Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Taboos: Horrific Events Get People Talking and Writing

It seems that the news has been full of horrific events the last month or so-- the suicide of Robin Williams, the shooting of Michael Brown, and most recently, the abuse suffered by  Janay Rice at the hands of the man who professes to love her.  

Horrible and heartbreaking stories, all three.

However, these events have the power to shape our future by opening the lines of dialogue on three previously taboo subjects-- suicide, race and domestic violence. There is no doubt that people are talking about these things now-- the challenge is to harness all of our collective energy and thoughts to pave the way!

Social media can be a wonderful thing--and used properly can spread the word, get people fired up to make changes, and organize those people that are the doers!

1. Suicide

I will not belabor this point, because I wrote an article about it recently. On my other blog, I discussed the suicide of Robin Williams, and talked about depression and how it can affect anyone. You can read that article here-- Honoring Robin Williams' Legacy

It is vitally important that people talk openly about depression and lend a helping hand when someone needs it. We cannot turn the other way and expect things to just work out for our family or friends when they are unable to lift themselves from the gloom-- we must reach down and pull them up! 

2. Race Relations

Race has been a problem for this country from the colonial period, and remains a huge problem to this day. Incidents like young black men being shot happen so frequently that we are desensitized to the violence-- until it hits really close to home. 

Though opening the lines of communication and talking about race are not going to do anything to bring Michael Brown back to his just might help another mother from the same crushing hurt sometime in the future. We don't have all the details on this case yet-- and we the public may never have them-- but we do know that what happened afterwards is the rage of the black population that has seen one too many of its own gunned down. 

 There remains a huge racial divide, even though we'd all like to pretend it does not exist.  A recent article in US News pointed out some stark poll numbers:  80 percent of African-Americans polled believe Michael Brown's death was racially motivated, and just 37 percent of white Americans do. What's more, the divide is very pronounced along political lines, with just 22 percent of Republicans viewing it racially, and 68 percent of Democrats seeing a connection.  

A lot has been said about "white privilege" in the weeks since Michael Brown's death. As a white woman, I never thought of myself as privileged, much in the way that most people don't. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, there were apartments called "projects" where the poor people lived, and sure there was a lot of trouble there.  I never thought much about how those people lived and the upward climb they faced, until I went to college and my eyes were opened to the distinct differences in opportunities.

I am outraged every time I hear someone disrespect our President. The jokes, the cartoons, calling him by his first name, etc. are all wrong. He was elected by the majority of people in this country, black and white, and deserves the same respect that every other president has been given since the country was established.  I know that I am not the only person this offends-- but there seems to be a culture where if you remark on it,  you are mocked and shunned as well. At my age, I could care less-- but I do wonder what it teaches our children and young people. 

Further, when confronted with the statistics that show a black male between the ages of 15-34 is more than ten times as likely to be murdered as a white male of the same age, it really hits home.  I am the mother of two men in that age group, and I really never think of them being murdered. Black mothers, I am sure, worry every time their sons leave the house.  

To be sure, some of their own behavior is a part of the problem, as well as many people having preconceived notions about others based solely on their looks. There is a lot of work to do-- but these ugly incidents have finally got us talking to each other, and we need to continue doing it long enough to make significant strides.  

3. Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is a plague on every one of us. No one is immune- regardless of race, income or any other measure. Let's take a look at the statistics.  (From the Domestic Abuse Shelter website.)
  • One out of every three women will be abused at some point in her life.
  • Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, exceeding rapes, muggings and auto accidents combined.
  • A woman is more likely to be killed by a male partner (or former partner) than any other person.
  • About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence.
  • Of the total domestic violence homicides, about 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship or after the relationship had ended.
  • Seventy-three percent of male abusers were abused as children.
  • Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband in the past year.
  • Women of all races are equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  • On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or partners in this country every day.
  • Intimate partner violence a crime that largely affects women. In 1999, women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence.
  • On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good.
  • Approximately 75% of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left an abusive relationship.
The Ray Rice story has taken on a life of its own since that ugly video of him knocking out his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer in a hotel elevator was released by TMZ.  Initially slapped on the wrist for the infraction, Roger Goodell and the NFL knew they had to take stern measures or endure the wrath of the public. 

For me, it raises more questions-- did they see it before making the initial ruling? 

Did they let him slide on his off-field behavior because he was a rising star? 

Was it the equivalent of a teacher fixing grades for a high-school athlete? 

Even if they never saw this new video---wasn't the one where he drags her out of the elevator like a rag doll and then kicks her because she won't get up, more than enough? 

Doesn't her face say it all? 
Worse still is the fact that she is now defending his behavior-- which makes most people, this writer included, believe that she is beaten on a regular basis. 

For its part, the NFL did institute a stronger policy against domestic violence. Though woefully late-- it does finally address the issue. Think of the lessons that were being taught to young football fans everywhere before this ruling, and his termination and suspension--"boys will be boys," right? 

I personally have a friend who was beaten bloody on a regular basis, to the point of hospitalization, by her ex-husband. He never spent a day in jail because of it; in fact, he was a police officer himself, and would tell her he could kill her and get away with it.  Apparently, he wasn't too far from wrong-- since his superiors chose to look the other way. Again, "boys will be boys" and other boys will watch their backs and keep them out of hot water.

It is past time for both men and women to stand up to these bullies, no matter if they are cops in a small town or a football star in a big city! 

Talk about the Taboos 

These three subjects have been hushed up for long enough-- unfortunately, people have been devastated by them for many years, not just in  these newsworthy  cases.  Progress needs to be made on all three of these societal issues, and keeping quiet about them will not spur any changes.  

Luckily, we live in a time when we can express ourselves freely and get the word out to others easily as well. If you have a blog or are active on social media, talk about these issues-- encourage others to talk about them.  If not, talk about them in groups where you can-- school, church and work settings are good places to start. 

Now is the time to  use our collective voices to demand dialogue and change! Keep the conversation going!