travel, racism, and compassion

(And you thought they weren’t connected . . .)

Shortly after returning to the States in 2012, I wrote a post about people. “No matter where you go, people are people,” I said. “Can you believe that? See, I thought (when I moved to Taipei), that this dark-haired multitude would be somehow different than me. And of course they were: I mean, the things they liked to eat and the way they did their hair—that kind of thing. But when it came down to the REAL stuff, the stuff that makes people people, they were exactly like me . . .”

It was a silly post, really, but it demonstrated well mankind’s similarities. My students were a great example. Children in Taiwan are no different than children here. Kids aren’t born racist or culturally constricted. These are things they learn by example over time.

Now . . . Of course since we adults are so “wise,” we should easily understand this, right? Sadly, this is not always the case. Take, for example, the note I found on my rental car after a run last week.
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Whoa? Really? A piece of trash, huh? Because I put my stuff in the trunk and because of my car? Wow.

I was really put off at first. I’ve never been called “trash” before, and I actually grew up not far from El Dorado Hills. If anyone was “trash” in this situation, it was the person who would leave this kind of note on another person’s car. And yet . . .

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered what would cause this person to do such a thing? What insecurities did they have? What pressure were they under? Why would they attempt to build themselves by tearing a complete stranger down? . . . Also, were they looking to rip off my “crappy” car? Nothing about the note made any sense.

As a matter of fact, a LOT of things in the world don’t make any sense. Another pertinent example of this is racism. I can’t comprehend what would cause someone to feel superior to others because of the color of their skin, but it’s an epidemic that’s gripped this nation since its inception. In 1968, not long after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, educator Jane Elliott did an experiment with her white students in Iowa to explain racism. In the space of 15 minutes, she made her brown-eyed children feel superior to those with blue eyes and thus demonstrated the heinous effects of such attitudes. It’s something she’s been trying to explain—and destroy—ever since.

Please watch!!

“We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. White people are the free, and people of color have to be brave. I want this situation to change.” — Jane Elliott

Jane’s life work breaks my heart and brings to light the systematic racism we see in this and many other nations today. It demonstrates how odious racism is and shows white Americans (like me) the truth of white privilege, which never should have existed in the first place. After all, as Jane so rightly says, there’s only one race: the HUMAN race. (Amen, amen!)

One thing Jane’s experiment doesn’t do, though, is explain what would cause a person to take racism to the next level. Extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan have horrified me since I first studied them in grade school, and back then I thought they were a thing of the past. In the segment below, Sarah Silverman interviews Christian Picciolini, a former “skinhead” and reformed white supremacist, who helps explain why people are attracted to these groups and why rallies like the one in Charlottesville happen—and what we should do in response.

Please watch to the end!

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Obviously this interview touches on many things, but what stood out to me most was the dialogue at the end. In response to Sarah’s question, “What advice would you give us?” the very wise and kind Christian says this:

“Because compassion is what changed me, I challenge your audience—go out there and find someone that’s undeserving of your compassion and give it to them. Because I guarantee you that they’re the ones who need it the most.”

Amen! Amen!

9 thoughts

  1. Completely agree, in particular with the very first point and the very last. The one thing we have in common is that we are all human beings. I’m a lifelong Democrat, a lifelong liberal. But I have grown tired of the identity politics that both sides play with and particularly with the identity politics of the left. The identity politics of the left are doing more damage than good as far as I’m concerned because they give those who are less tolerant an excuse to continue to be so. Identity politics, regardless of which side, continue to narrow the focus on things that create an illusion of difference, when there is only one thing that matters. We are human beings. All lives matter. Rights are human rights, not rights limited to the rich or the poor, to men or to women, to people of color or just to white people. Rights are human rights. Let’s talk about human rights instead of what we are doing now.

    • Amen. I particularly agree with your thoughts on identity politics and the damage they can do. In my opinion, we’d all be far better off if we spent more time listening to others with the intent to understand than continuously spouting off our own ideologies.

      • People don’t listen to each other anymore. Instead, they reach conclusions (typically wrong) about others, put them in boxes, because it’s far easier to put people in those boxes. Because then you don’t have to actually think about what they believe or feel. You’re a liberal — you believe in big government and you’re a socialist. You’re a conservative, you hate colored people and gays. People need to stop with the boxes and start listening. You’re right.

  2. If more Americans — and for that matter anyone else in the world ignorant of the genetic facts — really knew how much the REAL difference, the TRUE difference within the building-blocks of life, the human body, the DNA genetics that all 7.5+ billion people on the planet, every single one of us is less than 0.1%, then after birth it is all up to parents, family, and environment/education… how that human perceives itself and life around them is what they become. That means it CAN BE CHANGED too!

    Great post Jess, excellent videos! Thank you. :) <3

    • Thanks, Professor. You’re very right. Genetically we have lot in common; culturally we have a lot to learn. I think most people would do well to visit a place where they’re the minority to see what they can learn… It takes the right mindset, though. Sadly not all are capable.

  3. Wow, Jessica,

    It’s not often I discover a fellow Tennessee blogger to whose views I can relate. I had almost given up looking but just happened to search for “Tennessee” posts today for the first time in months and had the great good fortune to find your blog. Too bad you probably won’t be in state very long. Guess I’ll follow along for a little while and see what else you have to say.

    Take care, be well, and happy blogging!

    Denny

    • Lol, well thanks, I guess. My home state is California. I’ll probably be in Tennessee for a couple more years. After that, who knows! Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll check out your blog here in a sec, too! Happy New Year! :)

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