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Processing Paris


Processing Paris

Katie Comfort

by Katie Comfort

Last February I took a trip called Sankofa.

It's essentially a multi-day road trip with stops scheduled intermittently so we can keep our brains on overdrive and stretch our legs. The point of Sankofa is to reconsider how we talk and process race. It's a conversation that is ongoing, and the trip helps it get started.
Each year looks different depending on the group of students who participate. Last year we stopped on a plantation, at the location of the Mike Brown Shooting, and at an old Underground Railroad house. Historically the trip has been focused on white-on-black racism, as that narrative is hardly taught and greatly misunderstood. But the trip last year boasted other minorities as well. Students of non-black ethnic backgrounds, of alternative sexual orientation, of non-evangelical religions, and of the mental health community all started raising their voices by the second day saying, "What about my pain?"
On Sankofa I learned that when we become afraid of scarcity, things get ugly.

When people's stories weren't told completely, when they felt that they might be minimized to a footnote or an anecdote, the pain came out. #blacklivesmatter turned into #blacklivesmatterasmuchbutnotlessthanlatinalivesandqueerlives #anddontforgetmentalhealth #orwhitepeople And by the time we were done hash-tagging, there was no room for another message. Our character limit had been met, and our characters were worn thin.
I've seen this happening in an odd way with the Paris bombings. Statuses calling attention to Kenya, Beirut, Nigeria, Chicago, and Palestine came pouring in. And the feelings of scarcity began to overflow.
At first I was also angered by the focus, then I completely disengaged. Because, if Paris is overshadowing Beirut and Palestine and Pakistan, maybe I should just close my eyes to all of this.

I'm tired. And overwhelmed. And I have a paper to write. You know?
Instead of letting ourselves sit in the shock of Paris, we were attacked for caring.
And yes, white people caring about white people and not brown people is ANNOYING. I agree. Our ethnocentric response of "that could happen to me" when Paris gets hit and not when Beirut does is wrong.

When we hear that children are dying in Gaza and that roads are shut down in Hebron and we say, "Makes sense, that place is a mess," we have learned nothing.
Let us stop this battle for headlines and status updates and instead start a battle for humanity. Paris is the whole world. Paris is Palestine. Paris is Beirut. Paris is Chicago. So let's stop acting like if we all have blue white and red profile photos that Paris will just be Paris, and instead let's let our hearts mourn with refugees and Muslims and Parisians alike.

If sitting on that Sankofa bus taught me anything it was that people desire for their pain to be acknowledged, but sometimes we need a gateway into understanding.

If Paris teaches us nothing else, let it teach us to have our hearts broken.

Let it teach us to mourn violence as a whole--not just victims, but also victimizers.

Let us seek to deeper understand global desperation.

Let us light candles. Not just at vigils but as a daily practice for reminding us how crumbly this world can start to feel.

And let us get on the bus, and never get off as we partner in a the journey to humanizing.

used with permission. original can be found here.