As I have grown older I have made a conscious effort to learn things I do not know. More specifically, I have made an effort to understand people I do not know.
I think we have a tendency to assume that the rational, reasonable thoughts inside our heads, are common. This is why, I believe, we sit around looking at things others have done and saying out loud, “Why in the hell would you do that?”
As we age some of us come to realize that we are simply products of our environment. We then understand that to begin to understand our neighbors we must understand the environment they come from.
When I worked construction I had the occasion to have a number of frank conversations with a few young black men. Not being shy, rather than sit around wondering why they did what they did…I asked them.
I asked why, on a 90 degree day, would you be wearing 3 shirts? One young man said, “Because when the police are looking for a guy in a blue shirt”, and he pulled off his blue shirt, “You’ll be wearing a red shirt.” I then suggested that perhaps a better answer would be simply to not do things which require you to run from the police. He replied, “You know Doug, you should be one of those inspirational speakers that talks to high school kids and shit.”
I never really have gotten the whole outlaw lifestyle. But as I was walking around today a song I haven’t heard in many years came back to me. I think it represents the first time I became aware that not everyone lives in upper middle class, white, suburbia. I do not recall the year, but it had to be late 80’s early 90’s. The song was called, “Both Sides of the Story” by Phil Collins.
“White man turns a corner, steps in to another world.
Ghetto kid grabs his shoulder, throws him up against a wall.
He says, “Would you respect me, if I didn’t have this gun?”
“Cuz without it, I don’t get it, and that’s why I carry one….”
If a song or show, or some story you read somewhere has altered your life or caused you to think differently, I’d love to hear about it.