Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Who Cares?

I am the mother of a Mizzou freshman.

He texted me a few weeks into his semester to say, "I don't think I could be happier. I love it here so much."

This week that changed.

Drop off day
Now he feels judged based solely on what he looks like. He thinks people - people nationwide thanks to the coverage of #ConcernedStudent1950 protests - see his skin and assume they know exactly what he thinks. What he does. What he believes.

He's white.

[A little background: He was raised as an Army kid. We enjoyed neighbors, bosses, schoolmates, teachers, and friends who were black, Korean, German, Japanese, Swedish, Argentinian...you get the idea. I myself was raised in a neighborhood that was considered "the wrong side of the tracks" and knew as many minority friends as white kids growing up. Race was a non-issue in our house because diversity was always a part of our lives.]

This is a kid who cares about people. All of them.

The very first thing we told him when the protests erupted was absolutely not to post anything on social media. Tough medicine for an extra-outgoing, people-loving, Twitter-a-holic journalism student. But he did a good job staying out the way for the most part.

The next thing we told him was simply this:

"Be kind."

Be kind to everyone like you always have been. Be especially kind to those who are the most upset by everything happening. Be kind when you are frustrated. When you are misunderstood. When you are hurt.

It's true that kindness doesn't always get you what you want. The protesters did not get the president and chancellor of Mizzou to step down because of kindness. Angry media personalities are not getting increased viewers and listeners and readers because of kindness. Social media dustups do not generate avid commenters with kindness.

But none of those results are the sort that matter when it comes to legitimately puncturing the heart of hatred.

And I'm not saying that kindness will end racism. Because for certain there are students...people...who feel hurt on a daily basis simply because of their race. Or gender. Or background. Or religion. Or any of those things that we just are and by which others judge us.

So kindness can really only make a difference to the person right in front of you.

That's okay. Make that difference.

We all know that no one person can make racism, or any form of hateful judgment, go away on a college campus or anywhere. Just be the person who says, "I would if I could."

Do that by making it go away for the person right in front of you right now. Kindness is powerful that way.

To the students of Mizzou, I hope in the end you get administrators, professors, coaches, and other staff who will be honest about the fact that they cannot find a way to eradicate all hatred.

But who will live in such a way that says, "I would if I could."

Who will be kind.




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