Conditional Pity


Here’s a confession…

As I hear more and more about police shootings and other types of violence against youth, I sometimes find myself sliding frighteningly close to the edge of CONDITIONAL PITY. See, CONDITIONAL PITY occurs when an individual or group feels sorry for what has happened to someone else, but believes that, to some degree, the victim was simply at the wrong place, or with the wrong people, or doing the wrong thing. And that somehow, if maybe they’d been in the right place, or with the right people, or doing the right thing, this tragedy could’ve been avoided.

I admit that I’ve fallen into that mindset on occasion. I’ve had to actively steer my thinking away from trying to make some sense out of violence that is in many instances all too often a senseless act. Perhaps the reason this happens is because to do so provides us with a false sense of security. Unfortunately, to rationalize the behavior of a criminal in hopes of protecting yourself from becoming a victim as well, not only trivializes the situation, but demeans the victim, and offers no real opportunity for commiseration.

Perhaps the biggest fallacy of CONDITIONAL PITY is that as long as you (or I) relegate victims to that space, you are using victim blaming to effectively convince yourself that it could never happen to you because, you know… you avoid those types of people/places/scenarios, right?

Wrong.

It’s been 11 years sense my nephew was gunned down in a drive by shooting. He was in a car, in the driveway with his cousins, preparing to go to the movies. He wasn’t in the wrong place, or with the wrong people. He was targeted for no reason that he himself could’ve changed or avoided.

I still think about him.

And it still hurts.

It’s only when we allow ourselves to recognize and acknowledge the innocence of these victims, that we can then understand and accept that no one, myself included, is truly safe. Because, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, the world is not safe. And that reality scares people. I understand that. I get scared sometimes too. But CONDITIONAL PITY is not the answer.

Instead, let us use this truth as a call to action. Safety begins at the moment of clear perception. It’s when we decide that participation is more important than observation. Be more than a spectator. In the moment one person decides to move forward, everything around them is changed. How much more so when 100 people decide to move, or 1000?

So I’m moving forward. Maybe in seeing me move, 99 others will be inspired to join me. Maybe if you move, you’ll inspire 999 others. Wouldn’t that be worth the effort? Shouldn’t it?

Opinions welcome.

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Categories: commentary, opinion, personal, relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Conditional Pity

  1. I sure like the idea of inspiring others in some kind of moving forward. Even with a smile on their face. Thanks for posting this.

  2. inkat1

    It is a very good question to ask ourselves. On one hand, someone like your poor nephew was truly innocent of any crime, and still was a victim to violence such as this. The direction, likely attributable to an underlying negative sentiment against – fill in the blank. On the other hand, to what extent do we, all of us in myriad ways, contribute to the whole? Not only to the judgment side of things, but also as people who comprise the things we represent – whether we chose those things or not. I’m Asian by descent, but I was raised by white people. So it’s always been a question I’ve asked myself. I was married to a mixed black man, and through that experience my eyes were opened to a much bigger problem than one-time cases. I feel as though our “individual first, community second” culture is part of the problem. More collective cultures tend to be more homogenous, so they seem to work better, but at least, how can we all get on the same page as human beings? An ongoing pursuit, for certain…

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