What is IT?

by Krysty Becker
As some of you may know, I’m from a tiny twin island republic in the Caribbean called Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a beautiful place. Part of our national anthem is “Here every creed and race find an equal place…”

We have a huge amount of diversity that enhances our beauty. Though we’re more equal at certain times than others. Carnival – it’s one love. Elections – different story (and for another day). Recently though, I’ve been struggling with a trend that’s becoming ever more glaring at home, violence against women. There’s been a fairly steady stream through my social media of girls who have gone missing, been found murdered, women who have been brutally attacked by men who are family, known, or unknown. The level and frequency of violence against women is truly distressing.

Recently however, a young girl got into a taxi (taxis are different in Trinidad as compared to the US. Think more like an Uber Pool, where you share the car with multiple strangers, but there’s no app that tracks the driver or determines their safety record). She didn’t get into the car alone, as Trini women are often instilled with the ‘don’t get into a car with only men and try not to travel by yourself’ advice from very young. So, she got into the car with a friend. The friend got dropped off before her. She never made it home. She was missing for just under a week and the national news was feverishly covering the story, the pleas from the family, the ins and outs of her schedule, her daily life, her qualifications. She was a good girl. A perfect victim.

When the news broke that a body had been discovered down a precipice in a lonely area, the media naturally rushed to the site, to find the police escorting her father to said precipice to identify the body. In “normal” circumstances, I’d think that to preserve the victim’s dignity and to not add to the family’s distress, you maybe don’t do an identification in this way (and that again is a conversation for another day). Yet this family’s grief became a spectacle – the police holding his hand and leading him, the media following closely behind, the people stopping on the side of the road and joining the macabre procession, all relishing in the “What it is going on, boy? They really find the girl?”

Later on, many took to social media to respond, “It’s seeing the father going with the police that really did it for me.” My question is: What is – IT? And what are we planning on doing with said IT? Why is there this need to witness injustice to this horrific degree? And in this instance, we should not have been privy to it in the first place. If this is what finally makes us act, or converts us to suddenly being decent, was that high a price really necessary? Did we really need to get “here” to remember our humanity? Is it violence that truly moves us to action? Or is it living vicariously through someone else’s pain?

These aren’t questions just for Trinidad and Tobago. In the US we see videos all the time of violence perpetrated on Black folks, LGBTQIA2S+ folks, people with disabilities, women, children. And we say things to ourselves like, “it’s seeing the reaction from the mom that really did it for me.” Can we answer – Does IT really do it? Does that moment motivate us to real action? And are we simply unbothered by injustice until IT happens? I don’t have answers to any of these questions, nor do I think asking these questions absolves me or sets me apart from the crowd. I wrestle with my own level of action and inaction, the causes I give my attention to, and the ones I don’t know how to engage. It is a difficult moment to be in, reckoning with IT.
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