We've become desensitized to terror happening to the 'other.' I put scare quotes around the word 'other' because I think the way in which this word is so often used should be challenged. Generally speaking, we, as Westerners, think of those who are not Westerners as somehow allowed to face terror and pain. We think of this terror and pain as different. Or maybe it's just me, although I don't think it is. I fully admit that I've thought to myself, "yeah, but they're used to terror and pain, they are constantly in war," as if their pain is any different than our own pain. It's not, and it never has been. It's my privilege that sometimes blinds me.
I only began to learn about the attacks in Baghdad and Beirut after watching, in real time, what was happening to Paris. I quickly googled the other two places, thought it was horribly sad, and then resumed streaming BBC on Paris. I tweeted that I was praying for Paris, and I was, but I didn't mention Baghdad or Beirut in my prayers until this morning, and for that, I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that we live in a world where racial discrimination still exists. I often wonder why I was born in the West during this time era, a place mostly untouched from terror and war. I don't know if I'm lucky or blessed to live here–not that being born elsewhere wouldn't make me lucky or blessed, but it's quite true that here, in the West, we do not have to worry about war or terror. We have our own problems here, certainly. We have problems with guns and school shootings, we have racial discrimination (whether systemic, individual or both), we have the genocide of Indigenous people, we come from slavery, we have the oppression of immigrants... We do have our problems here in the West, but as a privileged person, I mostly do not see them. What I do see is what I choose to submerge myself in.
Joey Ayoub wrote an article on the racial issues still going on this world. It's beautifully written and incredibly sad. It almost reads like poetry. And it stings. It stings because it's true. I encourage you to read it. I've copied it below.
I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I’ve always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.
These have been two horrible nights. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut, the second took the lives of over 100 in Paris.
It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.
‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.
‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.
This could not be clearer.
I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.
It’s a hard thing to realize that for all that was said, for all the rhetoric of progressive thought that we have managed to create as a seemingly united human voice, most of us, most of us members of this curious species, are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the ‘world’.
And I know that by ‘world’, I am myself excluding most of the world. Because that’s how power structures work.
I do not matter.
My ‘body’ does not matter to the ‘world’.
If I die, it won’t make a difference.
Again, I say this with no resentment.
That statement is merely a fact. It is a ‘political’ fact, true, but a fact nonetheless.
Maybe I should have some resentment, but I’m too tired. It’s a heavy thing to realize.
I know that I’m privileged enough that when I do die, I will be remembered by friends and loved ones. Maybe this blog and an online presence might even gather some thoughts by people around the world. That’s the beauty of the internet. And even that is an out of reach privilege to too many.
But never before have I understood what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote when he spoke of the Black Body in America. I think there is a story to be told with the Arab Body as well. The Native American Body. The Indigenous Body. The Latin American Body. The Indian Body. The Kurdish Body. The Pakistani Body. The Chinese Body. And so many other bodies.
The Human Body is not one. It sure feels that it should be by now. Maybe that in itself is an illusion. But maybe it’s an illusion worth preserving because I don’t know what sort of world we’d be living in if it stays an illusion.
Some bodies are global, but most bodies are local, regional, ‘ethnic’.
My thoughts are with all the victims of today’s horrific attacks, and my thoughts are with all those who will suffer serious discrimination as a result of the actions of a few mass murderers and the failure of humanity’s imagination to see itself as a unified entity.
My only hope is that we can be strong enough to generate the opposite response to what these criminals intended. I want to be optimistic enough to say that we’re getting there, wherever ‘there’ might be.
We need to talk about these things. We need to talk about Race. We just have to.
By Joey Ayoub, from http://hummusforthought.com/2015/11/14/beirut-paris/
I mourn for all three places, Baghdad, Beirut and Paris. I mourn for those whom were lost and for their families that are now dealing with immense amounts of pain. I mourn for those that witnessed these tragedies first hand. I mourn that we live in a world that is broken. I mourn that it is often only in tragedy that people are brought together. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that it no longer has to be this way. I hope that there doesn't have to be 'us' and 'them,' 'me' or 'they.' I hope and I pray that through tragedy and through joy, through all of life's circumstances, humanity can unite us to love, offer a helping hand and embrace and love our differences.