What should we do when brutal violence happens in our communities? When something terrible happens, many of us turn away. This is a natural response to painful truths. But it will not help us change things for the better. No, to make change, we cannot turn away.
We must turn towards the recent reports of violence in Idaho and see the connections in these allegations — high school football players racially abusing and raping their teammate who has a disability, college football players sexually assaulting a young woman, men targeting and killing a gay man, and a young man committing a domestic violence-related homicide. These are not unrelated acts of violence; but are connected by a singular truth that our society encourages us to take power from others based our identities, such as gender, race, ability, and sexual orientation.
We need to look inward, to see who we are — a society that promotes hyper-masculinity and aggression; communities where power over others is used to oppress and dehumanize.
We have a shared responsibility to ask what we must do differently to end domination and violence. We cannot keep girls and women and people who are gender oppressed silenced and afraid. We cannot risk the emotional and physical safety of our children in schools and college campuses and in our communities. We can do better. We must do better. This is not an invitation. This is not a plea. This is a simple statement of fact.
We need to shine a light on hope and possibility for change. We need to see our profound interconnectedness to one another as human beings, our own and each other’s humanity. We need to listen, deeply listen, to girls and women and people who are gender oppressed, people of color, and people with disabilities about the truth connected to their histories and their lived experiences. We need to engage in conversations — with your family, neighbors, colleagues, community — about the worth of every human being, why everyone should be valued and accepted for their authentic selves, and how differences should be celebrated.
We need parents and schools to teach our children, from preschool through college, about anti-bias on gender, race, and other identities and that raises consciousness to make schools more just, equitable and safe.
We need to reimagine compassionate communities with social equity and collective liberation, where everyone has what they need and power is shared. We need to embrace our shared responsibility to interrupt harm and turn towards those most in need. We need to see our growing interdependence as an opportunity for cooperation, regeneration, and sustainability. Whole people and whole communities are possible with love over violence. These are the stories we must tell, these are the stories we must live. Together, we can build and live into our future now.
Kelly Miller is executive director of Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence.