All of the hatred in the news leaves me exhausted. I know “Why can’t we all just get along?” is a simplistic, idealistic concept, but damn. Humans have such a great capacity for love, but we cross a line regularly and turn our passions to negative pursuits and make up reasons why.
We even make up words which don’t fit the situation. If someone is bigoted towards homosexuals, they are homophobic. That’s not accurate. The suffix phobic means “fear of,” but, for the most part, folks bigoted against gays don’t fear them. There’s just not a good word for it, like racism for bigotry against someone of a different ethnicity.
Oh, yes, racism. It’s the twenty-first century, but that one is alive and well. I have never understood it, either. You hate someone because of the color of their skin? What would you do if you were blind?
The problem and the solution are a bit complex, but it could start with language. We have so many negative words for people we don’t like. Many of them aren’t even accurate. There are no “black” people, for instance. Or people “of color.” Every human being on the planet has color to their skin. Caucasian skin isn’t white; compare it to a white piece of paper and it’s an obvious inaccuracy, same as other skin color labels we use. The closest to accurate skin color label I know is “red” man, but even then it’s not quite there. Even if it were…so what?
I understand the need to describe skin color. It’s part of a person’s physical description. But that’s all it should be, is a physical descriptor. The fact is we are all human. We have the same genetics on a species level. We bleed the same. (That gets proven over and over again.) We all laugh, cry, cheer, mourn, breathe, live the same, more or less.
But that’s not good enough, apparently.
It’s not even a matter of tolerance. “Tolerance” indicates a grudging acceptance. “I hate you, but I will accept your presence in my life.” That’s tolerance, and it’s just not good enough. That sentence needs to be shortened to simply, “I accept your presence in my life,” without qualifiers. Accept people for who they are. As soon as you want somebody to be different, to change some aspect of who they are because you don’t like it or even hate it, you’ve crossed a line. Imagine if the situation was turned around and they hated you for some reason. Would you be willing to make a change for someone, anyone, everyone? Change some fundamental part of you such as your faith, your skin color, your sexual preference? Yes, the last two aren’t really a matter of choice, but if they were, would you? How can it possibly be right to even consider asking someone to make such a change?
Oh, right. It’s here in this holy book, which may or may not match this other person’s religious beliefs. For that matter, they may adhere to the principles of the same holy book you do, but a different interpretation of that book. It’s pointless to ask why one person’s interpretation is better than another’s, as the answer will boil down to “because I said so.”
So I come back to words. That, after all, is what books are made of. People identify themselves with words, the same ones other folks use to label them with hateful intent. Again, the labels are not always accurate. For example, many brown-skinned people like to call themselves “African American.” However, they are, in most cases, many generations removed from their African ancestors, and it doesn’t make sense. I knew a white guy who was born and raised in Africa, but to call him an African American would probably offend some people, even though the term would be technically accurate.
I don’t even like the phrase “Native American.” I was born and raised here, I am native of this country as well. My ancestors were European on both sides, but my family has been in this country since at least the 1800s. I understand the intent of the phrase, and I certainly feel the people it represents have been more poorly treated than almost any other ethnic group, but that doesn’t grant exclusive rights to the label.
(Somebody might point out that “African Americans” got a rougher treatment than the “Native Americans.” It’s tough to argue that, except that there are still a lot of Africans around. Their ancestral lands, while changed, are still in the possession (more or less) of their ancestor’s descendants who were not enslaved. The Native Americans had all of their land stolen from them and, as a race, are relatively few in number. Brown-skinned folks are easy to find. The red man not so much.)
For anyone who actually reads this blog, and I know I don’t have much of an audience, I ask that you give this all some thought. When you are out and about and doing whatever it is you do, and you see other people, don’t think of them in terms of labels you might give them. Don’t concern yourself with the color of their skin or who they love or what beliefs they might have. Just for one shining moment, see them as another human being, no more and no less. Walk up to them and say, “I appreciate you being here. It’s good to know I am not the only human being on the planet.” Say it just that way, or at least think it, and know you’re not alone. That’s all that will matter.
I’m still tired. I’m tired of the hatred, of the negativity people spew about. But if we can start doing this, start treating people with respect (not just tolerance)…maybe I can perk up a little.