Today on CBC’s Metro Morning I heard the fourth segment of the series The Nirmalendran Brothers. It’s the only one I have heard, and the podcast isn’t up yet – but check back to listen at http://www.cbc.ca/metromorning/).
The focus today was on Christopher Husbands who has been found guilty of two counts of murder. They interviewed one of his teachers (whose name I can’t remember, sadly) and she spoke about the Town Hall CBC held in Regent Park when Christopher was just 13, and how he arrived visibly shaken and crying. He had been pulled over by the police, and roughed up. She encouraged him to speak about it that night, but perhaps it was too fresh. What he did ask at the Town Hall meeting was poignant when you listen with this new context. Something like: “Why isn’t there a police hotline or something that kids can go if they are being harassed, if they are scared?”.
Several things struck me in the teacher’s comments. The one that stands out the most was at the end – that the ultimate shooting deaths at the hands of Christopher Husbands was not a one dimensional act.
And it is true for everything and everyone.
We all bring the layers of experience, perspective and who we are to any action (or word, or inaction). And similarly we bring those same layers to how we see, understand and judge the actions (words and inactions) of others. For some – like those who are marginalized in society – the impact of this is heavier, and the burden is greater.
For those who are marginalized (in this case because of race, culture, and socio- economic status) the realities are often so removed from the mainstream that it is often difficult (for some, impossible) to imagine what they are experiencing. Because of this, we often don’t believe (don’t want to believe?) that their experiences are true – so far removed are they from how we see and experience people, services, the same city, the world.
The challenge is, however, that it’s the mainstream that judges.
We use our reality to look at a situation and level that judgment, and it’s through our lens that we explain and label.
And in so doing, we often do people a grave disservice.
This clip reminds me that it behooves us to see the bigger picture, to consider the context and therefore to ask good questions in order to peel back the layers and see what is underneath. It doesn’t change the fact, in this case, that two people are dead. But it certainly can provide valuable information to affect necessary change in how we see people and systems; information that could positively impact the lives of those who marginalized, and therefore most vulnerable, in our societies.
Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, Consultant and Author on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.