I’m not one to casually drop Bible verses to get a point across, but here goes:
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13, New International Version.
I came across this passage after spending hours online, drifting through holy grails like Youtube, Reddit and Twitter. I can’t remember how I got to this passage exactly, as there are times when I can spend what seems like forever just exploring a certain idea. Usually, these impromptu online scavenger hunts stem from news events.
The above biblical passage about exposure and the due process of everything turning into light struck a chord with me, especially considering the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. On Aug. 9, an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer. His death, along with Trayvon Martin’s murder in February 2012 and the recent killing of a New York City father in front of his children by a police officer, is just the tip of the iceberg. These are examples of police brutality, engulfed in deep-rooted, institutionalized racism that can only be exposed if there is light. Light can be the elixir. It can work in many ways, including through social media.
Twitter activism routinely comes under fire as “slacktivism,” yet these killings would not have garnered the attention they did without hashtags. Trayvon Martin received minimal news attention until “Black Twitter” took to spreading the word. Michael Brown’s death received international attention because of people taking to the streets and documenting protests online for the world to see. This exposure has pushed police departments — most recently the NYPD — to start trial runs of officers wearing cameras while on duty.
Everything being exposed by the Light, as in people in positions of power being held accountable for their actions, is a process that will benefit our society as a whole. An injustice to one is an injustice to all, because it’s only a matter of time before what you allow to happen
to others of a lower socio-economic status will happen to you. If negative treatment of marginalized groups is accepted by the majority, it normalizes racist behaviour as appropriate.
Now, the danger lies in the fact that we live in a culture that does not openly discuss racism. People are murdered in broad daylight, or in the backs of cop cars with hands tied behind their backs, and the common factor they share is that they are black males.
This is how draconian laws get put into place; this is how police states are formed. Anti-terrorism, anti-pornography, stop-and-frisk: these are all synonymous to me. These laws are to keep us safe, not to intimidate us. “Us” is a tricky concept for some of us to understand, because skin colour still divides us in 2014. We need to pay more attention to the shooting of an unarmed black male in Ferguson, because it is the beginning of a long process of bringing everything to Light.
Over time, our concept of what is acceptable, or what we have deemed “civilized” or “normal” will change for the good.
That is how I define enlightenment in this day and age.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Sept. 17, 2014.