We Are All Individuals

The world gets dangerous when we start to think about people in terms of generalizations rather than individuals.

My father once told me that if you had told him as a teenager that one day he would marry a white woman, he would have told you that you were out of your mind.

Then look at how happy his love for a “white woman” made him.

My father once told me a story about something that happened to him and my mother in the mid 1970s just before I was born.

My parents were driving home from somewhere in the early evening. Not quite dark yet, but getting there I believe. My dad turned to my mom and said, “I think those ladies behind us are following us.” My mom didn’t believe him and said he was just being paranoid. But as they kept driving, it became evident that there were two “old ladies” following them.

My father turned down a few side streets and the car followed. So he turned into a gas station and they followed. After a few minutes of this game of cat and mouse, my mom said, “I am tired; let’s just go home.” So they drove home forgetting about the ladies.

My father sat down to watch television and my mother went upstairs to wash her face and change into her pajamas. After about 10-15 minutes, there was a knock at the door. My father went to answer it, and on the front porch stood a police officer. The police officer began questioning my Dad. Had he recently driven his car anywhere? Where had he gone? How long had he been home?

Finally, my father said, “Officer, is there a problem? It is late, and I would like to go to bed.” Finally the officer asked, “Was there a white woman with you in the car?” My Dad, an elementary school physical education teacher (not that that really should matter here) turned and yelled up the stairs, “Paula, would you please come down here.”

My mother joined him at the front door and my father put his arm around her and said, “Officer, this white woman is my wife.”

It is hard for many to imagine that a black man just driving in a car with a white woman can be suspicious to some people. Our media and society tell us repeatedly that racism is a thing of the past, but the reality is that it thrives now probably stronger than ever.

Does that mean that #blacklivesmatter is an essential and productive rallying cry? Or that whites need to be schooled in the pitfalls of #whiteprivilege?

No. I don’t think hashtags have anything to do with it.

The hate will stop when we start seeing people as individuals, not as a race, a religion, a socioeconomic status, a gender, a sexuality, or even a profession.

The notion that police officers are power-hungry racist pigs is just as damaging to our collective psyche as racial slurs. These days there is so little respect and reverence given to those in what were once considered prestigious positions: police officers, teachers, doctors, and even the president. Just as so little respect is given to young black men in particular as the world seems to approach them as guilty until proven innocent.

Why?

Why did we as a society let a few bad apples spoil the bunch when it comes to these generalizations?

Why are we raising children to think that most police officers are not driven to protect and serve, that teachers are only in it for the pension and summers off, that the internet knows better than most doctors, and that most presidents are figureheads that only push corporate agendas?

There’s more to life and more to people than these generalizations.

Most terrifying to me is that police officers now have to walk with the added fear that much of the public they serve is skeptical at best.  But if you turn off the television, radio, and computers and just look around, you will find goodness in these people, in all people even.

I was so deeply moved looking at the photographs again from that horrific moment in American History: September 11, 2001. But this time, after 14 years, I was most captured by the first responders. I saw a photograph of a member of the NYPD comforting a bleeding ash-covered woman. His care and concern amidst the chaos was so beautiful.

We, as a country, continue to heal from the September 11 attacks and from the train of questionable police killings. Yet it is important to remember that as we work to root out police officers, who do not deserve the uniform that they wear, that there are far more police officers that serve with pride and deserve our respect for the sacrifices they make for others.

I want to thank Sergeant Tim Devine from the Linwood Police department in Linwood, NJ for giving my four children the royal treatment this week during a tour that I scheduled just for my four children, whom I now homeschool. Sgt. Devine and the other members of the Linwood police did not blink an eye showing a 2,4,6, and 8-year-old the fingerprinting machine, offices, holding cell, and even a very dangerous reindeer Christmas decoration rescued from the town bike path.

He popped his hat on the kids and let them sit in the police cruiser, while I took photos. They didn’t just see the radar gun, but got the chance to use it to clock the speed of an officer who drove in a circle 6-8 times to give everyone a turn, including me. The kids went home with a smile and a copy of their fingerprints to boot!

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I don’t write this to belittle the cases of Eric Garner,Freddie Gray or Michael Brown or any other black man or woman treated unjustly by police officers. (Everyone deserves just treatment under the law.)

