Conversations about Power and the Power of Conversation

My heart has been hurting this past month. Every headline, from 16+ victims coming forward saying that Bill Cosby sexual assaulted them to the UVA gang rape featured in Rolling Stone to Darren Wilson’s non-indictment, seems to give me less and less faith in humanity. While seemingly unrelated, the three stories have one major theme in common: abuse of power.

But it is not simply the abuse of power by individuals, although that is incredibly disturbing. Even more concerning are the cultural systems that we as a country have in place that allow this abuse of power to continue. A system of power is a system where women are not believed, where schools do not punish perpetrators, and where a police officer can shoot an unarmed black man and not even have to face trial.

And I am tired of it. I’m tired of seeing story after story about injustice and then falling back into the same pattern of power and control that allowed those injustices to happen in the first place. The good news is that other people are tired too, and they’re finally talking about it.


The Problem with Power

If you’ve done any research or even taken an Intro to Sociology class, you know the basic premise that society as a whole values the white male over every other race or gender, and white males enjoy privileges and power that everyone else does not. This is not a condemnation of all white males. Privilege and power are not individual afflictions, they are the result of a societal attitude. The problem arises when individuals are allowed to commit unspeakable acts of violence and society lets them get away with it. Bill Cosby, the Phi Kappa Psi brothers, and Darren Wilson were individuals who abused their power and will never be punished for that abuse. In fact, the media has often turned these stories into conversations that demonize the victims and make the alleged perpetrators seem vulnerable. New Republic has an excellent article on the inversion of power in all three cases that I strongly recommend. These distortions derail the possibility of real change.

The Conversation

But these distracting media moments and public responses have been countered by some pretty cool conversations as well. People are no longer ignoring the injustices that these victims of violence are facing. People are blogging, tweeting, writing articles, and letting their voices be heard. And that’s huge. We’re finally at a place where we can recognize power for what it is and demand change. I’ve included some interesting thoughts on all three stories, but I encourage you to do your own research because there’s a TON out there:

On Ferguson: Black Reality vs. White Denial and check out TheRadicalRadish’s post on Ferguson & Michael Brown for more perspectives.

On Bill Cosby: Sexual assault and HollywoodWhy we ignored the Bill Cosby rape allegations

On UVA: UVA students respond to the Rolling Stone article,  UVA’s response

Continue the Conversation

These conversations are very important, but they aren’t enough. We need EVERYONE participating in the conversation in order to make change happen. So I encourage everyone to read, become informed, and help contribute to the dialogue. Educated conversation has real power, and it’s about time we used it to help dismantle the power structures in place.

Let our words overpower the violence, hate and privilege that have been making headlines lately. Let’s try the power of conversation.

One thought on “Conversations about Power and the Power of Conversation

  1. It’s impossibly hard to combat the conversations revolving around sexist and racist jokes. I do try though! But I feel like I’m taking to a brick wall.


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