Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mean People Suck {Nice People Rock!}

I know my blog has been quiet for a while!  I've been inspired to
start posting more here...  so hello again and if you're new here, welcome!

I just googled "Nice People Rock!" to look for an image to use and only got 10 million results, and very few images.  The pickings are very slim.  However, google "Mean People Suck" and you get 43 million returns and lots of images.


At any rate, nice people do rock!  And mean people suck.  I want to share a story with you that blurs the lines a little.

The other day I was leaving work and a man who works in my building was in front of me.  He is white.  This will be important shortly.  A black man was standing in the parking lot, with a backpack, looking down on his luck.  He said to the white man "Hey, can you spare some cash bro? I'm trying to make it to DC." and the white man says "No, sorry, I am in a hurry to get home and I don't have any money."  The black man then says, "Man, I bet you wouldn't even help me if I was bleeding internally.  I could be bleeding man!" and the white man says "Then I would help you.  I would call 9-1-1."  And the black man says "Man, you're just a typical cracker.  You ain't help nobody."

So everybody walks their separate way.

I caught up with the man who works in my building and I said, "Hey, I'm sorry you had to experience that.  You didn't deserve that.  He's just a jerk."  And the man says, "Yeah, thanks for saying that.  It was hurtful!  I really struggle with if I'm helping people enough in the world, and... he called me a 'typical cracker.'"

The guy looked truly pained.  I felt really bad for him.

"Well, he was just a jerk," I said.  "It's hard to want to help people or know what the right thing is when they treat you that way."

Then he crossed the street his way, and I had to go the other way.  "Hope you have a nice evening," we told each other.

It was an interesting exchange, a microcosm of the intersection of race, poverty, and kindness. I found myself thinking about the black man, dude, if you were truly down on your luck, you probably shouldn't insult people who don't help you.  But then, why should we expect people asking for help to be nice about it?  Shouldn't we help people if we can, no matter what?

And did race influence this situation?  The black man used a racially tinged name, but he could have easily been a white man who called the other white man an a**hole or something.  OK, but the black man *did* use a racist term, which I think made the white man feel that much worse.  The term 'cracker' implied that the white man's refusal to help him had something to do with him being white and the other man being black.

So mean people suck, and nice people rock.  In this situation, who sucked, and who rocked?  Nobody was a winner here and everybody felt worse.  Both men involved probably made assumptions about the other based on their appearance.  Each probably lied to the other.

But frankly, I think my co-worker demonstrated integrity and he wins this one.  He said he would help the guy if he was bleeding. And the other man, when he used that racist name, kicked it up a notch to where the situation began to feel unsafe.

So it broke my rule:  First, be safe.  Then try your best to do the right thing.

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