My brother, Danny, and I were walking our two boys at Sooner Fashion Mall (Sooner, because it’s in Norman, Oklahoma; and Fashion, because, in the early days, it was high-style with everything from Sears to Dillard’s, and J. Riggings to Famolare) in December, 1992 when we came across Danny’s next door neighbor, former Sooner football great and not yet senator J.C. Watts. My son, Austin, was almost two years old; Danny’s son, Jaeton, was approaching three; and J.C.’s daughters were a couple years ahead of that. Danny introduced us, we shook hands, and I said to Austin, “Can you tell his girls, ‘hello?’” Austin didn’t hesitate in walking up to black J.C.’s black daughter and planting his white face against hers with a kiss on her lips. To be clear, that is not how we taught Austin to greet strangers, but he saw no problem in just being “friendly.”
We are not born with hate. It is learned and reinforced over time in a variety of ways.
We all come from different backgrounds, yet we like to find others who are similar to us. We need that for support. Those similarities come with patterns that are borne of similarities in our upbringing, our families’ histories. Those become stereotypes. Stereotypes themselves are not always bad and understanding them can help us connect with others who at first may not appear similar to us. White men can’t rap, and don’t even start with Vanilla Ice and Eminen, because that’s where I rest my case.
Stereotypes are difficult, because there are positive and negative and both can possess truths, yet both can contain helpful or hurtful intent. Don’t act as though we are all the same; we aren’t and that’s the wonderful variety of life. On the other hand, don’t act as though someone is less than you are simply because of a stereotype. As former President Bush commented, “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
Relying on stereotypes to defend our disdain for another can sometimes be due to our own greed, feelings of inadequacy or a lack of self-responsibility. Someone is wealthy? He probably didn’t earn it. Your wife or girlfriend comments about a handsome man? He’s probably gay. You get the idea, so we won’t even discuss, “They’re fake.” The bottom line is that we are often to blame for our supposed problems with others. For an excellent understanding of how we can misunderstand someone due to blinders of stereotypes, I highly recommend the movie “Crash.”
And don’t assume laws are the solution. You can’t legislate love or hate. If you need a law to tell you how to treat others, you’re part of the problem. If you claim the law is needed, not for you, but for someone else, you’re part of the problem. A government can’t show love. That’s a human’s responsibility. Not once during our hospital stays have we been comforted by the IRS, DMV, EPA, DOE or HHS. It was our family, friends, nurses and other caring people. Laws did nothing to soften the heart of the Dallas sniper. With our hearts and minds in the right place, our hands and feet should follow. Dallas sports reporter Dale Hansen eloquently confesses his recent apathy here:
Trenton’s two heart transplants taught me the emotional struggle of sorrow, joy and thankfulness all occurring in the same event. We truly mourned the loss of our donors while rejoicing the life-saving gift we received. After all these years, it’s still an uncomfortable tug-of-war, but one that has led me to seek true opportunities for thankfulness in what appears to be a total loss. And right now, the media is focusing us on the loss, because fear sells.
Dallas was wounded, yet we already won this battle one day later when one person’s display of hate was answered with thousands of displays of unity. ONE horrific act of hate compared to THOUSANDS caring about each other. Did you see the police car? It was vandalized with love, covered in flowers and notes of support. If we REALLY want to win the war, we must mourn those we lost (and if you know one of the families who lost a loved one, you may want to read my previous blog about empathy) while being thankful for the unity that has overtaken, and not be consumed by the hate of the few. Do this and you will see how great my Dallas and your community already are. Families questioning the senseless loss of their loved ones may eventually find comfort in knowing that good came the horrific event. Most people don’t like change, so it’s an unfortunate fact that much pain comes from significant change, but it’s something we must continue. See how we won this battle:
Every emotion with which we were born has its opposite and each exists for a reason. Even anger is useful as a pressure relief valve, but we must control how we express it. The one emotion with which we are born without its opposite, however, is love. We are not born to hate; it’s taught through example and reinforcement. This tells me something about the importance God places on love.
Austin and Trenton were blessed to have attended Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell where student population was so varied that over thirty different languages were spoken (Allie attended a home/private school for elementary due to fulltime gymnastics). For them, variety is the norm. This variety makes them part of the generation providing solutions. Austin, by the way, still kisses someone who is not identical to him. His wife is an Oakland A’s / Golden State Warriors fan, yet Austin overlooks those faults in Kira and loves her anyway (such a fine boy).
Look back at the pictures of at the top of the page. They are plants growing on the island of Visby, Sweden where Val and I visited a few years ago. Select your favorite plant and stare at it for a moment. Then look at the group and decide. Would you prefer to live in a world with just your one favorite plant, or would you find more enjoyment living with variety? Care for all kinds if you want your life to fully bloom.
“…faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” For variety, for unity, for love…I’m still thankful.
P.S. If you agree with this, please pass it along; and if you don’t agree, don’t hate me.
P.S.S. I hope you will take a moment to view two more awesome acts of caring that occurred from Dallas’s battle with hate. Of course, being Dallas, it centers around good restaurants.