Part of growing up is a growing awareness of the difficulties that life brings us. For most of my life I was pretty shielded from death, loss, and suffering. My parents loved us, cared for us, and pointed us to Jesus. As I stepped into adulthood the ground I walked on didn’t seem so stable any longer, and the world didn’t look as bright. Now with each passing year I am confronted with the brokenness that life in a fallen world brings all of us, and there are days that I miss the innocence of my youth. But then there are days where I feel a sense of responsibility for what I now know.
When I read The Warmth of Other Suns a few months ago I kept thinking to myself: “How did I never know about things like this?” How did I not know of the broad scope of the atrocities committed against African-Americans in this country? How did I not know that even though Jim Crow ended or people moved north, the systemic effects of such heinous sins still linger? How did I not know?
Call it ignorance, call it privilege, call it bias, or call it all three, I’m not sure, but I don’t want to be in the dark any longer. As the months have continued on, my shock has turned to awareness. What I once failed to see now seems to be all around me, and I want to listen and learn.
What I’ve learned in these anxious days is that these things aren’t new. We just have greater access to them. It used to be that you could live in relative ignorance to the horrors of this world. Without the modern conveniences of television, internet, the newspaper, and now social media, people could go about their business, unaware of the many injustices happening just outside their front doors. People could live near concentration camps, unaware that within those dark chambers six million Jews were being slaughtered. People could go to church on Sunday without any awareness of the men and women who risked their lives to do that very thing in other countries. And white teenage boys could drive alone at night without ever having to worry about the police pulling them over without cause, or worse, shooting them to death.
Now we know.
For all the evils that social media can be used for, this is not one of them. We now have access to injustice, violence, hatred, and sin in ways that were unthinkable fifty years ago. And while it’s painful to watch, I think this can only mean hope for us. What was once done in the dark is now being thrust into the light—and darkness cannot win against the light. Darkness flees when the light shines on it. Darkness cowers to the bright rays of light because it is exposed, and once it is exposed it is harder to keep it a secret. Darkness being brought to light calls out to our collective sense of justice and demands that we feel something about the tragedy of it all. Social media is one such light, opening our eyes to the dark horrors that have plagued our nation for far too long. We shouldn’t run from it. It’s painful, that’s for sure. It’s confusing. It’s infuriating. It’s divisive. But it’s exposure, and we need that. We need the dark corners of our nation’s past to be laid bare for all to see, so that we, the privileged majority can never again say: “How did I not know?”