When we are young, we seem to be sheltered by the world in which we live. We learn to view the world through our own vantage point; specific means of socialization are taught to us by family and teachers.
It seems lost in some of our education that we don’t look through the numerous lens from which people view their world. As we grow older, as we become more immersed in our education, we begin to learn the different struggles and obstacles that others around the world are facing. In class, we discussed the fact that when talking about the subject of ‘genocide,’ one example almost always specifically comes to mind: The Holocaust. Why is it that for the past 21 years of my life, I have been so shut off to the larger world, to a world where genocide is not just a word used to describe one specific event, but multiple instances that have effectively altered countless innocent lives? After the first two class periods, I have become more aware of the littlest things I certainly have taken advantage of, and more specifically, something Peggy McIntosh discussed in her article, my “invisible knapsack” of privilege that I carry around with me on a day to day basis. My life is filled with privileges that I constantly took advantage of; “took” being the key word here, for I now choose not to take advantage of my invisible privileges. Realizing the different struggles around me is a great start, but what more can I do to make a change…something JMU has been asking us to do since the moment we agreed to come to said University….how can I “be the change” JMU? The first step, as my last semester draws upon me, was taking this class. The world, through socialization and other means, seems to have a way to quiet us down, and with this silence, we lose strength and power to be the change. I choose not to be quieted anymore, for discussing the gruesome topics without any form of a sugar coating topping is what we need to do. Be the change; simple to say, hard to act on.
My first step to being the change comes from taking a new vantage point on the genocidal situation at hand. Looking at the ‘why’; why the perpetrators of genocide do what they do, how they can feel that it is okay to go through the task of eliminating a certain group of people, all because they share a different viewpoint themselves, from the perpetrators. Much of the literature that we have read discusses the issues of decent people being forced to participate in the brutal, destructive acts of genocide because of fear that if they do not follow, they too will be harmed. This pressure to follow, to conform to the masses, seems to be the large issue pertaining to how genocides can carry on. The next question I now have, after evaluating the perspectives of the perpetrators, is then, how can we keep the good people good, instead of turning them evil; how can we insist on not following the leader, and instead standing up and being the change? An important step, I feel, is to tell the stories of not only the survivors of genocide, but also, begin to look more in-depth at the stories of the perpetrators.