo, #churchtoo, the hate speech—can be exhausting. But if you, me, or this friend can choose not to pay attention, it’s because we have the privilege not to care.
You see, my friend who mothers a black teenage son doesn’t have the option of not paying attention. She watches black men being stopped, being shot, being killed, because someone is scared of their blackness. And so she pays attention and prepares her son. She gives him training on where to put his hands if the police stop him. She collaborates with friends to figure out the best place for him to put his license and registration in the car (one idea is in a plastic pouch on the dashboard so he doesn’t ever have to reach for them). She worries when he goes anywhere, particularly wearing a hoodie.
A young woman walking around a college campus does not have the privilege not to care. Like most women she has to be vigilant as to where she walks and with whom, where she parks her car and how late she leaves. She needs to be cautious about the company where she accepts an internship, investigating the reputation of the men she may have to report to. She must research wages so she can fight harder to earn an equitable paycheck.
The dreamer, whose parent brought her to the U.S. as a child, needs to pay attention. She knows no home but this country, yet now her future is threatened based on no action of her own. She has to watch what our government is doing; she has to be fearful that at some moment she may be shipped to a country she doesn’t know nor consider her own. She wonders if her education will be disrupted, or rendered useless because she cannot complete her course of study.
The man speaking Spanish to his friend at the mini-market cannot afford not to pay attention. He must monitor the reaction of the person at the register, the other customers, so he is prepared if the calls of “Speak English,” or “Are you illegal?” or “Go home to your country” come. He must carry his citizenship or Green card with him everywhere in case ICE decides to stop him and lock him up without allowing him to prove his residency first.
I am privileged. On Saturday there is a rally in Lancaster to stand with refugees. I plan to attend. But if I wake up Saturday and think of something else I prefer to do, not going to the rally doesn’t affect my life. If I choose not to care about the plight of immigrants and refugees, it reflects my privilege. If I don’t speak up when someone uses racist language, it doesn’t make my life worse (except for my screaming conscience) because racism doesn’t impact my day-to-day actions. I have the privilege of choosing when I want to advocate for equality, for justice, for acceptance, for welcoming, for the safety of others. And those affected by these issues, those who must pay attention, need me to make that choice to care.
I get that we may not be able to engage in every battle. It can exhaust us. And we do need to know when to take a break in the fight for justice, when to recharge.
But in being able to choose to ignore that problem, that injustice, we should at least honestly acknowledge we can do so only because we are privileged.