Human Awareness

A couple of days ago I read a post on Almost Diamonds about a girl who was reprimanded by two teachers and then suspended from a basketball game for the vile, shocking, breathtakingly offensive act of speaking a few words of the Native American Menominee language to a friend during class. Stephanie Zvan, the author of Almost Diamonds, opines about the actions taken by the school teachers, and tells us a little of the history of efforts to wipe out Native American culture and language in Catholic schools on the Menominee reservation.

This is not a subject with which I’m familiar, but it struck a chord with me; it’s another sad example of humans being bad to humans, and of religion playing a nausea-inducing role in our culture. I found it interesting and passed on the link to the article on twitter:

Image says: “When is the last time you considered Native American cultural heritage?” and contains a link to the blog post.

Someone responded with this:

Never im not Native American. Therefore its none of my business. They prolly dont spend much time thinking about Irish American or German American or African American cultures eiether. Why would they?

I’ve known the gentleman who posted this for many years; it’s fair to say that our worldviews are very dissimilar, but I consider him a friend. He reads my socially liberal, left-leaning, progressive writings, and every once in a while he’ll respond to something I’ve posted. His responses usually send me into an initial fit of exasperation, but sometimes he’ll present an alternate view that I hadn’t considered. So when he shares his views, I take that as an open invitation to elaborate on my thoughts and my thought process. Also, I’m a big damn optimist – I can’t help but hope that maybe some of my views will rub off of him.

So I took a few minutes to come up with a respectful response. Here’s what I pulled together:

Sharing stories helps us recognize and celebrate our similarities, and understand and accept our differences. Just because a story isn’t instantly familiar doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from it. In the case of the story to which I linked, one group of people is being discrimated against and punished by another group for being who they are. It doesn’t matter if the groups in question are Native American, Irish American, German American, African American, South American, African, European or Asian. You can find the common humanity, recognize the injustice and empathize with their situation, act to right the wrong, and best of all, perhaps move to make it not happen in the future to other groups (perhaps even one that you belong to).

*dusts off hands* I think that captures it.

Pssst…he wasn’t as impressed with my response as I was. We’ve gone back and forth a few more times. I think we’re currently in a cease fire.

What story or stories have you learned about that had seemingly little to do with your personal experiences, but still made a big impact on you?