Thoughts on Humanity
I published this on my personal Facebook page on July 6, 2016 after the back to back killings of civilians Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas Police Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens. I had said something after seeing the video of Alton Sterling, and I had to say something following the tragedy in Dallas on Wednesday too. After more conversations with friends and reflection, it felt right to share here. These are my personal thoughts and words. I'm leaving it here in case it may help anyone feel braver to share their view point - especially when it can be in a way to have more empathy, compassion and unity.
I don't want to necessarily say anything, but I feel I must. I recognize that it’s hard to know how to talk about these things. What do you say? How can you support people you love without potentially also hurting people you love? What if you mess up and say the wrong thing and offend someone. Especially on Facebook where every part of your social system, colleagues, friends, and families with differing beliefs are blended together?
But what if you’re quiet and people on both sides see this as agreement or apathy? What if you don’t add your loving and thoughtfulness to a raw and divided conversation? What if you can help gently, loosely, and carefully sew together the worn edges and hints of doubt around fears and ignorance? To show people you stand with all of them, even if you don’t know what to do? To show a different perspective from the polarizing views blanketing the media.
What if you can help gently, loosely, and carefully sew together the worn edges and hints of doubt around fears and ignorance?
I remember what I felt like when my brother died from a heroin overdose in 2005. Some people I loved didn’t say anything because they didn’t know what to say. Overdose and mental illness has stigma attached, and it’s almost perceived as a less tragic death because they were unfortunate enough to be an addict. But it hurt when it was not acknowledged by someone I loved, even though I understand rationally they cared and were scared to make me more upset or widen the cavern of grief. Or too much time had passed and they were unsure. I understood – it just stung. They were scared to say the wrong thing for fear of hurting me. But I CLUNG to the words of people who said something to acknowledge my brother’s death. I remember every single person who reached out to me, even if they were an acquaintance or it was awkward. I remembered gaining sisters and brothers from the people who had also lost their sibling, and we connected immediately by being in that shitty club nobody wants to be in. Those words were stitches to help mend my heart. Even if it was – “I have no idea what to say or what to do except I’m here for you.”
It feels uncomfortable, but maybe we’ve been comfortable for too long. If I’m not sure I want to speak up, and feel uncomfortable, I think of a few things. Will I help or hurt more? Will I regret not speaking up? Would I have been brave enough to be on the side of history I believe was right in the 1950s if I had been alive? Would I have called 911 during the 1964 Kitty Genovese incident or would I have been an apathetic bystander assuming someone else would have helped while she died in front of an entire building of witnesses? Learning about that made me call 911 anytime something happened outside our house in Philly, just in case. I am aware that this brings us to our brave brothers and sisters in the armed forces who signed up to serve and protect us and were there to respond.
It feels uncomfortable, but maybe we’ve been comfortable for too long. If I’m not sure I want to speak up, and feel uncomfortable, I think of a few things. Will I help or hurt more? Will I regret not speaking up?
What I want to say is that I support our law enforcement and military community who run towards the danger to protect us. I have gratitude, LOVE, and empathy for our brothers and sisters in blue, and their families. I pray for their safety and clear-headedness in making split second decisions which I do not have to worry about as a civilian. I want to think that many officers are doing the best they can. I have not signed up to serve, and I can’t imagine how I would feel in their shoes. People I love are in law enforcement and military, and I can’t fathom how the things they see day after day affect them. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think many officers need our support to help them police our communities the best they can. We want them returned safely to their families after each shift, and we grieve when that is not the case. Like last night.
I support our black community who are not feeling safe and face fears I don't have to think about on a daily basis as a white woman. We want them treated with dignity, justice, and returned safely to their families – especially after a respectful and compliant encounter with a police officer. How many of our black brothers and sisters have to be scared to be pulled over, of making the wrong move, of moving too fast or too slow, and for their deaths to be seen as a rational explanation for not complying properly, even when there is video footage showing that is not always the case. When you know how the media portrayal and public opinion of a black man versus a white man is going to be vastly different. When there is more public outrage over an animal killed to protect a child over a horrific accident than a black man being killed in a homicide in front of a 4 year old child.
