“I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.”
“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”
Maya Angelou introduced me to that particular quote by Terrance, a Roman playwright and philosopher and ever since I saw her talking about him, I’ve done my best to try to internalize it. But unfortunately I am human and I tend to forget it, forget that I have all of the components in me to be the next great inspiration or the next element of destruction.
As human we tend to forget that we are indeed flawed and there aren’t many differences between you or I. I won’t be so presumptuous as to say that I have never said anything racist or hurtful, I won’t pretend that I am perfect. That would be stupid and haughty.
A very dear friend of mine and I met for coffee yesterday and I always enjoy talking to her because she is everything that I believe a person of faith should be: understanding, empathetic, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and accepting. She considers herself Christian, but she is not radicalized–I absolutely cannot say how much I respect her.
We talked about several things, the main thing being about the results of the election–if you want my thoughts and feelings you can click the said links. Both being self-proclaimed feminists, we feel about the same. We talked about how hate crimes have run rampant since the election of Donald Trump, and how people are one way in front of a crowd but another way in front of their peers. I referred to a particular photo I saw on Humans of New York’s Facebook page (here is said photo), it wasn’t the photo that really captured me, but the caption underneath:
“I think a lot of people live on the borderline of racism. I work in a machine shop with about thirty older guys. I don’t think there is one bad guy in the group. You’d like them if you met them. All of them love their families. But I’d say that I’ve heard eighty percent of them make racist comments of some sort. A lot of the older guys drop ‘n bombs.’ But if a black guy walks up, they’ll be friendly. They’ll even go out to lunch with him and share a meal. I honestly don’t think they see themselves as racist. Every one of them will deny it. They’ll point to the black guy that they’re friendly with. They won’t point to the things they say when he’s not around.”
It struck a chord with me–but I wasn’t really sure how to process it. I was ignorant to think that I hadn’t been guilty of doing that myself, but I wasn’t ready to face it. Then my dear friend sent me this video:
I realized that I had been guilty of saying racist things and condoning racist behaviour.
I also realized that a lot of my racism was simply born out of the environment that I live in (super conservative, narrow minded thinking, small town that meets all of the stereotypes), and being young and stupid. Before I became the person I am today, I was a super radical christian who was on the precipice of a mental breakdown because I also had a strong sense of justice. I chose to be that way because it was the only way I thought I could be, I was a naive kid who had just lost her mother and was looking for anything to make the pain go away. I don’t condone my behaviour, looking back now I know why I was that way but I’m not going to say it was right. I am rather ashamed of it because I abhor hypocrisy, and I feel like a hypocrite. However I also realize that I can’t really focus on that now because it is in the past and there’s nothing I can do to change it now. I can only focus on being a better person today.
I want to be a force of good in this world, I want to use my talents to make it better–even if it’s just a little bit. To do that I need to constantly look at myself and make sure that I’m practicing what I preach. I also have to be gentle with myself, remember that I am a flawed human being and accept that I will make mistakes but I must learn from those mistakes an be better.
I think we all can learn something from each other, if we just take the time to sit down and talk. We can be a force of good–and I intend to use my talents constructively instead of destructively.