Checking For Blind Spots
I almost hit someone the other day.
It was on a busy highway in Los Angeles. The radio was playing and my mind was on autopilot. Laziness set in and I failed to check my blind spot as I merged into the left-hand lane, nearly taking out the motorcyclist next to me. Aggressive words were exchanged on his end, as I offered him apologetic eyes and mouthed “I’m sorry.” As I worked to slow my heart rate down, I heard the words of my driving instructor repeatedly in my head,
“ALWAYS check your blind spots, you never know who you’re missing.”
February is Black History Month in America. Throughout the course of this month, there have been stories shared of heroic African American men and women who, despite their setbacks, pursued their passions and raised their voices in the pursuit of justice.
Dressember shared the story of Dorothy Height, who had her acceptance from Barnard College rescinded because the institution had met their ‘black student’ quota and the story of Ann Lowe who was forced to work in isolation from her white peers at design school. Dorothy Height would go on to receive not one, but two degrees from NYU, and Ann Lowe would go on to have her designs worn by the rich and famous. These women faced hardship and inequality. Any success they received was a result of breaking down the barriers that were continually set in front of them. The sad truth that I have to face every year during Black History Month, is that there was a time in the United States when there was such a fierce resistance to giving a whole race of Americans their basic human dignity.
As I read through the countless stories of these African Americans, who had to hustle, and scream, and fight for their humanity, I can’t help but wonder what I would have done, and where I would have been? The optimist in me wants to believe that I would have been on the front lines, marching. But just like on that busy highway in Los Angeles, I could have done nothing and blamed it on my blind spot.
Lately, the far-reaching spread of sexual assault in our culture has been unmasked, and we’re seeing a rise-up that I’m confident the history books are taking note of. It is the culmination of many silent cries that have now been given a voice. And just like any human progress, it is being met with resistance — because we struggle with the discomfort of a changing society.
While I’ll never know how I would have reacted in a time when civil rights weren’t granted to a portion of the population, I have the opportunity to fight for human progress in my own era. While I know that human progress will always be faced with resistance, I also know that the way of the world is not sufficient if it excludes.
As this month comes to an end, I’m asking if I’ll be on the right side of history, or if my blinders will rob me of the chance?
I’m asking myself who or what I’m not seeing with the desire to simply live in peace?
I would inquire of all of us to find our blind spots and direct our attention to them. Because there will be a time in history when we will look back, and not be able to believe that there was a day in age when sexual assault was built into our culture, or where people were seen as products for profit. Our children won’t believe that clothing was produced at the hands of children their age or that women would be forced to give away their innocence for the consumption of another. One day we will be able to tell them that we saw these people and that we acted. And when we create months to commemorate the injustice and the bravery of those who spoke out, we will have stories to tell, and names to echo. And we won’t say that we never knew.
I can’t end this article without acknowledging that the fight for equality for African Americans is not over. And if we take the stories of Black History Month seriously — if we take the mission of Dressember seriously — we can’t ignore the plight of those around us because of the “blind spots” that our privilege grants us. So as this month comes to an end, I’m committing to listen and to look again. And again. And again. Because we may never know what or who we might be missing.
About the Author
Madeline considers herself a bit of a nomad, having split her time between three continents over the past few years. Now, digging her roots down in Southern California, Madeline spends her time crafting content for the Dressember campaign, doing yoga and searching the web for flight deals.