the atrocities seem crazier than ever before
Last week my mom texted me and asked if I was up to date on the current events of the world. You might ask which one because in the last month there have been so many heartbreaking atrocities it’s hard to keep up.
Forty-nine people were killed in a shooting in a gay nightclub by an American Muslim in June.
This event was followed a few weeks later by the two high profile deaths of African American men who were shot by police officers. Cell phone footage was taken of both, and then promptly circulated on every media outlet known to man.
These deaths sparked mass amounts of both protests and peaceful demonstrations. One such demonstration in Dallas, Texas, then lead to the death of five police officers and more who were injured.
However, it wasn’t any of these events that my mom was referring too, because as if the above listed events weren’t enough to polarize a nation, there’s been more.
In France, eighty-four people were killed as a man drove 60-70 mph through a crowd of people gathered to watch fireworks. In the aftermath, people are saying the driver was self-radicalized, and ISIS has taken claim for the event. This was the event that my mom was inquiring about last week. Yet, somehow the atrocities continue because three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with three more being shot this very morning, shortly after I woke up. I wish I could say this an exhaustive list of all the fighting and war represented in our world, but sadly these are just the things that made headline news.
humanity does this amazing thing
In spite of all this, I want to talk about humanity for a moment. The thing about humans that’s really unique is that we have the ability to recognize patterns in a way that nothing else on earth can do. Some have even said, intelligence is really just a matter of being able to store more patterns than anyone else.
Out of this ability, we have classified over 8.7 million species on earth. We have learned the secrets of the universe. We have even organized our children’s toys. It’s innately in every person to group and classify everywhere they go. When my two boys go to the playground, they quickly assess who they might be friends with by who is playing on the same equipment they like to play with or which boy is wearing a “Star Wars” shirt.
we find prejudices in our patterns
So, whether we are two, twenty or seventy-five this ability to recognize patterns, group and sort, innately makes up who we are. When we walk into a new situation, we start to classify people. Here are some thoughts maybe you’ve had if you’re really honest.
I might have something in common with that brunette girl wearing cute clothes and jewelry because I’m brunette, and I also like fashion.
Middle Easterners blew up the World Trade Towers and those two men sitting on my plane look Middle Eastern maybe I should be concerned.
African Americans only makeup 13% of the American population but I know they are the attackers in 52% of violent crimes. Since I’m in a neighborhood that’s predominantly black, maybe I’ll lock my doors.
Since more than 50% of illegal immigrants are from Mexico, I’m sure my incredibly helpful, but Hispanic lawn maintenance worker is here illegally.
Or how about some presumptions that apply directly to me:
Millennials are lazy, entitled, wimps who are so addicted to their phones, that they can’t keep a job which is why 40% of people unemployed are millennials.
Despite the fact that my brother has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. He is completely mentally “normal”, he even graduated college, yet I know this prejudice is real…
That kid in the wheelchair must be “retarded” because he is disabled.
let people be the exception
These types of prejudices and assumptions actually come from our amazing ability to see patterns. We as humans can gather data and find trends in a way that only humans can. It’s an amazing ability, but it’s also harmful, because when there is a pattern, we often apply it without exception. In the conversation as of late, I keep hearing all sides getting angry that a pattern is applied to “them,” when they don’t follow the pattern.
A well-educated, hard-working black man doesn’t want people to think he might be dangerous just because he’s black. People that are Middle-Eastern I’m sure hate being pulled off to the side for additional security checks at an airport.
Personally, I was embarrassed when I flew, and they put my kid’s bottles through their testing processes, so I can only begin to imagine how others feel. Children who were born in America, who potentially don’t even speak Spanish, but know that their parents or grandparents never got a green-card might worry that after the next election, they will be sent a place that was never their home. For the person whose experiencing the prejudice, and it doesn’t apply to them, it sucks.
prejudices aren’t going away, stop trying to make them
However, prejudices aren’t going away. Did you catch that? Humans recognize patterns. Humans can gather data and input it into a computer, and out comes spreadsheets, bar graphs, prejudices, and fear. This is part of our giftedness. We group things together, and we learn about them. We look at things and say, what is the same and what is different?
“Race” might not really be real, but when we identify the pattern, we make it real. There might be good and bad cops, but based on the experiences we’ve had with them, we group them into a category, and no-one can change someone else’s groupings. No-one can change someone else’ s prejudices.
the answer: embrace diversity
So, what do we do, when people keep dying over the prejudices? When people keep dying over the patterns and groupings, when people want to love each other, but over and over keep defaulting to something else; what does one do? We don’t try to get over the prejudices.
Instead, we embrace diversity.
When we embrace diversity we say, I accept you in spite of our differences. Because we ARE different and, we will ALWAYS be different. When we embrace diversity we say, immediately when I see you I may think a prejudice thought, but I will cautiously put it aside, so I can see that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay for us to have been raised differently. It’s okay for us to not worship God the same. It’s okay for us to have lived lives that keep us from truly understanding one another.
everyone wants to share their story, be ready to listen
Last year I was at the zoo with one of my best friends, and there were two women wearing head coverings. The girl I was with inquired about what their religion was and why they were wearing them. One of the ladies was so happy that someone asked, and she was delighted to share. She said despite her upbringing that she didn’t actually typically wear one, but her daughter had married someone who was of a more conservative faith.
So, since she was out with him and her daughter, she was observing the patterns that would abide by their faith. Most of the time, people want to explain where they’ve come from. People want to tell you how their grandfather came to America from Nicaragua with only the clothes on their back. People want to tell you about how their family escaped the slave trade through the underground railroad system, and they are the first person in their family to graduate college.
People want to tell you about how they came to the place of faith that they have. People want to share their story, but the only way you’ll be able to hear it through the noise, through the loud screams of the media and the few negative voices that ruin it for everyone, is if you embrace diversity.
I titled this post enough is enough because I feel like it’s time to stop pointing fingers. It’s time to stop pulling triggers; it’s time to look at people as humans and accept that they are different than you. You’re not going to be suddenly okay with statistics, with the patterns, but you can love people in spite of them.Published in