About eraseindifference

I am a Lecturer of Communication Studies at James Madison University teaching SCOM 318: Genocide and Refugee Issues in Communication.

Fierce Momentum

When I was little I REFUSED to take naps (hah how crazy was I). I wanted to be in on the fun and apart of whatever was happening. So my mom adopted a little trick on vacations to help with my stubborn attitude. When we were at the beach, I would always ask my mom what the airplanes that flew over the water said. She quickly convinced me that the sign behind the plane read “Megan it’s time to take your nap.” Of course I was naïve and believed that I was special enough to have an entire sign dedicated just to myself. My sheer acceptance of authority trumped all else. I didn’t have a doubt in my head that this may not be true and accepted it just because my mom told me so. While I have matured a little and realized my ignorance in this situation, I still find myself accepting different standards and rules just because someone with authority tells me to. No questions asked. No doubt about their intentions.

Our need to feel a sense of belonging often leads to an acceptance of authority. This acceptance provides those with authority even more power to accomplish their goal. Once they gain support by in group members, the speed of momentum builds and is hard to stop. People often join the momentum mindlessly because they want to be in the in group, once again reflecting our need to feel accepted and valued.

In reading about Rohingya genocide, I have come to realize this same acceptance of authority has provided the government with the power to initiate a mass extermination. Genocide often happens because no one challenges authority. If you challenge authority, you risk being thrown out of the in crowd, and may be subject to the same maltreatment.

In the article, There’s Only One Conclusion, the Buddhist monks claimed the Rohingya were reincarnated insects, justifying their extermination by calling it “pest control.” This was both shocking and disturbing. The article continued to shine light on the quick pace of their extermination. While genocide is planned and methodical, once momentum is gained the actual killing of the population can be rapid. Half of an entire population was wiped out in about eight weeks. This case with the Rohingya showed me power of fierce momentum.

Genocide occurs due to acceptance of authority, lack of critical thinking, and the inability to halt momentum. I think that we can help to stop the momentum of genocide by realizing our true value that we bring to the table and thinking for ourselves first. By valuing others needs before our own, there would more of a response of action to genocide because it would not matter if we were thrown into the outcast group. In order to stop the perpetual nature of genocides, we need to step out of the bystander role and into one of critical thinking and action based response, even if that means opposing authority.

-Megan Essex

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Ignorance is Bliss

“Abdul was seven years old when he began to understand that the government wanted to exterminate him.”

I am coming to the embarrassing conclusion that I am oblivious of this world that I claim to be a citizen of. This week’s readings were about the Rohingya, a group who is often described as the “world’s most persecuted minority.” They are an ethnic group, majority of whom are Muslim, who have lived in majority Buddhist Myanmar for centuries. I am embarrassed to say that today was the first time I have ever heard of them or their stories. In November of 2016, the UN accused the government of carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya, or in other words, claimed a genocide was taking place right under our noses and we are doing nothing about it. In fact, one scholarly estimate stated that between 1956 and 2016, 43 genocides have taken place, causing the deaths of approximately 50 million people; however, only three of these genocides have been prosecuted. Once again, I am embarrassed to admit that before this class, I could probably only name those three as well. “Those three,” referring to the mass killings in Rwanda, Serbia, and Cambodia.

This made me start to wonder why that is. Why are millions of innocent people being murdered each year and here we are, sitting in what feels like a world away, completely blind to it? Why is this not something that is built into our academic curriculum? Why are teachers nailing the fact that a mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell into our heads, but neglecting to teach us about the millions of lost lives we are oblivious to? Why did it take until I was 20 years old for me to hear that nearly 40 genocides have gone unnoticed and not prosecuted? Granted, I am responsible for myself and my actions and I have had every right and possibility to make this known to myself, but I did not. Which begs the question what else am I ignorant of? What other injustices am I completely oblivious to?

In one first assigned reading, the author stated that government sources from the US and Europe that he spoke to referred to genocide as the “G word,” unwilling to speak of it, even in an informal conversation. I physically felt my stomach churn after reading this seemingly tiny statement, because I came to the realization that if we aren’t talking about it, nobody is. If we aren’t telling these people’s stories and educating ourselves, nobody will. There are genocides taking place right now all over the world and our government’s response is to bury their heads in the sand while simultaneously throwing it into their people’s eyes; hoping to disorient their vision long enough to form a tweet to distract them from the truth.

You see, if we aren’t doing anything, nobody is. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I can promise that I will no longer allow myself to be the ignorant bystander who lives comfortably in my own privilege. I cannot be that person anymore.

