As a Sociology professor I have to tackle hard topics in my class. There is no way around it. I have to find ways to allow students to explore race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, inequality and yes, even terrorism, in a way that both allows them to process these difficult topics but also dispels harmful stereotypes and generalizations. Some days I am more successful than others in creating this environment. With the events of Paris, Beirut and other countless acts of terror around the world in a given week I was especially sensitive to how we shape conversation about the forbidden trifecta–politics, religion and violence. I am not going to talk about my classroom experience because that is a safe place for my students to express themselves and not for me to write about in a public blog.
But, it is time that I express my own feelings on the events around the world. I am one that has to think for a long time before I speak publicly about social issues and events. I want to make sure that I have reconciled events in my own mind, digest them and explore my fears, ideas, attitudes and biases. I truly explore myself before I make any statements. I’ve been doing a lot of that in the last few days and here is what I’ve decided.
I refuse. I refuse. I refuse. I refuse to buy into broad strokes that paint entire groups of people as inherently “bad” or inherently “good.” I refuse to buy into the “good” versus “evil” rhetoric. The world is so much more complicated than simplistic generalizations. I refuse to condemn entire groups of people for the actions of a few. I refuse to do it to our law enforcement; I refuse to do it to every white person I know, every black person I know, every Native person I know, every poor person that I know, every rich person that I know; every religious person; every Republican, every Democrat, every Socialist, every Christian, every Muslim, every Buddhist, every Hindu. I simply refuse.
Further, I refuse to pass on these fears, stereotypes, generalizations, and frankly poor conceptualizations of the world to my daughter. I do not want my daughter growing up to fear everyone who is not like her because she will then be a lonely and fearful person if she only clings to those exactly like her. I want her to travel without fear. I will continue to travel without fear. I want her to embrace people. I will continue to embrace people. I want her to love people. I will continue to love people. I want her to give people the benefit of the doubt. I will continue to give people the benefit of the doubt. I want her to be generous with her fellow man. I will continue to be generous with my fellow man.
I will teach her strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope, kindness, and most of all the ability to reflect without all of the noise of the world to draw conclusions.
There are those that will disagree with me and believe that I am portraying an unrealistic view of the world. However, I challenge them to think about the billions of people who live peacefully, work with their neighbors of various backgrounds, practice their faiths and beliefs in ways that may be much like your own. Why focus your entire world on the margins and forget about the billions of people around the world that have strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope and kindness? To do this does not negate that we should fight those at the margins and extremes. But, it recognizes that we are doing just that–fighting the margins–not entire groups of people.
So, I will continue to LIVE and teach my daughter to live. I will love and act with kindness. I will open my heart and doors to people. I will not let those at the margins take away the very nature of who I am. I refuse to stop LIVING.