Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Who is "they", anyway?
My daughter's school emphasized MLK day yesterday as they were out of school on Monday. She and I had a lengthy conversation about how things were, how they are different and the importance of treating all people fairly. I was a little concerned however, that she did not seem to have been told that not every white person in America treated black people badly and that there were white people pushing for equality alongside their black peers. Please understand that I am in NO WAY minimizing the impact of the Civil Rights movement or to trivialize the plight of black people in American history and beyond, but to ensure that she understood that, like most things in life, not much is absolute. Generalized extremes are dangerous - think about the words everybody, nobody, always, never - they are inaccurate representations of situations and people; using them can be deceptive or misleading, even if unintentionally. I was telling my husband the other day that the best thing I took from my time in college (academically anyway) was the importance of defining "they", realizing that there are two sides to every story, knowing that numbers can be arranged to support anything, not taking opinion as fact and to never, ever deal in absolutes. This in itself is how racism breeds and grows...black people do this, white people don't do that, Asian people are good at math, etc. - none of this is true in entirety. Think about it - if you take out the adjective, it's just people. And that's an absolute that can't be denied.