The day I heard about the tragedy in France it was through a Facebook message a friend sent me. She said she was worried about our dear friend who was in Paris and I was confused because at that point, I was not aware of what happened. At that point, I did not watch the news or know what she was referring to. As soon as I went to my computer, I saw it right in front of me all over Facebook and various news outlets.
Then there was an option to show “support” offered through changing our profile picture to the French flag on Facebook. I rarely jump on any bus though I often stand in global or community support on a lot of things. This time, due to the personal connection of individuals who were in Paris at the time and for other reasons, I figured, what the heck and changed my profile picture in solidarity. Almost instantly, there were many posts asking question like “What about Kenya?” or “What about (insert any issue of the moment here)?”
Suffering instantly got placed into a hierarchy and there were several layers of “us” versus “them” that I was experiencing at that moment included the following:
–Us v. Them: Supporting France against whoever was going to be labeled as a terrorist. Some argued that the flag represented a certain level or sanctioning of violence against and/or support of a mindset to catch a group of individuals labeled as terrorists. Of course, this includes the rampant Islamophobia;
-Us v. Them: The support or solidarity for a European country but lacking any outcry or outrage over the various racial injustices taking place all over the world. This level “us” v. “them” that I witnessed during this particular week in what people were expressing was about the brown versus non-brown individuals;
-Us v. Them: Those of us who chose to show our support by sending prayers and changing our Facebook profiles versus those who spoke out to point out the hypocrisy and accused “us” of ignorance while discussing why showing this type of solidarity was a problem.
As I read the many arguments and saw many memes (like some of the ones I’ve included), engaged in a few online conversations, and read a few articles that made valid points-something struck me. I thought about all of the times that an “action” was encouraged on Facebook either through changing a profile picture or re-posts about various topics. I reflected on the many times that I was the one who would speak out about these actions (and various holidays) mentally accusing others of being followers instead of asking the critical questions.
Within that instant….I was a part of a “them” or an “us” depending on how you were viewing it. Yet, I did the same thing many times (again, not through posts) but either in some of my own blog posts or conversations in which I accused people of being too quick to follow a trend. Yet, in between these accusations, there were moments that individuals would share why they took a certain action or stand that helped me to gain some understanding.
As I found myself explaining or apologizing for my choice, I wrote the following:
There has been a lot of talk about an “us” versus “them” mentality. Funny enough I’ve only noticed the “us” who’ve titled themselves as enlightened or more knowledgeable versus the “them” judged as sheeple or ignorant all based on a certain set of words or actions one side took and one side did not. And depending on what day it is,
I could be guilty of being with “them,”
or I may need to apologize for being a part of an “us,” and if I chose to be dishonest or just out of sheer dumb luck……I can claim neither.
I don’t apologize for praying for or showing my support for the victims in France and their families. But my actions also don’t certainly mean that other tragedies are not in my thoughts. In other words, can we please take a moment to knock it off with the “us” vs. “them”? In other words, can we not place a hierarchy on suffering?
A poem by a Delhi-based blogger