America has been on one hell of a ride the last few weeks, hasn’t it?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit afraid. As I sit here in my office, the future for everyone is weird and uncertain. The whole country is travelling down this dark, scary path, and we’re not sure what’s at the end.
Yesterday, I was shocked to see video of a man, who had already been wrestled to the ground, shot and killed. Later, I was shocked to see a man who did nothing but try to comply with demands shot dead. And finally, I was shocked to open up Twitter and see that two snipers had decided to hunt down police officers in Dallas.
None of this feels right. And the effects these deaths are going to have on the future certainly don’t feel right.
We’re a country divided. We’re a nation of screaming over unpopular opinions. A nation of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”. A nation that condemns people based on their skin color, their profession, their religion, their gender. We make broad, sweeping generalizations about groups of people all at once. And we marginalize ourselves even further by taking on these labels.
This way of thinking as real world ramifications. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile would be alive if it wasn’t assumed that every black man with a gun, legal or not, presents an immediate danger. And those officers in Dallas would be alive if it wasn’t assumed that every cop, regardless of skin color, is a dangerous, racist, man-killing monster.
And the crazy thing is, the riots, the anger, the killing and the violence just reinforce these negative stereotypes. Because instead of stopping and thinking about the people in question, the individual, we make assumptions based on the groups as a whole, and react accordingly.
It wasn’t until I watched the video of Castile, as the cop tried to justify his actions, both to Diamond Reynold and himself, that I realized how much of a problem this is. Because we already have these generalizations in our heads, we live in a world of act and react. Act. React. Act. React. There’s no thinking. There’s no considering, because we assume we know what’s going to happen based on the labels we’ve given people.
And this is where the anger stems from. And it’s completely justified. When you’re boxed in and feel as though a whole community of people is out to get you, you get defensive. You get reactionary. You get angry. You want to strike first, get revenge, be as savage as possible because you feel threatened. It’s just human nature.
I think the only way to shift this is to focus on the individual. Because individuals are so much more important, and so much more powerful, than groups a whole. Strip away the labels – black, white, asian, muslim, christian, jewish, male, female, trans, straight, gay, etc. – and disregard the things that these people can’t help or control. Look at each person as just that – a person. Not a black person. Not a gay person. Just a person. Who are they? What do they do? How will your actions affect them?
When you stop to consider every person as a person, it puts everything into perspective. There are bad people – killers, pedophiles, psychopaths, you name it – of all colors and religions and genders. There are also good people in all groups. Recognizing a person by their choices, their actions, and their character rather than their attributes, and thinking about your interactions with them instead of just reacting based on assumptions, would make a more thoughtful, considerate society.
We just need to slow down, look deeper, and think. I’m just not sure if that’s possible at this point.