Look at your hands. Now close your eyes. Run your fingers along the bones of your other hand. Four fingers, probably. Three knuckles each. One thumb, one joint. Flesh and bone and blood pumping underneath the surface.
Open your eyes. What you see now: nails painted, or not; skin pale or dark, or a shade in between; one finger missing, or three, or all of them. We live in a world where what we see with our eyes open—without looking deeper—determines the value of your life, rather than the incontrovertible truth that all humans have equal value.
I urge you to take a second, and imagine that you have hands that are different from your own.
As a man, imagine that your hands are too small to fight off a man twice your size when he corners you, and the justice system’s response is to blame what you were wearing.
If your hands are pale, imagine them a couple shades darker, and imagine that just that extra little bit of melanin means that you make significantly less money per year, if you’re not killed at a traffic stop.
Imagine being born with hands that look like they belong to someone else, someone who is not you but who you see in the mirror, and being subjected to violence for which restroom you choose to use.
Would the words those hands wrote be different? Would it change the people to whom you offered a hand or closed a fist?
Everyone has a wealth of experience different from our own that we cannot possibly have had. People may do things that seem indefensible to you, but that they think necessary or obvious. We are all the good guys in our own story, even when we disagree. And the only way to agree—to stop killing other people for things that they cannot control—is to listen.
Close your mouth and listen. Acknowledge that there are people with perspectives that you don’t have, and that you should listen to them. You do not have the right to speak for someone else.
When you open your mouth again, make sure it’s not against people whose voices have been systematically silenced by the world. Make sure it’s in defense of them.
No one can make a scapegoat of a person that you have chosen to understand.
We will never all agree. There will never be a world that contains a homogenous people, devoid of disagreement—and what a boring, useless world that would be. But difference isn’t a good enough reason for hate. You just have to listen first, and open your hands.
Age 22, USA