Listen to Marginalized Voices
Twelve days into 2021 and finding the words to describe the start is still a challenge. On January 6 the world watched as the United States Capitol building was stormed by domestic terrorists who were hell bent on “overturning” the election that Donald Trump lost in November. A fair and free election. The fallout from that riot continues to unfold but recent revelations point to deeper issues within policing and elected officials. Many will feign surprise, but voices within marginalized communities have worked tirelessly to point out many of these matters in the past. So much so, it’s hard to utter “I told you so,” as “shocking” headlines appear in the days since the attack.
Two major developments continue to appear across headlines since the riots. As of January 12, two US Capitol Police officers were suspended and at least 10 more are under investigation for being involved. On top of that, according to Drew Griffin of CNN, Ali Alexander, who is recognized as the creator of the “Stop the Steal” movement, has said he received help from three members of Congress, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Mo Brooks. (h/t New York Times).
It was astounding, but not surprising to watch as rioters stormed a federal building and police officers showed restraint in their response. Even as one of their own was killed by the attackers, the response to the offenders was 180 degrees different than the way police responded to social justice protests that occurred throughout 2020. This is an indictment against the idea that more training or teaching officers Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the answer to police brutality. They displayed that ability for the world to see.
Throughout 2020 the news was adorned with videos of police attacking demonstrators out to push for equality for Black and Brown communities. All the while, videos continue to surface of more killings and shootings occurring at the hands of officers. Experts in the field talked about the systemic and systematic issues behind the problem and presented solutions, only to be shouted down at every opportunity available. No amount of data, personal recounts, videos or anything else were enough to prove what people of color have been saying for years – in many ways battling against the same issues that were prevalent during the original Civil Rights Era. Yet, January 6 stands out as an example when those voices can point to action unfolding for the masses and simply say “We told you so.”
How does this relate to the world of martial arts? Easy. Listen to the marginalized voices on the mats. The martial arts industry is a place that often looks the other way when problematic behavior occurs within its community. Change that behavior. Listen to the women that complain about male teachers behaving in a fashion that makes them uncomfortable. Listen to the Black and Brown students that inform you about their “teammates” who are involved with theories based in disinformation, bigotry and hatred. Listen because their voices provide a view into the community the gym as cultivated. Ignoring those voices doesn’t show any type of inclusion for those that this community claims to promote.
Marginalized communities continue to speak out about their experiences in the United States. 2021 is still new and perhaps the biggest moment to shine a light on the differences experienced by show has occurred. This relates to what some experience within martial arts gyms as their complaints and challenges fall on closed ears. Listen to the people that train at your gym, their voices tell the stories you may not hear or see.