"That's Just Life" Is Not A Good Enough Excuse

A few days ago, I wrote about some of the issues that Chicago is facing, such as gun violence, tax hikes and STDs. It created a passionate response on both sides of the issue. Honestly, it doesn't bother me if someone doesn't agree with me completely. I'm just happy that it sparked a discussion. I knew going in that the topic of gun ownership would probably cause a little drama. It's a hot button issue. Whether you agree or not, I'm glad the post opened up a discussion.

The part that surprised me, however, was this thought that I basically shouldn't care, especially about black on black violence, because I'm a white woman from a middle class background. I didn't even write about the racial tensions in Chicago, but that quickly became the focus of the discussion. As if the fact that I'm not facing the problem in a daily first-person way means that it's not something I should even be speaking about. It's not you. Forget about it. There were even comments where I was referred to by faux terms of endearment, a classic way of trying to put a woman in her place.

I was reading this very raw op-ed by Questlove in New York Magazine online in reaction to George Zimmerman's acquittal. The very first comment I read was almost an exact mirror to what I was also seeing in my own post. The commenter took the perspective of "are we supposed to feel bad for you"? No. You're not supposed to feel bad for Questlove. You're supposed to take a second look at just how deeply and vastly these issues of race lie.nConsider the outcry regarding Cheerios' latest commercial featuring a multicultural family.

On the "against" side of my post, there were two main schools of thought, which I'll address below.

  1. It's a big city. This is just the way it is. There was a point in time where candles were the way you illuminated your house after dark. Sure, they could cause fires sometimes, but...that's just what happened if you wanted light. Then someone came along and thought that maybe we could look at other sources of light and now we have electricity in our homes. The grievances mentioned in my post aren't some sort of undeniable scientific fact, like the way a plant turns carbon dioxide into oxygen, they are issues caused by decisions being made by people in our community and government. Saying that it is "just the way it is" is a cop-out. It's a perspective that someone uses when they just don't want to work for change. Nobody is daft enough to believe we'll ever achieve a utopian society where everyone loves everyone and everything is free, etc. That also doesn't mean that we should just accept our current circumstances as "just the facts." Taxes, privatization of the parking meters, rate of STDs, violence: it's not just the facts if you're willing to work towards something better.
  2. Why do you care? I'm not trying to pretend like I could ever know the more horrifying aspects of Chicago. It's true. I can't be the mouthpiece, but I can acknowledge it. I can recognize that there are some serious gulfs in this city and in this country. Once you recognize something, you can make sure that the way you live your life does not feed into the problem. I care, because you're supposed to care about other people. I care, because, if enough people care, change can happen. It's not easy and it's a long, long road. But anything is possible if enough people are willing to make it reality.

In the days following the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, the below video was being shared. It features a young woman dropping some serious knowledge. In the wake of cases such as Trayvon's, you can see an influx of privileged white activists loudly jump on the supporter bandwagon...you might even count me as one of them. In this case, the video blogger points to white people marching in shirts saying "I am Trayvon Martin." Although it is meant to draw a clear line to the "we are all one" ideal, the blogger has a much stronger argument. Watch it below to see what I mean.

There are a lot of terrible things happening in this world everyday. I personally find it overwhelming to slightly comprehend where to start. That's why I write. It's the one thing I know I can do. It's violence. It's hunger. It's education. It's the environment. Even if you pick one issue to champion, it's likely that the issue is so deep and vast that you feel like your efforts barely make a ripple. But they do. Every tiny thing we do to right these wrongs counts.

The worst thing we can do is throw our hands up in the air and say "that's just life."

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