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?
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?