The comments made by students from the YikYak app caused a groaning pain among Northwestern students. The hurtful comments made by anonymous users have broken the college’s community and sense of belonging. They have left many students wondering how we can be an ally to one another. We must strive for living in a way God would find pleasing, as Paul says to the people of Philippi (Phil 1:8-11). In order for all people to flourish, we must address the ignorance within ourselves. We cannot address social biases without knowing about them.
Just as Jesus did with the social outcasts of society, we need to reach out to people of marginalized communities and get to know one another. We must listen to other voices so we will know their emotions and thereby empathize with them. The act of listening is important because it shows to the other person you want to know about their problems and genuinely care about what they have to say. Many people want to stop here, but we need to go beyond.
Another way to engage and educate oneself in these sensitive topics is to read about them from firsthand accounts. There are amazing books that address racial issues: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Citizens but Not Americans: Race and Belonging among Latino Millennials” by Nilda Flores-González and “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong. These are a few resources for a very broad topic. Online resources are also offered that address these topics in a more condensed manner. There is no substitute for education. After all, Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (NRSV).
After educating yourself about the inherit problems that lie ahead, it is important to ask yourself, do you have any inherent advantages in life? If so, how can I use the power given to me to help lift others in the community? If a person in our community has a burden, then we must “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). When we bear one another’s burdens, we can act. We can talk to people who are not as educated on the subject, find insensitive comments and act in the moment and continue to keep the conversation about critical issues going. If we learn about these issues and do nothing about them, we become bystanders. Christ calls us to stand firm with one another, and being a bystander is not standing firm with your siblings of Christ.
We, as a society, cannot overcome these issues without the actions described above. If we desire a change in the current inequalities presented to us, we must stand up and take the initiative. Talk to people, educate yourself, encourage others to do the same and raise up the marginalized. To do nothing is to perpetuate the current status quo—we should not support a status quo that continues to hurt others.