My journey to becoming socially aware of injustice in America was a long and hard fought one. I am a very privileged individual; even that could be an understatement. I am white, male, straight, and grew up in an area of little diversity and virtually no need. I was blissfully ignorant of the injustices around me; I could afford to be. The injustices in the United States carried out against minorities, the impoverished, the mentally unstable, etc. did not effect me because I was not a minority, impoverished, or mentally unstable etc.
My ignorance slowly began to change the beginning of my freshman year of college.
As my friend group expanded to people radically different from me and I became extremely proximate to individuals I had not previously been proximate to, my ideas and my ideals began to change. I listened to the stories of unjust police stops and searches and seizures committed against one of my best friends simply due to the complexion of his skin. I listened to the pain of my LGBTQ+ friends as they poured out the slurs they had been hearing throughout their days on campus. I began to change.
I found myself sympathizing with people I previously found no sympathy for. I found myself craving more knowledge of how to help resolve issues and pains that plagued my friends' lives.
I wanted to help. So I learned as much as I could.
I studied mass incarceration, Jim Crow, the era of Nixon and Reagan and Clinton. I began to dive into the writings, sermons, and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I forced myself to UNlearn everything I had previously believed about race, privilege, and sexuality in America so that I could relearn it by extensively researching the subjects and actively listening to the true experiences of my brothers and sisters. Both had to be incorporated because research can only get you so far. Numbers and statistics plainly laying out the massive amount of injustice and inequity in our system can only emotionally move one so much, it can only change one's mind to a point, and it almost never can change one's heart.
Becoming proximate does all of these things.
By intentionally placing yourself in a community of people unlike yourself and intentionally pursuing relationships with others who think, act, feel, and experience differently than yourself, you open yourself up to a new world of possibility for growth, change, and love.
When I started this venture to do something to help returning citizens, I knew I had to become proximate. I have been actively setting up interviews with returning citizens from all over the country. I want to hear their story. I want to hear their pain. I want to listen. I want to love. I eventually want to expand this company to become a nationwide network of interconnected college campuses with student organizations that are intentionally engaging with the incarcerated and returning citizen populations in their respective communities. I believe mass change will not come about unless as many people as possible become radically proximate to individuals with different experiences than themselves.
I admit, I can never fully understand the pain of incarceration, the difficulty post incarceration, and the intersection of issues that generally leads to incarceration. But I will listen. I will listen to how I can help. And I will act. We are already making positive steps as a company; the initial response has been overwhelmingly positive. This has potential to become a major agent of change. But it will never be that unless myself and others are willing to become radically proximate to the issues we are trying to solve.
It will never be a major agent for change if we don't intentionally and actively listen.
It will never be a major agent for change if we don't intentionally and actively love.
It will never be a major agent for change if we don't intentionally and actively forgive.
Be Proximate. Love One Another. Forgive Everyone.
Founder: Forgive Everyone Co.