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By Debbie Mukuhi May 30, 2019

Does It Scare You To Jaywalk?

Illustrated by Christopher Olson

 “We all see the world through a lens. We look through lenses of age, ethnicity, race, ability and that’s how we see the world.” These words are from Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, who was discussing the Charlottesville riots in 2017 on a Facebook live video. Her statement made me reflect on the lenses through which I see the world in my day to day life. One of the first of those lenses that come to mind—a lens I think about all the time—is that I am a person of color.

How does being a person of color influence my perspective? Here is one way: because of the clear injustices that happen to people of color, I have a different perspective from my white friends when it comes to the police. A simple example that happens every day is when my friends and I are crossing the road. When the lights are red, my friends will usually check to see if there are any cars coming; if not, they’ll go ahead and cross. As for me, I always wait until the pedestrian sign appears. Every time this happens, I have one thought crossing my mind: if I follow them and cross the road illegally and if we get stopped by the police, is there a probability that I’ll be the only one getting in trouble? Chances might seem slim but because I often see black people getting wrongly arrested/accused, I can’t help but think that I will not be an exception. Race plays a big role when it comes to privilege, and as a black woman, I consciously or subconsciously view some things differently as a result.

In one of my classes, the teacher asked if we consider being able to attend Dawson College a privilege. I could see the uncertainty among my classmates and I, which was followed by another question from the teacher: “What is the definition of being poor? How would you know if someone is poor?” One student answered by saying that seeing homeless people in the streets is a good indication. The teacher then responded by saying there could be people in the class that are poor, or people who go to Dawson that are poor, but we can’t really tell. This little example ties in with how our perception of what being poor really means. Because of the socioeconomic status of those who belong to the upper and middle classes, their perspectives might be limited when it comes to understanding what poverty looks like.

In order for us to be able to understand different perspectives, we need empathy, which requires personal reflection. People should learn to listen to one another more. When one has a different opinion from the other, it’s easier to disagree and then dismiss what the other person is saying. The problem with this is, just because we don’t see things the way the other person does, it does not mean their opinion is less important or is wrong. Listening to other’s life stories, experiences and opinions not only helps us understand of perspectives different from our own but it also may shape our own perspective and help us grow as individuals.

About the author

Debbie Mukuhi is a second-year student in the Cinema Communications program. She has a passion for the arts, and when she’s not in school, you will find her painting, writing or making short films. She also has a passion for social justice and her ultimate goal in life is to help in any way make the world a better and just place.

About the illustrator

Christopher Olson is a first year Illustration student.

Comments

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    Ethan Tapiro

    January 27, 2020

    I’ve never really put much thought into crossing the street before the signal shows the person walking. To me, ever since I was a young boy I would simply look both ways and if I saw no incoming vehicles I would simply cross and never give it a second thought. Your take on the subject on crossing the street which is something we do every day made me truly think about what I was doing. I had never considered how others would “fear” crossing the street before it was time. I can assume that everyday decisions such as crossing the street have a deeper influence on a person of colour considering the stereotypes placed upon them regarding encounters with the police. Your reflection on this subject really opened my eyes into the thoughts I should be having when doing day to day things.

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    Joel O'Kill

    January 27, 2020

    Thank you so much for expressing your mind on that subject, I had never even considered the idea that just crossing the street could pose a form of stress or conflict for someone expect for trying to not get hit by a car. I truly do wish that the world wasn’t the way it was sometimes because that really is not fair. No matter what race, religion or backround you come from there shouldn’t even a hint that for any reason you would have a worse consequence than someone else. At the same time it does open my eyes and I wont take walking across the street on a red light for granted anymore!

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    Ethan

    January 27, 2020

    The lens that each of us look through to perceive the world are definitely different. It’s a matter of giving an ear to listen to other people’s views on life. Every human being lives life differently, and when we see people do something you wouldn’t do, you turn your head and question it. The difference we need to make is ensure that we are slow to judgement, and fast in hearing. There’s a reason for everything.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie!

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    Jennifer Chtein

    January 27, 2020

    I’ve never perceived jay-walking the way you do. As someone born in Montreal, I believe everyone is subjected to the same laws and rights. I’ve watched numerous movies where people of color encounter moments of discrimination, especially in the presence of police; nevertheless, I’ve always deemed this as fiction, though being aware of this being an actuality in the past. It makes me upset, in some way, to realize that some individuals of color still experience this fear. I’ve always considered everyone as an equal and haven’t recognized how some people, especially those with higher authority, may treat others differently based on their race.

