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I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of the bombing in Colorado and the shootings in Paris. The scale is totally different, for sure. I am grateful that no one in Colorado was hurt, and grieve that the same cannot be said of Paris.
Yet it is hard not to see the pattern re-emerge in American media: brown people targeting white people is newsworthy. A white man targeting brown people is not. Freedom of expression is newsworthy. Freedom from racism is not.
Charlie Hebdo is a satirical publication. Satire, by definition, holds up a mirror before us and makes us uncomfortable. Satire necessarily walks the line of the offensive. The art and writing is consciously provocative, and had the protected right to be so. This does not excuse violence: nothing does. But discomfort is inherent to satire, and I am, unfortunately, not surprised by the anger and reactivity that it prompted.
But the fact that that same discomfort and reactivity can emerge by the simple fact of existence is particularly troubling. The Colorado Springs office of the NAACP is not a vehicle for satire. It does not exist to provoke or offend, but to strive for a world in which we all have the same rights and opportunities in practice as well as theory.
There is the deliberate mirror of satire, and there is also the mirror we come upon unexpectedly, the one in which we see ourselves creating hashtags for free expression of satire, but not for the simple desire for this nation to live fully into its promises of democracy and equality. This is the mirror in which we see ourselves as caring more about whether privileged people can express themselves, than we do about whether all people can vote without restrictions, or walk down the street without being stopped, or listen to music without the volume being a life-or-death decision, or simply ask for help.
Because if #jesuischarlie; if we truly care about speaking even those truths that make us uncomfortable, shouldn’t we also #standwithNAACP? Shouldn’t the hashtag indicate more emotional involvement than simply stating the fact of the #NAACPBombing?
The mirror is before us, with no satire or provocation, but I for one am uncomfortable. And so I exercise my freedom of expression by encouraging us all to speak – to weep, to grieve, to seek and work for the change that this nation so deeply requires. I encourage us all to have the courage of our hashtags, and to strive for the day when all our rights are guaranteed in practice, without the threat of violence.