The same support and empathy goes for all people who feel targeted, discriminated against, and fearful for their safety and lives. This is for ALL colors, races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. My own mother is from the other side of the world, she came to American on a college scholarship and decided to marry my Dad and become an American citizen. (Thank you, glad to be born guys.) I’m grateful, and being a “little” different has shaped my views on the world, and of other cultures, and people. I think I’m lucky because I look like a blend of whatever people assume I am, whether that’s white, Hispanic or Italian (I'm actually Filipino, German, Irish & Welsh). It’s convenient and helpful when travelling. But I acknowledge that I have the rights and treatment of an upper middle class white woman because of where I come from, how I appear physically, and what society’s stereotypes of me are.
But I acknowledge that I have the rights and treatment of an upper middle class white woman because of where I come from, how I appear physically, and what society’s stereotypes of me are.
I'm conscious that I no longer feel safe going to large public events after running from stampedes unknowingly towards shootings on 4th of July in 2012, hearing too many shootings in my neighborhood in Philly, and not being able to pick up my 2 year old from daycare during a lock-down due to an armed person. As my friend Nicole discussed today, is that truly freedom? Being scared to go to a movie theater, a church, or teach your class? Owning a gun is not the right choice for me personally, but I am respectful of those who feel strongly about their 2nd amendment rights to protect their family and personal safety with their right to bear arms. I’m even more grateful when they own and handle their weapons responsibly and support legislation that can help mitigate some gun violence. Lastly, I acknowledge that all over the world, my fears mentioned above pale to what they are going through in Baghdad, in Syria, in Myanmar, and all over the world.
I'm heartbroken when I see the vitriol in comments of people who so easily resort to the basest of commentary regarding real people and real families who are grieving. This is not a movie, these are human beings. I recognize that the things people say are likely out of ignorance and fear, and the media is a double edged sword of showing while also sensationalizing these fears. So in some ways, I wonder if speaking up is right, or if comments on the internet were the worst thing to happen to our society. If you're not lucky enough to have a diverse friend group like I am, movies, tv shows and media are all you may know of people different than you.
I'm heartbroken when I see the vitriol in comments of people who so easily resort to the basest of commentary regarding real people and real families who are grieving. This is not a movie, these are human beings
I am devastated at all of these tragic events, and fearful that many think it can ONLY be opposing sides rather than ONE human side working together making our entire community and world better. When things are better for all, we are all safer in my opinion. I recognize that may make me sound naive, but can't we TRY to do better? There will always be the outliers, but I want to believe that many people want things to be better. When society is so unbalanced, it endangers us all. Desperate people do desperate things, and we all suffer. Just for comparison, I make a good salary and am living with my folks right now since we’ve moved back to Florida. If I feel like I can barely make it some days, how can people making minimum wage or facing socioeconomic disparity and not having family support make it? I acknowledge that things can feel hopeless, and many people have made their situations better through sacrifice and hard work. My point is to have empathy for people who were dealt a different card than I was to have a better understanding of our country. Go out and talk to people who are different than you. Try to remember that someone else’s gains do not have to equal your losses. We can all gain together, or all lose together also.
When I see a human being, I think that we are not one sided. If I've learned anything reading Humans of New York, it's that at the basic levels, we all want the same things. We LOVE our kids. We don’t want to see our kids hurt. We want to see them grow up and have a better life than us. We want our loved ones to be safe. We want their loved ones to be safe. We want to laugh with our loved ones. We want people to be healthy. We want to be fed. We want to be loved. We want to be remembered. We want to feel valued. We want to be better people. We want our lives to mean something. We want to belong. We want to be part of something greater than ourselves. We all want those things. And it matters to to all of us.
We want to be loved. We want to be remembered. We want to feel valued. We want to be better people. We want our lives to mean something. We want to belong. We want to be part of something greater than ourselves. We all want those things. And it matters to to all of us.