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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Choice

Being a feminist and an activist, I hear a lot of “but they chose to...” and whatever follows that statement. Chose to be homeless, chose to be lazy and not have a job, chose to do drugs, chose to be gay, chose to get pregnant, chose to break the law, chose to be overweight, chose to, chose to, chose to..Everybody seems to just have chosen all of these things, all of these identities, all of these actions.

 In my women’s studies class about international women, we talk a lot about what choice is and what it really means. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word choice means “the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities.” That definition seems pretty broad to me. Someone’s choice can be decided anywhere from two possibilities, to ten possibilities, to a million possibilities, and so on. I think it is important to look at the word “choice” from a different lens than most people would like to. For example, when someone says “they chose to be homeless.” I would like to ask those people, do you think anyone would choose to not have any place to call home? Do you think that individuals who are homeless say “hey, I’m going to just be dependent my whole life and be hungry and not have a home?” 49% of Americans are born into poor families. Another 13,000 babies are born addicted to drugs. Was that a choice they made, to be born into poor families? Was that a choice they made to be born addicted to drugs? 

 If you think that someone chooses a life of being homeless, or a life of being poor, I urge you to recognize your own privilege. I urge you to look at your life and say what privileges in life did I grow up with or continue to have that other people do not have the fortune of having? What privilege in life did you have that got you to believe that any individual “chooses” to be homeless, “chooses” to be overweight, “chooses” to get pregnant? What options do you have, what resources were available to YOU growing up? Did you grow up with a home? Did you grow up with two loving parents? Did you grow up in a drug-free environment? Did you grow up with at least one parental figure employed? Do you identify as straight? Do you have a supportive and caring family? Do you have healthcare? Do you have a job? Do you have an education? Do you eat three meals a day?

 Privilege has the power to give individual’s more options, more possibilities to “choose” from. Those who are less privileged than others may not have the same options that those who are privileged have. If you think that every person has the same options, I ask you to rethink that notion. Recognize your privileges, unpack your privileges and look at how fortunate you are to simply be reading this blog post on a working computer or on any mobile device. There must be some privilege you have that enables you to read this blog post. 

 I am completely stunned and shocked about the lack of empathy individuals have for those who are less privileged. I cannot grasp why individuals have become so self-centered and so self-concerned that they have no empathy for anyone who they see as “less than” them. People have become so apathetic that they have began to discriminate and hate against others. We do not live in a world free of racism, ableism, sexism, classism, or heterosexism. We do not live in a world free of discrimination. 

 I may have more or less options to choose from in comparison to any person in this world. I don’t have a choice to what sexual identity, to what sex, to what social status, to what family I was born into or with. But what choice I do have, and what choice every person has is whether or not they are going to help make a difference. I do not have a choice of my privileges or my disadvantages. But what I do have a choice in doing is helping end violence against women, helping end discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, helping end racism, helping end discrimination in any and all forms, to stop hate. I have two choices in this situation where I see so much despair, to speak up or to do nothing at all. And I refuse to not do anything, I refuse to stay silent. I refuse to not care about humanity. I refuse to not use my privilege of education, I refuse to stay ignorant, and to stay “out of” the global cause of activism for human beings. I choose to act and to stand up for all of those people who seem to have “chose to” be gay, be homeless, not go to school, go to jail, be overweight, be a teen mom, for all those people who society says “chose to” be “less than.” 


Jordan Walsh

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