We are Pawns in the Media Circus

It is human nature to focus on what is prevalent in our society and the world around us. Even when we don’t want to, sometimes we start believing the things we hear because we hear nothing else. We hear it so much that we question ourselves; we wonder: “Am I right about this? Should I reevaluate my thoughts and feelings?”

The book I’m reading right now (Reach- Ben Jealous & Trabian Shorters) gives accounts of 40 successful black men talking about where they came from and what they do to give back. One of the most common themes in the book is that these men became successful because they were raised in a home that valued something so strongly, they had to be dedicated to it. By learning the discipline required for these dedications they became stronger. Most chapters have a component talking about giving back to young men in rough communities, whether it be because of the criminal justice system, the education system, or their families financial situation, etc. Everybody agrees that by showing children what they can do when they grow older they can help raise a generation with strong values, dedication, and dreams.

With all forms of media being flooded with discussions and issues of race (or “religious freedom”), I think it’s important that we remember who we are. We are all people. We are more alike than we are different. These are two sentences I’ve heard my entire life and yet I am still struggling with remembering this everyday. I am not in a field with many women or minorities of any background and some days that is really difficult to deal with. Other days it just doesn’t matter because what do people see when they see my work? They see a job well done. They see a dedicated person doing what she loves and doing it well. My gender doesn’t change that. My color doesn’t change that. My name, which gives strong indication of my gender and color, doesn’t change that. It may change the way some people accept me, but who cares about them? If they don’t want to accept me for who I am they’re missing out on everything I have to offer.

Hopefully, we have all always known racism was still alive in the United States. If that came as a surprise to you, I am pleased you had a blissful life until recently. However, it’s just not a secret. I have never experienced blatant racism first hand and for that I am very thankful. However, that doesn’t mean I believe it is nonexistent. How do you feel about the recent shooting in South Carolina? Do you feel the same you did about the Sandy Hook shooting? Probably not. Why? Maybe because you have more sympathy for children than adults. Maybe if all you’re picturing is a group of innocent children whose lives will never be the same your heart strings are tugged the furthest. But what if, for a moment, we imagine that these two incidents were exactly the same. What if we think about these incidents as 100 families whose lives are changed forever. For some of these families, they lost a loved one. For some of these families they don’t feel safe in their homes anymore. For some of these families they can really see that the communities are on their side. Now, what is the difference between these shootings?

My point is: whether we want to or not we will focus on what is prevalent around us. The media is focused on race and now so are we. But realistically speaking, race doesn’t stop you from being able to do something. The only thing it does is change the way other people prejudge and treat you, and that stops you from being able to do something. If we all just try to accept people for who they are and not make assumptions about their upbringing, abilities, or goals, we can live in harmony.

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