I write this as a reminder that we are all individuals.

Maybe too if we stopped scaring our urban youth straight as teenagers and showed them this kind of care and attention at a young age…things could be different…for everyone.

14 thoughts on “We Are All Individuals

  1. Patti Fox says:

    All I can say is “AMEN” ! Please keep writing!

    Like

  2. Jill says:

    Beautifully written piece…

    Like

  3. Christine says:

    Eloquntly written.

    Like

  4. Jodi Logan says:

    That was wonderful sharing of your history. We all have stories. We are so divided,bless you for speaking truth. We must love and see the human in each of us,we are wired to work together for good. CC is teaching hate shame blame instead of real history and how to learn from the good and bad.

    Like

    • Jodi, thank you for your kind words. However, I have to beg to differ on your point that the Common Core is teaching hate, shame and blame instead of real history or that CC does not teach critical thinking.

      CC actually focuses on critical reading and having a common core of standards does not teach hate. The real issue is the testing here that is tied to the new CC standards. The testing has driven quality science and history out of the elementary schools because they are not tested areas.

      The flames of hate are started and fanned by the media and our propensity towards spreading it to our children.

      I hope that you keep reading other posts of mine too to get a better idea on my stance on such topics.

      Like

  5. Steve Milgrom says:

    Beautiful !

    Like

  6. Steve Milgrom says:

    Beautiful!

    Like

  7. Robert Quinn says:

    Excellent job!

    Like

  8. Tracy Ocean says:

    As usual, Paige Vaccaro writes a piece so moving, and so close to home that I can’t help copying it, and sending the link to many, many, people.
    I love the honesty with which you tell the story of your parent’s battle to live a quiet, happy, life. Their very being as a couple worked to promote racial equality, and acceptance. I thank them for their courage.
    In 1968, I was one of two white students in a primarily black preschool, Leila day Pre-School, New Haven, CT. The teachers didn’t see color, just potential. It was a wonderful school! The memories that I have of those days, while my Mom worked nearby, are priceless. In hindsight, I was so lucky to have such great teachers, like the teacher Paige is!
    Paige, I can’t believe you questioned yourself about Homeschooling. You are over qualified. I feel like our young summers, when the girls were small, and every day at the beach was an adventure in Science, Meteorology, Biology, Tidal studies, and so much more, is justified by the way you are guiding your little ones. The only drawback I can come up with is that you are denying other students (like my girls!) a chance to have you as their teacher. But, your children are more important. You will instill in them the lessons your Dad and Mom instilled in you. You will show them how to teach themselves, and they will go on to teach many others. We have to take responsibility for our own kids, and count you as a passing, but valuable Blessing. Keep writing Girlfriend!!! Keep writing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rereading this comment just melts me. I forget to give myself credit as I push myself to do more and more and more. Thank you for being that voice in my ear that I so desperately need sometimes. Xoxo

      Like

  9. seahawk318 says:

    As usual, Paige Vaccaro writes a piece so moving, and so close to home that I can’t help copying it, and sending the link to many, many, people.
    I love the honesty with which you tell the story of your parents’ daily battle to live a quiet, happy, life. Their very being as a couple worked to promote racial equality, and acceptance. I thank them for their courage.
    In 1968, I was one of two white students in a primarily black preschool, Leila day Pre-School, New Haven, CT. The teachers didn’t see color, just potential. It was a wonderful school! The memories that I have of those days, while my Mom worked nearby, are priceless. In hindsight, I was so lucky to have such great teachers, like the teacher Paige is!
    Paige, I can’t believe you questioned yourself about Homeschooling. You are over qualified. I feel like our young summers, when the girls were small, and every day at the beach was an adventure in Science, Meteorology, Biology, Tidal studies, and so much more, is justified by the way you are guiding your little ones. The only drawback I can come up with is that you are denying other students (like my girls!) a chance to have you as their teacher. But, your children are more important. You will instill in them the lessons your Dad and Mom instilled in you. You will show them how to teach themselves, and they will go on to teach many others. We have to take responsibility for our own kids, and count you as a passing, but valuable Blessing. Keep writing Girlfriend!!! Keep writing!!

    Like

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