Our society tends to live by this statement of “ignorance is bliss.” Bullshit. Ignorance is ignorance. Ignorance is a lazy, unacceptable disease. But it is curable. Let’s do something about it.

 

-KM

Little Acts, Big Impacts

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” -Dalai Lama

 

When you hear stories in the news of all the tragedy, misconduct, and disruption, how do you react? Do you believe this world is falling apart and succumb the evil around you? Or do you try to go out there and make a difference? If you want to make a difference, I applaud you. That’s the first step. And it’s a lot easier than you think.

A small act of kindness…what is it? It’s an act of compassion; a selfless act. It’s putting someone before yourself. It’s going out of your way to help someone, to be there for someone, to cheer someone up.

Quite often it’s those who have nothing and have nobody that need these the most. Immigrants. Homeless. Refugees. They need someone to believe in them when the world refuses to.

It’s the small acts of kindness that led to brave individuals hiding Jews in their home while Nazi’s raided. It’s creating shelters for refugees escaping genocide in Myanmar. It’s doing the right thing because you want to help, give kindness, being brave, and sticking up for the oppressed. It’s these acts that change the world.

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I encourage you to do something truly kind for someone else. Pay for someone’s drink behind you at Starbucks, volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about, write a thank-you card, actually stop and talk to that stranger you sit next to on the bus.

You truly never know what someone has been though, is going through, nor where their life will go. If you can give your kindness to someone else for just a small second, it can change their day, their week, their year. If you practice one simple small act of kindness every day, you are not only making someone feel valued and loved, but also open up your eyes to the truly positive people, things, and experiences in this world.

-Kristin Taylor

Let’s Try to Listen

“White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, clothes, tools, and blank checks.” – Peggy McCintosh

Discussing white privilege within our society is definitely not easy to talk about. Because of this, our collective society tries to just avoid the discussion of race and privilege as much as possible. Personally, I think acknowledging my privilege is difficult in itself, but talking about it with others and outwardly addressing it is a whole other story. But even though it’s hard, it is necessary, and ignoring the fact that it exists only perpetuates the problem.

So yes, I do have an upper-hand simply because I am white. Is this fair? Absolutely not. I know that, and wish that it was different, but still have a hard time talking about it. Truthfully, this is because I don’t know where to start or how to have that conversation.

Acknowledging that I have an advantage makes me feel as though I am trying to help someone else get to the “level” of which society has placed me at. I feel that this would come off the wrong way, that I view myself on a pedestal, courtesy of the fact that I’m white. I admit that, even though it was unintentional, that my reasoning behind avoiding the discussion may have led me to “hide” in some ways behind my privilege.

But, in writing this, I’ve realized that what matters more is not me talking about my privilege or how I think it affects others. Instead of talking about how we, white people, feel uncomfortable by having privilege, it makes more sense to listen to those who are at a societal disadvantage.

If you aren’t the one affected by a phenomenon, how can you as accurately address it? Understand it? Criticize it? We need to actively listen to those who feel unfavored or discriminated against, so we can make a more conscious and accurate effort of how to fix this gap. Listening with an open mind and genuine care to rid society of the gap is, in my opinion, the only way to erase it.

A necessary reality

This week in class, our topic to speak on was White Privilege. And to be honest, I’ve had a hard time thinking of something to write. I’ve been nervous to offend people who I love dearly, or to be the person to give them the reality check that all white people need: We kind of suck. Since our forefathers came onto this land and took it away from those already inhabiting it, we have been used to being ‘superior’ and ‘in charge’. And while we are not our forefathers and are hopefully a lot kinder than they once were, we still have major problems that we have to overcome. Before reading the articles for this week, I had began to consider myself very equal, fair, and understanding towards all walks of life. Long story short, I was way out of line. I subconsciously have a viewpoint of “us” versus “them”, even when I genuinely didn’t think I was. For example, my entire life I have been helping volunteer for charities. However, in an article by Danielle Endres and Mary Gould, they write:

“Viewing service learning interactions as charity is problematic because the notion of ‘helping the other’ is historically and institutionally embedded in power – privileged people helping unprivileged people”

This is a thought that never crossed my mind. However, after reading their words, I realized that I subconsciously view myself as more privileged and therefore should help those who are lesser than myself. When did it stop being about people helping people. Many white people don’t think about this, but do you realize how lucky you are to be white? And I say lucky because you could have easily been born another skin color in another country with an entirely new identity. People have absolutely no say in what circumstances they are born in whether it’s rich or poor, male or female, white or colored skin. So if you were born as a white, upperclass male, then you really hit the jackpot…congratulations! But don’t you think it’s wrong that people are viewed as being less than based on something that they literally have no control over? And don’t you think it’s extremely ridiculous and inhumane that white people are somehow seen as being the superior race? I know that this might be an uncomfortable read for some, but white people need to be more uncomfortable. We’ve lived in a life of unearned privilege because we got lucky and we need to start realizing that our attitudes and viewpoints need to change. Even when you think that you are equal and fair, dig deep and try to discover biases that even you didn’t know you had. These biases affect our everyday thoughts which impact our words and decisions, which impact the world.

