Gary: I always took care of my niece, Kayla. She’s had a lot of bad breaks, but I was the one person in her life who always made sure she and her baby had food to eat, a roof over their heads.
Sheila: That’s really nice.
Joel: He assaulted you. He’s a creep.
Gary: People can be more than one thing, Joel.
This is a brief exchange from “The Santa Clarita Diet” on netflix.
unimportant clarification:Gary is a disembodied head that was reanimated after Shiela (a zombie) killed and ate him for assaulting her.
I have been thinking about it alot lately. I watched the episode a few months ago. Since we continue to be surrounded by the crap storm of a) violence against people of color; b) immigration rhetoric and action that describes and or treats human beings and children as animals/ nonentities/ criminals alternatively, and c) global climate change, I need a way to compartmentalize or rationalize the different people I am seeing around me. Especially when two of those people share the same body.
I am studying at a Predominantly White “Public Ivy”. The professors and surrounding community profess mostly liberal views and you can see the “you are welcome here” signs in the front yards and activism is at an all time high. At the same time, laws at the local, state and national level and policies throughout the university are specific to International students in ways that target, isolate and ostracize them or reduce their potential for success.
In one on one conversations, we can see their passion, their commitment to the students and hear the heartbreak in their voices. But in their work, they tell you, “My hands are tied”. They have to choose the hills to die on. And I think I get it. Why push against the system to fight for international students, when you are more likely to be successful fighting for black citizens, latino citizens, LGBTQ+ citizens etc.?
People can be more than one thing.
While the faculty and staff dedicate their on campus lives to the delivery of content equally to all students, which is mandated by law, they have no responsibility to you outside the classroom. Outside the classroom, they do not have to speak to you, break bread with you, etc. At the same time, the most staunch supporters of equal rights and protectors of justice, must also consider the safety of their family, job security etc. so sometimes, they have to be more than one thing.
I can be more than one thing.
I am often one of the oldest students in my classrooms. I have visited more countries than most of my colleagues (and professors). As a matter of fact, even our dog Sokka has visited more countries than many of my students and coworkers. I am always “The Bahamian”. I have worked with Prime Ministers and Princes. I have worked under the sea and on land with endemic, endangered and invasive species. But, noone necessarily sees any of these accomplishments. Perhaps, they just see a student, a foreigner, “a F*$king African American”.
The problem comes when people are more than one thing and those things do not agree.
Most recently my understanding of this came to a head. I had known a former professor since we came here. We have had meals together on multiple occasions and we met their family, even their dog. We have had enough conversations for me to hear the sound of their voice, clearly in my mind. And, we shared views on global climate change, local and regional policy and its effect on various social classes. This professor was a friend and as with friends in small communities, they were friends with others whom I am still friends with. Others that also shared food and conversation, advice, opinions.
This past week, the news broke that he was arrested while traveling. He had solicited sex with an underage girl via an undercover FBI agent.
He was a completely different thing. That thing consumed all the other things he was. No longer a professor, he has lost his family (and his dog), his future, his colleagues, to that other thing.
As I talk to others affected by this, I also see how much all the memories have been tainted. Words spoken now have different meanings, handshakes, hugs, a look, a joke.
People can be more than one thing.
I am trying to deal with this and part of my dealing is writing. Part of my dealing is helping others. So I want to tell you, just as one person you consider a friend may be another sinister thing on the inside, so too can your worst adversary or the most challenging person carry hope for humanity in them.
That unintentionally racist coworker may be the first to offer you a ride in the rain. That foreign student may hold the most american values at heart. The professor that gave you your first F may be sitting in their office waiting for you to come for help. The guy that thinks babies born in america to foreigners are Anchor Babies, may be have the best difficult import conversation with you if you just take the time to sit down with them.
Yes. You can feel betrayed. Mourn this loss. But I feel we owe it to ourselves to go out and make a new friend today, speak to someone who can fill this gap. reach across the void and open a channel.
Take care of one another.