It is impressive how one’s upbringing can pave the way for an extremely prejudiced mindset. Here, I am talking about the situation that Derek Black found himself in, growing up with a racist/nationalist father. It is also truly miraculous that he, after so many years of hatred that was cultivated in his mind and heart, was able to deconstruct the ideas that shaped his personality. In my opinion, people like him are exceptionally strong and deserve respect, despite the damage that they had inflicted on others. The thing is, human beings make mistakes; we are often guided by misconceptions. Yet our strength of character is revealed when we are pushed to reconsider our worldview and find a new path. I consider this a miracle, since few people are able to undergo a journey of deep reconsideration.
When it comes to the TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she does an impressive job at explaining the danger of a widely accepted story. She calls it “the single story.” Most importantly, she talks about the danger of feeling pity for someone whom we barely know. Chimamanda explains that “the single story” is like a stone wall which disconnects us from human beings who are not automatically like us, eradicating the “possibility of a connection as human equals.”
When I was in fourth grade, my parents decided to travel to Mexico for three weeks to visit our distant family. Growing up in an upper middle class family I was carefully guarded from the dangers of street life. Yet when I came to Mexico, I quickly learned about the other side of things. As it turned out, our relatives lived in a rather poor neighborhood. One time, when we went out for a walk with my parents, I saw a poor old lady — a beggar. As we walked past her, I looked into her eyes and they were as blue as the sky. They were beautiful. She asked me to stop for a minute. My parents kept on walking; they were talking about something and did not even notice my disappearance. As I stopped, the old lady started telling me a story. I could not decipher half of the words, probably because she was almost toothless. Yet, right away, I recognized that her language was well-structured and her eyes spoke intelligence. To me, she felt like a queen in a beggar’s body.
After this brief encounter I realized that human connection has no age, gender, time, or space. It is timeless and unrestricted by external circumstances. If we open up our minds and hearts to such encounters, it feels like the Universe is talking to us, guiding us. Thus, we are able to tap into our own spirituality by connecting with other human beings on a very deep level.
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2009, July). The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en
- Saslow, E. (2016, October 16). The white flight of Dereck Black. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-white-flight-of-derek-black