I was listening to an NPR segment a few days ago, and one of the journalists said (paraphrased),
“when we have discussion in the media about health issues, we get a medical expert; issues on the economy, we get an economist; political debates, we get a politician. But when it comes to problems like refugees, racism, sexism, poverty, it quite rare that we get the opinion of a person in that situation”.
When we bring up issues of racism, the violence of rape culture, the double burden of racism and sexism for black women, or the struggle of people living in poverty, many of us do not believe that people in those situations are the experts of their own experiences. Instead, we have responses like #alllivesmatter when discussing racism. We have the persistence of the western savior complex in regards to poverty in developing countries. We have policies that further marginalize transgender folks. We make diet recommendations and assumptions about poverty without understanding the way poverty traps people, nor the systemic racism that exacerbates it. We continue to perpetrate the myth that body bullying is the best way to treat fat people so they can lose weight.
So when I think about the International Day of Peace, for me there is no greater act of service to humanity than to listen to the people we wish to help. To trust that a lived experience is greater expertise than observation from afar, or academic research. Listening requires the acknowledgement that we don’t know best, and trusting marginalized communities to show us the way.
What does peace look like to someone else? And how do we act in a way that makes that concept become a reality? Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, gives us an insight into the importance of elevating the voice of those we seek to help.
Are you listening?
And please be sure to watch the documentary Salam Neighbor on Netflix, regarding the refugee crisis.