We Are All Humans

By Guest Contributor

Dear Katrina,

I want to thank you for letting us hear your story. Thank you for saying what you really mean to say. It is only through such difficult dialogue that understanding may ever begin. So thank you again for being yourself.

I totally agree with you. Political correctness means nothing. Back home, I was never a good player in that rope tightening game — straighten your back, hold on to your balancing beam and keep yourself on the thin black line. Watch your mouth because Big Brother is watching. I hated that and I still do now. My home country has taught me not to put my faith in political correctness. It is a world where the meanings of words are lost. People can say anything. But in the end, what matters most is often what is not said, right?

I cannot agree with you when you say “just to avoid offending someone.” It is not “just.” “It” is not just. To reference my favorite quote from Oscar Wilde, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” For people like me, this over-complication is not a matter of choice. This complexity, this barrier, these shackles and mantles are what we bear and navigate every day of our life. They have been there before I was born. Life is indeed complicated enough. I used to wish I could forget about all these complexities as well. I wish everyone could forget about them so that I didn’t have to white-wash myself, to tweak my accent and ignore everything that reminds people of what I wish they could forget. Only recently did I realize maybe these are things I don’t want to forget. These are things that are part of me and define who I am. To forget would mean to lose myself. Some differences are not just skin-deep. They run in my blood.

We are all different. But our differences will not stop us. Today, it is less difficult to see the shared humanness in us. Darwin and genetic studies have made that point for us quite strongly. The greatest challenge for our world today — and for our generation in particular — is not to un-see the differences, but rather, to embrace each other nevertheless. Love is about seeing, knowing and accepting completely, including our differences. How can we love people if we do not even start to see and understand the differences?

There must have been wounds deep enough to make these hearts so sensitive, that what seems like a light touch can trigger painful experiences. And if the same system and institution that inflicted these pains is still running, we shall not forget. I agree that there are things more important than the act of  donning a sombrero, namely the implications behind it: systematic discrimination, prejudice and indifference, just to list a few. These things are around us, in this country. Just because they are less visible does not make them less serious, urgent or important. Let’s talk about our differences and what caused them, and then try to understand them.

There is a Confuciust saying, “Xiu Shen, Qi Jia, Zhi Guo, Ping Tian Xia.” Jesus also said, “Love thy neighbor.” So I want to talk about love. I believe love is about empathy. Love is an art, a craft and an effort. I think one of the most common misconceptions in our contemporary society is that love is supposed to be easy. We are taught to believe that if love goes through ups and downs — if it is tiring, upsetting or painful — you should just throw away that love. That is simply not the case, and I recommend Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving for an excellent elaboration on this. If we are really trying to love and understand each other, we must not let the consumerist culture infiltrate into our concept of love. This journey will not be easy, simple or convenient. There are so many obstacles, including historical legacies, class, race, prejudice, stereotype, ignorance, misconception, hate, fear and indifference.  If we know that taking a class or playing a sport requires time and effort, we should not expect that love, one of the most amazing human achievements, should always be  smooth-sailing.

The path to a truly inclusive campus is long and tough. We will make mistakes and get tired, for we are all only human. Yet whenever I feel depressed about this world, I too look to the encouraging words of Morrie: “To love.” Simple. Concise. A verb. And that’s what all it’s about.

Love, Shan

Shan Zeng ’19 is from Chengdu, China.