I come from brave and powerful stock. If I had half the bravery my mom has had, I could help to change the world.
I am terrified of spiders, arachnida, those creepy little creatures that make up fodder for nightmares. Biologists classify animals and plants according to characteristics that they have in common. There are over 35,000 different types of spiders. So can we deem all spiders to be the same. Obviously not. We do categorize humans based on similarities, and that is the breeding ground for stereotypes.
My mother was born and raised in Germany. During the rise and fall of World War II my mom was between the ages of 10 and 18. She experienced that war in ways I still cannot fathom, and when she would tell me stories, I could feel her pain. My mom was deemed Aryan, a pure blood line, all family members blond-haired and blue-eyed. Imagine the uproar when she married a black man in 1955 (when it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry) and produced mixed children. There was quite a bit of disowning going on for her.
Between 1940 and 1945 my mom was 13-18. She was an active member of the German resistance and saved countless American GI’s. My mother was the first member of her town to get pulled up onto an American tank and handed an American flag that she waved proudly. She was not a supporter of Hitler or his regime in any way. She risked her life for a cause she truly believed in. Freedom, tolerance, acceptance, and humanity. I’ve often wondered if I would be as brave as she had been in similar circumstances.
When I first moved to the U.S. in 1979, after having lived most of my life in Germany, I was out with friends when I brought up life overseas. I divulged that my mom was German born, but an American citizen. I was dumbfounded when one of the people at the table said, “Wow, was she a Nazi during the war? Aren’t all Germans Nazis?” Can I mention how much self control it took not to throat punch that guy?
My point is, that passing judgment, making assumptions, and putting labels on people has played a big part in the current state of upheaval in the world. It’s time to put that old way of thinking aside and make determinations about people based on the individual. I give everyone a chance until they give me a reason to believe they are not inherently good humans.