A lot has been made about insensitive statements regarding the oil disaster in the gulf that have been made by the BP CEO as well as by various government officials. It’s easy to marvel at how disconnected those individuals are from the reality of the residents in the Gulf region, and those who have gone down there to help try to control and recover from the harmful impact.
But spending time in marginalized communities has helped me realize just how insensitive I often am to the plight of the majority world. Marginalized communities were built up to serve a colonizing institution (for instance the industries that created the industrial suburbs of East St.Louis and surrounding communities; or the Portuguese that colonized the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe) but were later abandoned, often with no transition support, by those who did the colonization. They often lack critical resources needed to meet development goals.
But in ways big and small, intentional and unintentional, we often assume those colonized have a deficit that led to their downfall, instead of recognizing that outside factors were a primary contributing factor in not only the downfall but the sustained challenges they face. How often *I* have made statements that reflect my lack of awareness of the true situation, of the people, of the community.
As I heap criticism on the BP CEO, I am humbly reminded of the verse from the Bible that says:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Mathews 7:3)
Our only hope is to stretch ourselves, to reach across boundaries, to travel, to take time to truly listen to the stories of others, to empathize.