by Matthew Jackson, Student Body President

I was in Washington, D.C. as close to 500,000 people marched across the capital on Jan. 27, protesting legal abortion in the United States. Many voices from this crowd had been motivated to protest following the Women’s March six days earlier. While I did not arrive in D.C. on time to experience the Women’s March, I was able to meet many of the women and men who had participated in the hours following the protest. The Women’s March protestors were diverse in age and ethnicity, most of them anti-Trump protestors fearful of the incoming administration. In contrast, the majority of March for Life protestors reached D.C. with a sense of excitement, being directly supported by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Both crowds were very passionate but willing to engage in civil conversation outside of their respected marches. Both crowds held signs with strong words, seeking to vocalize the ambition of their march as loudly as possible. And as the media has pointed out, both crowds were similar in size in Washington. The greatest difference that I saw in the marches was racial diversity.

As I began to educate myself on the history of racism in our nation, beginning with the genocide of America’s indigenous people, I became what our generation would call “woke” to the veil that is white privilege. I learned that the number of men and women in jail has grown by over two million since the Nixon administration, the overwhelming majority of these individuals being non-violent criminals. From statistics provided by the film “13th,” and the Prison Policy Initiative, I have also learned that one in three black men in the U.S. are likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime, compared to one in 17 white men, much of this due to the high policing of inner city areas and the so-called war on drugs. And in terms of abortion, I learned that an ethnic minority woman is around four times more likely to have an abortion than a white woman.

In knowing this statistic, I was particularly alarmed by the lack of diversity represented at the March for Life. I could not help but wonder if the marchers knew what communities were most affected by abortion. Or, if these marchers had relationships with women who have had abortions. Being that the majority of women who have taken advantage of their legal right to have an abortion are under 20, from the inner city, and a U.S. ethnic minority, I doubt that many of the white evangelicals at the March for Life had a relationship with someone who fits this identity. I doubt that they were properly equipped to reach and advocate for the women who need it most.

We must educate ourselves on the reality of these issues if we wish to be vocal about them. While I do consider myself an advocate for the sanctity of human life, I believe it is important to have a whole-life perspective. No matter the ethnic background, socio-economic status, or sexual identity of an individual, we must protect their rights as an equal to the majority in power. Building relationships with those whose experiences are different than ours is a daunting task. However, it is well worth the effort. At the core of reconciliation is relationship.

As advocate Bryan Stevenson said, “If you are willing to get close to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.”