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    Julia Bifulco

    January 27, 2020

    I firmly believe that education will save the world; that being said, learning does not only take place in a classroom. Fred Moten’s definition of studying is something that is most effective when it happens both in and out of school. I share your views on empathy; by simply listening to others, we as a population can learn so much about the world. Each of us have limited world views, and it is only through understanding what others experience, as you have explained, that one can truly grasp a concept of what the world is like. Thank you for your powerful piece.

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    Omar Bacchus

    January 27, 2020

    I

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    Raquel Simon

    January 27, 2020

    Your writing is extremely thought provoking and brings out empathy in your readers. Being a white female, I never have to think twice about jay walking. This post made me realize how privileged I am because a thought like this would have never crossed my mind. Reading your perspective as a black woman made me reflect on how different our lives are, even if it’s just the way we cross the street. I liked the way that you incorporated our society into your reflection because you are absolutely right when saying that we need to learn to listen to one another more. I appreciate your vulnerability because that is important when trying to send a message and I can confirm that your message was received. Thank you for sharing your story because it brought up an important discussion about the injustices people of colour face and the issue of police brutality.

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    Melissa O

    January 27, 2020

    This article truly opened my eyes, it showcased something that had never even crossed my mind. To me crossing the road is a simple task and to think that for someone it could pose such a great issue boggles my mind. I truly appreciate this piece for that reason because I like to be able to put myself in the shoes of others and to truly understand where they are coming from. Learning about every day struggles for different people reminds me that something that is easy for me may be difficult for others. That is why we should never put people down because they find something difficult, everyone has their own reasons that we may not be able to understand immediately. I really love that you were able to open up about this issue because it created a new mindset for me !

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    Polina Stus

    January 27, 2020

    Unfortunately, as a white person, I cannot completely relate to the article, yet I totally acknowledge that we live in a world where your skin color plays a bigger role in determining who you are and how you should be treated by others rather than your personality and what is on your mind. Unfortunately, even people who acknowledge these racial problems try to ignore them because they cannot relate on a personal level and even more unfortunate – they do not want to give up the power that comes with being “white.” Moreover, the fact that even such a thing as poverty has a different meaning based on race makes the world and our society look even more disgusting than we are used to thinking of it. The article is fascinating as it reminds us of the unfair world we live in. 

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    Stepahanie

    January 27, 2020

    For me, when the crosswalk turns red, I always wait until it turns green simply because of two reasons: I don’t want to be fined by the police and to end up in an accident. But when I read your story, I have never really thought that the race can also be involved with jaywalking. Most of the time, it would be something related to a big crime. It was an interesting insight for sure. Thanks for writing your story!

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    Nicholas Styres

    January 27, 2020

    Seeing this reminded me of the very first times I came to Montreal (2014) and I was with my other Indigenous friends who attended school in the city. I thought “hey they know this place better than I do so I’ll just listen to them.” We were heading to the Foot Locker on St. Catherine and I seen them start to Jaywalk and me not thinking started to follow them, 5 seconds later, “boop boop.” I get stopped out of all my other friends, why? Cause I had the darkest skin tone out of the group. I didn’t even make it across the street yet, and I was just tanned but the likely hood that I got pulled over out of all my friends was just my luck. Now… I barely jaywalk.

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    Omar Bacchus

    January 27, 2020

    Seeing your perspective definitely reminds me of a relatable situation I deal with as a person of color. At times I feel as if there is a privilege some people have without even realizing it. The fact that jaywalking has had this impact your perception is unfortunate. The lenses which you see the world and certain situations may differ, but I can truly say that this is one powerful text, that not only gives a person of color a perspective but society as a whole

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    Dalia Baazov

    January 27, 2020

    Crossing the street never seemed like a big deal to me up to now. This article really showed me a different side to what some people may be feeling. Everyday decisions have such a huge impact in our life, way more than what we think. I also enjoyed the ending of the reflection. Not everyone has the same ways of viewing things. Listening to each others opinions helps us be more empathetic towards others.

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