This photo comes from a story about a soccer game between teams from Rome and Torino in Italy. The story says a small child didn't want to stand next to the Black player.
If the child's behavior is driven by racist beliefs then what about the teammates of the shunned player? How do you adjudge their actions...or inactions?
Are they being complicit in racist behaviors via their proceeding in taking part in the photograph? What about the photographer, is she or he resisting or upholding racist behaviors by creating and publishing the photograph?
What about the child's parents or coach? What about the behaviors of all the adults that we can reasonably guess are close by, both those depicted in the photograph and those who aren't? Who is being complicit?
Children can't be held to the same standards of behavior or comprehension as adults because of their immaturity and diminished understandings. However, adults around a child can either accept or condone behavior or interrupt and reject it. What are the adults doing (or failing to do) here?.
Yes, the child is apparently behaving badly...but...the photograph contains much more information than just that which immediately grabs our eye. The child's behavior is actually only a small part of the information/meaning that is available to us in this image but extracting that meaning requires more effort than a glance.
I have come to understand that It is incumbent upon us, if we are to struggle against injustice, to work toward disrupting our own obliviousness and to consider factors that aren't immediately apparent or comprehended or visible. We must, if we are to uphold justice, develop the skills to add context and history and invisibled meanings and understandings to depictions like this.
This photo exemplifies is what Howard Zinn's meant when he said:
“You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.”Whenever injustice occurs in our presence and we fail to work toward interrupting or disrupting it, then we're not being "neutral", we are...whether we wish to or not...assenting to or agreeing with or upholding what is going on. We're being complicit. When the status quo is upholding/enacting oppression and we aren't struggling against that status quo...we're being complicit.
Thinking good thoughts and having good intentions but failing to engage in action means we're assisting in maintaining the status quo. We're encouraged to be oblivious and ignorant, that doesn't mean we have to assent to it or go along with it. We have the power to struggle against that socially encouraged obliviousness...and if we fail to do so...well...we are complicit.
In situations where action is possible, that doesn't mean we can't or don't pick and choose our battles, nor does it mean we'll always know exactly what to do but it does mean there's no refuge of innocence in obliviousness...most assuredly when it is within our power to resist being oblivious or unaware.
It also means that the status of being "uninvolved" is much more fiction than reality. And further...the status quo very much encourages and relies on folks to be oblivious or unaware or ignorant and to perceive themselves as "uninvolved".
Note: this is a very complex image and it is likely that much more meaning can be extracted from it than I've done here. It is important for us to realize that images like this potentially contain much more information than is apparent at first glance. But...our culture encourages us to glance and then move on, but we do not have to go along with that encouragement of superficiality.
(p.s., please be aware that I've been unable to confirm the veracity/validity of the story associated with the photo, hence the suppositions. The image itself is a good example of something that can be worked with in an effort to attach meaningful connections to context and history and to practice skills allowing movement beyond "face value" understandings.)
(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is influenced and shaped by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)