We all play a role in what our world looks like, from how we prioritize family, integrity, the media we consume, and the company we keep on and offline. There seems to be a new story everyday dehumanizing people based on their skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, religion and language preference. We look at the perpetrators and online bullies as the ones responsible for the hate culture in this country and around the world. But in reality, it’s the everyday person who didn’t want to ruffle feathers, who shied away from discussing religion and politics and systematic racism that becomes hate’s accomplice.
We tear each other down so much on a daily basis that at this point we’re not even conscious of it. We are complicit when we attend churches that subscribe to homophobia, misogyny and the discrediting of other faiths. We are tea cup stirrers when we take a culturally biased statement from a police department known for problematic behaviors and read it verbatim on air. We are our worst selves when we take a story with the words indicate, suggest and believe and repeat them as facts. Indications, suggestions and beliefs are not facts. We compromise our own investigations when we leak information from an ongoing investigation to the general public through the media.
The way in which news stories are written and presented matter. They matter because they shape perceptions. How a story is initially reported impacts whether a person is believed or not.
All too often when you are a victim of color or other marginalized group, the burden falls on you to convince authority figures that you have indeed been victimized. If they don’t believe you, it gives everyone going through the same heartache and trauma a reason to bury the pain. It’s easier to remain silent than to be revictimized by a system that wasn’t designed to protect you. Be careful who you call a liar, they just might be telling the truth.
*Pictured above is a digitally altered photograph of Jussie Smollett*
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