This week I opened my planner and I saw two things. First I saw, a quote from Gandhi. Second, I saw that I would be leaving for the journey of a lifetime. The quote could not be more fitting for this experience.
“ The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.” – Mahatma Gandhi.
Based on our experience so far this semester and that we have learned about perpetrators of genocide, I think the root causes of genocide is fear. I believe that the perpetrators have fear of difference and this why genocide continues.
With that said, yesterday I was at work and I made an ISIS comment. I said “ You look like a member of ISIS when you have that mask on”. I said it in the most insincere way; my intentions were not to hurt anyone’s feelings, or to joke about a terrorist group. My intentions were to say that my co-worker looked scary and unfamiliar. Being the person I am, I had to put a label on this fear. One of my other co-worker reacted to my statement in a very visible way. She let out an audible gasp, then covered her mouth and stated “ Oh my gosh, that is not okay!” It was that reaction that made me realize what I said might not have been the best choice of words and made me reflect on what I said. While I was reflecting I realized two things. One, you might think what you are saying is not offensive or not stated with bad intent but others around you might feel threatened or even oppressed by what you are saying. Although your intentions are good it is the end result that matters. Two, if we have such a powerful reaction to these groups we give them the power and dominance they want. Just like Gandhi said, fear is the enemy.
Two weekends ago I attended the Active Citizens Conference on behalf of James Madison University. One of the keynote speakers, Clint Smith, used slam poetry to discuss the ideas of using your voice. He stated that is important to understand the oppression of others. His first poem he talked about the importance of using your voice for others and when we remain silence we are continuing to oppress others. When there is an issue in front of us it is important to look at the beyond the issue and find the causes rather than blame the victim. He also talked about the ideas of being honest. In United States history, there have been a lot of things that have been far from perfect however we are taught as children that our history as a nation is ideal. In order to learn from history we need to be honest, this can help stop oppression. We need to remember who wrote history, who we are serving and be critical of what we are learning.
Listening to Clint gave me a few things to take on this trip, first is honesty. I need to be honest about what we are doing and who we are serving and where our country has come from. Second is, to use my voice. I will always speak for those who do not have a voice or who are too afraid to share their ideas. Third, I will educate and be educated. I will no longer go through life waiting for others to educate me. Instead I will look at each opportunity as a chance for change.