Amanda and the silence of social justice communities

Amanda Knox came home today. We may never know what happened on that horrible day four years ago, but the likelihood of this crime being at the hands of a young, educated female is extremely unlikely. Violent crimes of this type don’t usually just appear one day. They come about after an escalating problem of self-control. The case against Amanda just never made much sense to me.

What I have found interesting to observe is the response of different social justice people I associate with. There has been a loud silence from many normally talkative people.

Why? I think part of the answer is because Amanda was schooled at one of the most prestigious (white) schools in the Seattle area, and just happens to be a pretty, smart blonde girl. My social justice peeps would be posting left and right about this if the person in the limelight was in a lower socioeconomic bracket or of a different skin color. My one friend who did speak expressed it best in a Facebook post:

“(I am) …  confident that all the financial, legal and advocacy resources mustered in support of Amanda Knox will swiftly take up the cause of the next person rotting in a prison somewhere in the world who might not be a rich, pretty young white woman from the U.S.”

I think he makes an important point. Justice comes swifter to the rich and beautiful. (Though her parents have likely bankrupted themselves trying to get Amanda home … and what parent wouldn’t?) We know the media may not have taken the time of day for someone who say, speaks Arabic or graduated from a school in the more diverse South Seattle. We social justice people feel more gratified to speak for those whose own voices are marginalized. And, that is as it should be.

But this does not negate the importance of speaking up for peace and justice for all people. Whenever an injustice is righted, no matter who she is, we all benefit from it. And, as our friend, Martin said:                                        

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We activists are a complicated bunch. At times we operate out of a type of survivors guilt. And we resent the privileged, even though we are one of them. I remember thinking in college about how much better it would be if I was a black woman. Not only because they are so powerful and gorgeous, but because I felt I had not suffered enough to have a platform from which to speak. I mean really, what did a small town white farm girl have to say about justice or race or equality or child soldiers or … (fill in the blank.)  I didn’t feel it was a good idea to speak up or out because I would only be another white woman telling someone the way things ought to be. In that way, I sort of resented myself for being born white.

Of course, I had no control over how I came into the world. Neither does Amanda. Neither did Rosa Parks. Neither did you. The key is that we all use our strengths to call out for justice, to work peacefully for peace, and to welcome justice whenever it comes.

In regard to justice and Amanda, all I have to say is, “Welcome home!” I am thrilled that Amanda is home, that there was justice in the Italian courts, and that a family has their daughter back with them after a horrendous ordeal. Now, let’s hope Amanda will have a voice to speak her truth. Let’s not be someone who criticizes the money she will make with her story. Let’s listen with an open heart, ready to receive her story. And pray that she uses it for good.

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