This I Believe

Keith - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on November 4, 2007

I believe that people are people, regardless of the situations in which they may find themselves or the actions they may take. On a fundamental level, I feel that all people are essentially the same. It might seem easy to superficially group people, generalize them broadly, and then discard them. But I feel that regardless of race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender and any other superficial social constructs, that people are, and always will be, people.

As part of a two year teaching commitment, I taught in what my friends considered a ‘bad area.’ Some of them couldn’t even believe that I drove through the neighborhood in which I taught, let alone got out and spent most of my day there. At first, I was frightened. Society had taught me to prejudge and told me to be wary. Some days, it was quite scary. Talk of shootings was not uncommon, even among my 7, 8 and 9 year-old students. The school was in disrepair. My classroom was a mess.

Then came the laughter. As I improved my skills and got my small classroom on track, I began to see smiles, excitement and hope. In retrospect, it had always been there, but I was too blinded by what I had expected to see. Despite growing up in world so different than the one from which I had come, my students and I exhibited many similar characteristics. We had good days and bad; our excitement would shine through with success and our frustration would bring us down in the face of overwhelming challenge; we had likes and dislikes. I met community members who worked hard to give their children as much as they possibly could. These aren’t things I shouldn’t be seeing in a ‘bad’ neighborhood.

Society had taught me to ‘sum-up’ these people and forget them. They were poor, ill-educated, and looked different from me. Despite this, I still experienced the fabric of humanity by connects us. There were people who worked hard, people who stole what they needed, and people who selflessly helped others. Though their faces and environment were drastically different from the middle-class white suburbia in which I had grown up, I felt that we were all human. Had I been born into their community, I would have been no different than anyone else there. My fundamental being would have remained the same.

Granted, in my 26 years, I have met only a minute percentage of the world’s population, but it is my belief that all people belong to one fundamental idea called humanity. I believe that all aspects of humanity play out in all walks of life. That even in the poorest, most crime-ridden communities, there are people who exemplify true moral character. That even in the most well-to-do places, there are people who sink to the lowest of ethical decisions. That there are people of all types in between and beyond. I believe that we are all one.