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home : commentary : thisissue October 17, 2017

Listening to and hearing stories
Norma Smith Olson, left, and Kathy Magnuson

"What is going on and where are my people - the people who believe in dignity, freedom and justice for all - who stand for a renewed sense of intentional, determined and strategic collaboration?" - Roxanne Givens, read more here

by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson


Philandro Castile was shot about a mile from the Minnesota Women's Press office and near where we each live.

Like many of our readers of all races, we two white women have been feeling at a loss for words - and unable to know what might be the next steps forward as our society grapples with issues of race and equity. After the most recent deaths on both sides of law enforcement, how do we get our arms around multiple issues that are so big, institutionalized and nuanced?

There is a lot we don't know about how we collectively move forward to become a more just society, but what we do know is that stories matter - listening to and hearing each other's stories. When we know each other's stories, when we see the world from each other's experiences, when we understand that "others" have mothers and sisters and brothers, friends and co-workers, homes and stories, too, we are less likely to see "them" as "others," but rather as a part of "us."

Our mission at the Women's Press is to share stories. We care about breaking down gender barriers to make change for the betterment of all. To quote the late Paul Wellstone, "We all do better when we all do better."

Gender is one of the many layers in these recent killings. Men are doing most of the shooting, and most of the victims are men.

In our February 2016 magazine, where we focused on gun violence prevention, Ruth DeFoster shared her research on gun violence and gender. "An uncomfortable fact," she wrote, "is that violence is an unambiguously gendered issue - according to the U.S. Department of Justice, men comprise nearly 90 percent of those who commit homicide."

Our culture teaches our boys of all colors, from a young age, that they need to be tough and strong, that they should not back down, that they should not have feelings.

As a culture we hold an assumption that we should be suspicious of all black men. Our law enforcement is predominantly about militarization and getting the "bad guys," rather than peace-building and community building.

At the same time, women make up only 13 percent of the police force nationally, with women of color even more underrepresented. Women are shooting victims, too, which is often ignored. They are also emotional victims - the mothers, wives, girlfriends, children, as was the case in the Castile shooting with Diamond Reynolds, his girlfriend, and her four-year-old daughter. Where was the outrage that an unarmed, calm mother was so matter-of-factly seen as a threat by police officers that she was handcuffed rather than being able to comfort her daughter?

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Valerie Castile, Philandro's mother, spoke from her heart after her son was killed. "I want to make sure this doesn't happen to another mother," she said at a peaceful gathering outside the Governor's residence. As mothers of sons ourselves, we feel for her.

The kind of storytelling we do at the Women's Press - and the kind we could use much more of in the world - happens by not just reading the stories with our eyes, but with our ears and hearts and minds.

We share women's stories in ways that build community and encourage change. We all need to do that deep telling and hearing of stories - and then translate it into attitudes and beliefs and action for cultural change.

The theme of this August magazine is "out" - standing out, living out, finding out, speaking out. At this critical time in our country's history, we think it is important to hear varied perspectives and histories, to listen to many voices and stories, and to discern how we can take action to make positive, inclusive and peaceful change in our culture.

Coming up:

September's
theme Is "Why we do the work we do" Why do you do the work you do? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: August 10, 2016
August Advertising Sections:
• Buy Local Guide
• Health and Wellness Guide
• Women and Pets Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: August 10, 2016

October's theme is "Women and Politics" When has politics been personal to you? When has the personal been political for you? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: September 10, 2016
October Advertising Sections:
• Health and Wellness Guide
• Smart Women's Guide to Voting
• Women and Pets Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide Deadline: Sept. 10, 2016





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