This past weekend, 23-year-old Kim Pham was beaten unconscious by three women and two men in front of a busy OC bar/lounge. The reason? An argument that seemingly started from a “photobomb” — when Pham accidentally walked in front of a photo being taken. Seriously? Only one man, the bouncer at the bar/lounge, stepped in to stop the flurries of fists and kicks that left Ms. Pham on the ground. Unconscious. Alone.
I’ve been obsessed with this story, following any news hoping to catch some glimmer of hope… that she would be okay; that justice would be met; that reports were wrong, and maybe some of the bystanders who simply recorded the event or stood by watching stepped in to help.
I didn’t even know this young woman, yet a dark cloud followed me for days. “That could’ve been me,” I thought to myself. After all, I’ve frequented this same bar/lounge many a weekend. “That could’ve been any of my friends.”
But even worse was the realization that if I had been there that night, I too would have been a sheep in the crowds, either watching in horror or hurrying away to avoid getting involved.
How many times have we stood by letting injustice happen before our very eyes? How many times have we scurried away in an act of self-preservation?
Being scared is one thing, but watching it happen through the lens of an iPhone has become far too prevalent. Smartphones weren’t even invented in 1988, but the playwright who penned RENT the musical was spot on when he wrote, “you hide behind a camera lens because you don’t want to let yourself feel.” Or, in this case, stop something that you yourself have the power to change.
Footage at the event showed several people standing around, either capturing the beating on their phones or simply staring on, dumbfounded. Did anyone call for help while it was happening? Did anyone yell at the assailants, telling them to back off?
When we stand by like spectators, we become part of the problem, whether it’s a 5-on-1 beating in the streets or listening to women in their 30s ridicule a new person at work behind her back (what is this, high school?). I was not there the night 23-year-old Kim Pham was beaten to near death, but I have sat in silence listening to bullies pick on people half their size and stature, thinking that simply not saying anything was enough.
I let her suffer. The Kim Phams of the world. The new interns of the world. Everyone I’ve had the power to defend, but walked away from for self-preservation purposes.
Whenever anyone hears about this story, they comment, “Oh what a tragedy.” The tragedy of Kim Pham was not just that an eloquent woman, a “voice of her generation”, with the desire and aptitude to change the world through a loudspeaker, was beaten senselessly to death. The real tragedy is that people like you and me have the power to do something, and just don’t.
It’s haunting and ironic that this happened right before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This was a man who stared fear in the face and CRIED OUT to end injustice. This man changed the course of history as we know it. And he was just one man!
So please, in honor of Kim Pham… in remembrance of MLK… don’t allow yourself to detach from your fellow man in need. Don’t ignore the cries for help. Bullies will have no power if the rest of us find the courage and conviction to stand up to them.
To the world, you’re just one person… but for one person, you could change their world.