Saturday, July 9, 2016

Us and Them


Just saw the videos of Philander Castile and Alton Sterling. Had chills running down my spine.

People, why so hateful? If my life is valuable to me or to the people I love, then why shouldn't another person's be? Who made you or me an authority to take a person's life out, when neither you nor me was responsible for breathing life into them in the first place? No, this is not okay.

Earlier today, I was talking with someone who was asking me questions about my love life and "toasters." I started to tell her about a love interest when she interrupted me, "What tribe is he from?" 

I responded with his ethnic group and added, "What does it matter?" 

She was just asking, she said, and we kept talking.

In another conversation she would ask about two friends of mine whom she was acquainted with. 
"Those two?" I told her I had played a role in introducing them to each other. "Looks like they might be hooking up soon." 

"Really? Anyway they fit each other."

She barely knew them. I asked why she thought so.

"They are both Yoruba Yoruba," came her reply.

No, this is not okay.

At that point, I didn't feel the need to carry on with the conversation any longer. It didn't matter that she was older than I was. I was successfully irritated, and managed to say that people were not automatically (a) fit for each other because they hailed from the same ethnic group. 

I'm in Nigeria by the way.

With the latest killings and racial tension in the news this past few days, it's easy to point fingers at America, place blames and take sides. But how about you and me here at home, where we are of a single race? One race, but yet, still obsessed with hate, and blinded by differences. It just occurred to me that we, human beings will never be satisfied with being just what we are - human beings. We, human beings will always need to segment and categorize and prove that whatever groups we choose to be members of must be superior to the non-members. It's easy to see that the concept of World Peace is a myth, an oxymoron.It will always be "us" and "them."

But this post is not about acting holier-than-anyone. I have a bias that I only just discovered as a result of these recent hate crimes, and it makes me cringe to see that I've been indifferent. I was once of the opinion that illiteracy was the sole reason behind closed-mindedness, and that education was the cure. I now know how unfounded that statement is. Education and enlightenment are two distinct things. Instead of being aloof when I am not directly affected, I choose to be an ally. 

How do you and I take personal responsibility?
This is by no means exhaustive, but go ahead and be intentional in your relationships. Expose your bias. Enlighten yourself. Increase your tolerance towards people, especially those who seemingly have little or nothing in common with you. It's extreme, even fanatical to want to force others to see things your way. I am tempted to say stop evangelizing, stop preaching, but a better way to phrase that is to live by your own example. 
Let your evangelism be in your deeds - and not mere words. (Well, writers will argue)
Live and let live - let people be, let them choose.
Live so that people see and want to emulate, and do so because they decide to. 
Why focus on fixing them? Leave them, and just live!

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