-Kate Keeley

On White Privilege

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been dreading writing this blog post because I still feel like I am not nearly educated enough to speak on it, but I’m going to try. I feel like some of what I say might sound ignorant; I apologize in advance for that, and I welcome corrections.

In this time of 2018, with what is happening in the United States politically and socially, it should be clear to most people that racism didn’t end with the abolishment of slavery. It is very much alive in modern culture. That’s what most conversations focus on: who is affected by racism, who is being racist, and what can be done to try to combat the issue. What is less often taught (or acknowledged, especially by white people) is the idea of white privilege.

One reading that really opened my eyes was ‘‘I Am Also in the Position to Use My Whiteness to Help Them Out: The Communication of Whiteness in Service Learning” by Danielle Endres & Mary Gould. The section we were assigned to read focused on students who participated in a service learning experience, and even after it being described to them in that light, they still saw their work as “volunteerism” or “charity”.

This segment especially challenged the idea of a white person using their privilege to “help” a person of color; to be able to speak louder on their behalf because their whiteness allows them to be amplified.

Contrary to what some people might think, this is actually not productive because it reinforces the “us/them” dichotomy, and does nothing to break down barriers. It just lets white people pat themselves on the back for doing yet another thing that puts them in a superior position.

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This graphic is designed to help folks self-examine where they fall on a racism scale, and I think it doubles also as partially a white privilege assessment of how in-tune someone is to issues. Personally, before I saw this, I didn’t know there were so many shade of racism; I thought either you were racist or you weren’t. Illuminated are the many different degrees and variations someone might subscribe to, maybe without even knowing it.

One of these aligns well with the Faces of Whiteness article we read this week, one of four masks someone might put on when confronted about this issue. All of the examples under the chart’s “white savior” align with The Missionary – someone who wants to “do something” but won’t sit down to listen to people of color to hear all of their experiences and stories, refusing to put themselves in the learner position and taking a lead instead.

Where do you fall? Where do your friends fall? Do you have room for improvement? I know I do.

Racism and white privilege are difficult topics, but talking about them will never be as difficult as suffering because of them.

So let’s start talking.

 

NR

You have to start Somewhere

If you’re like me when you heard the word refugees, you immediately thought about little kids who came here from different areas or countries. You knew that being a refugee meant that they had to flee something, but you never took the time to go to the next level to find out what they were fleeing.

You never thought to think of the reasons they had to leave or why they were forced to leave. If you heard the term Genocide, you thought about Hitler but nothing more. You knew that time was over and brutal killings like that didn’t happen anymore.

Until you thought about what it really means to be educated about something.

educated : having an education; especially: having an education beyond the average.”

If you’re not really educated about something until you have an education beyond the average, is thinking of the term, refugee and only thinking of children, make you really educated?

What about the parents, what about the situations, what about their stories? If you’re asking all of these what ifs, do you think you know more than the average about refugees?

If you find yourself to be this person: it’s okay.

It’s okay to be average or even lower than average because you have to start somewhere.

The first step in learning something is identifying where you are in order to grow to help expand your knowledge.

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You have to take a step back and find out what is it you need to know and what it is you don’t know. You have to go beyond the surface and find out what’s deeper than that.

You have to start researching and finding sources from everywhere to learn about all of the different theories and ideologies.

You have to find these different resources to come up with your own opinion.

You have to go beyond just reading an article by finding ways to apply it.

You have to start thinking outside of your box and map by placing yourself somewhere else.

el·e·vat·ed: situated or placed higher than the surrounding area.”

And once you start asking these what if’s and digging into the deeper meaning, you become elevated. Something that’s higher than the average.

You start to find things you would’ve never imagined. 

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Just like the fact that, 65.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide and if you were me a few months ago, I wouldn’t have guessed close to that number.

But it’s okay because you have to start somewhere, to go somewhere.

A.M.