Humanity before Ideology

I have been thinking about this post ever since I saw this picture.2015-09-06_1507It amazed me. The caption beneath the picture read, “South Carolina’s director of public safety, Leroy Smith, helps a man wearing a National Socialist Movement T-shirt up the stairs at Saturday’s rally after it appeared he was suffering from heat exhaustion.” I wondered would I do the same thing? Would I help someone out who hated me simply because of my DNA, my skin color, the family I was born into? Would I aid a person who despised me because I was different from them? Would I assist an individual whose entire being hated me through no fault of my own? I would hope the answer is yes. To be completely honest I don’t know what the truth would be.

What struck me as fantastically awesome about this picture was that the director of safety put humanity before his ideology. Mr. Smith did not allow his compassion to be snuffed out in the face of a racist. He did not allow the neo-Nazi racist ideology to obscure his empathy.

Humanity: Humaneness; benevolence.

“he praised them for their standards of humanity, care, and dignity”

synonyms: compassionbrotherly lovefraternity, fellow feelingphilanthropy, humaneness, kindnessconsideration, understandingsympathy,

tolerance; empathy

Idealogy: a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.

“the ideology of republicanism”

synonyms: beliefs, ideas, ideals, principles, ethics, morals; More

This year I placed my students into groups and had them look up the word empathy and role play one scenario that would display to the class what empathy looked like as well as the difference between empathy and sympathy.  I then paired my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders with someone who was different from them. The difference could be the gender they identified with, their skin color, height, weight or any other physical characteristic that separates us. I asked my students to look at their partner and notice every difference in physical appearance they could. Notice the difference between their hair, skin, cheekbones, nose and eyes. I then had them see the similarities between themselves and their partners. They were also directed to imagine how that person felt when someone made fun of them, was rude to them, or ostracized them. I hope that this exercise increased their empathy with their classmates. At the very least I was intentionally and explicitly teaching them what empathy was as well as how to grow their own empathy.

I have put my ideology before humanity many times on social media. (especially Twitter) I look at the words the person wrote and respond based on what I thought they meant. I did not think about who the people were and what they were really trying to say. I would pounce on them and didn’t care if I was in a sea of others that was jumping on that individual. Where was my humanity? How did I forget that there was a person on the other side of the screen that could be hurt and angered by what I said? Why didn’t I think about whom the person was and where they were coming from?

What makes this even crazier is that I have been on the receiving end of this before. I poke my nose (which is rather large) into all kinds of conversations on Twitter. I have had people tell me I think and speak these ways because of my white privilege. I have had what I had thought of as a compliment turned around on me. People have questioned my use of social media because I didn’t follow the norms that I didn’t know even existed. I promise you that I have never had malice or negativity in my heart during these conversations. I am sure that I am ignorant in many issues and areas and have been at fault numerous times for responding when I should have been just a lurker. What has happened in response to my constant curiosity is that I have received feedback that I belive has put people’s ideology in front of their humanity. I may be too sensitive in this assessment. It is something I have been struggling with for a while. Where does constructive criticism end and haters begin?

This makes me wonder if I have ever done that with my students before. Have I reacted to their behavior or responses strictly based on my ideology of how “good students” should respond or behave? Was I too harsh on a student because I perceived they weren’t working hard enough, cared enough, or thought they had an attitude? Have I put my beliefs in front of the fact that they were kids, students, someone’s children? I hope not but I have the sinking feeling I may have.

This year I am hoping that I can remember that everyone I interact with is a human. They are somebody who thinks feels, wants to be loved, and wants to be accepted for who they are. I have been really working on seeing people as much more than the physical shell they are temporarily using. They are more than what they think and how they act. They are people. This year I am going to put humanity in front of my ideology. I hope you are able to do the same.

Q1: Have you ever put your ideology before humanity? How did you rectify it?

Q2: What do you do to see people as humans and not who or what they look like?

Q3: How do you teach your students to see each other as people?

Q4: How do you forget the labels that have been placed on students by others?

Q5: What people or hashtags are based on humanity first and ideology second?


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