I came in on the tail end of HBO’s “The Latino List” and had the pleasure of hearing Marta Moreno Vega share a story from her childhood. To keep it short and simple, she saw her drug addicted brother in the street one day and did not respond when he spoke to her. She “kept it pushin” as they say. And like any true sibling he ran to their mother and tattled on her! When Vega’s mother questioned her about it, and Vega admitted that she didn’t speak to him because he was dirty and so on, her mother said “…that could be you, that could be your brother, that could be your sister, that could be me. Don’t you ever… don’t you EVER not recognize yourself in somebody else.” Vega ended her story with “that’s being spiritual. My mamá taught me that.”
Of course this story gets added to the list of things that made me want to cry this week because I thought of two things – how powerful that statement is and how many things our parents teach us that we go on to share with the world.
Could you imagine if we all took the time to see ourselves in someone else? In the homeless, in those addicted to drugs, in the brown-skinned innocents that US sanctioned drone attacks kill, in the young black men being profiled (and stopped and frisked and harassed and violated and, eventually, killed) in our streets every day? Would we stop and help them?
Could you imagine if every single child saw him or herself in not only those people, but in our business owners, our president, our politicians? If our politicians saw themselves in the poor, in women, in we “voiceless” marginalized folk, in those brown-skinned innocents that they voted to kill? What a world that would create - politicians that actually begin to care about people rather than their own agenda, their own beliefs, their own hatreds and bigotry. We’d have children that would grow into adults who see themselves in every single person. Those adults would run our country and I’d like to believe they’d run it better. But, I digress.
Of the things that I learned from my parents, and still learn every day – never take any shit off anyone. They probably didn’t say it in exactly that way, but that’s how I’m taking it.
Never stop writing.
Never stop caring.
Never let anyone silence you.
Always treat others with the respect and dignity that you yourself deserve.
And, now, I add to their list – always see yourself in others; always recognize yourself in others. I’d like to believe this will make me a better person, someone that has greater drive to help others inside the classroom and out. I’ve made a real stink over women’s issues and minority issues (in television) lately and I just know that it is my singular goal in life to bring multicultural literature, film and television to students. I want them to see themselves in those people – in those actors, actresses, directors and writers. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll leave my classroom and enter the world thinking about more than themselves. When someone says “this is a race/racial issue” they’ll be more inclined to not only listen, but understand. When someone says, “this is a women’s rights issue” they’ll be more inclined to not only listen, but understand. When they enter the workforce and go on their paths to run our country, be businessmen, police officers, etc, they’ll see a brown face and see their own. They’ll see the poor and see themselves. They’ll see brown-skinned children gunned down in the streets and they will see their own.
Think of the world we could create if something as simple as “recognize yourself in others” was taught alongside the golden rule. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true, people don’t want to care about an issue until it affects them personally. Looking at the world this way, it does, doesn’t it?