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By Kevin Sheehan, Special Columnist

“Vivus: An Exposition Of A Volatile Mind” by Kevin Sheehan  is available in digital and in print on Amazon.com!

Regardless of weekly content, this column is designed to help others expand their way of thinking and promote creativity, empathy, and thought in general.

 

I had the joy of attending one of my favorite bands in concert a little over a week ago. A few heavy metal bands I enjoy (August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada, Parkway Drive, Polaris) were at the House of Blues and I got tickets for myself and my much more beautiful half, Lori.

While waiting for the show to start, we started to engage in conversation with people around us. One guy was pretty cool, and we started talking about concerts we had been to, bands we liked, and eventually started talking about jobs. Without giving away too many details, he mentioned he was a higher-up supervisor in his company. We started talking about how I broke my ankle, and he mentioned he had broken his as well. I asked him how he broke his ankle, and the long story short was a sports injury. Then came the words that echo in my mind to this very second: “Yeah, a f****** n***** hit me.”

I became incensed in that moment, and honestly, I am surprised at how well I was able to maintain a neutral expression after hearing that. From that second, I searched for my way out of the conversation. Thankfully, a very sweet couple that was also there stood beside us, and Lori and I were able to bond with them, and the rest of the concert turned out amazing. Every band was fantastic.

Here is another reason why I was bothered: one of my best friends that I go to concerts with was coming to meet us there, and even though her parents are from the Islands, most people would assume she is black from her complexion. At this point, I am torn. Do I try to move seats? (Hard to do with a broken ankle in a sold-out show.) Do I warn her, and possibly cause her to go sit somewhere else just so she could be more comfortable? Should I tell the guy “Hey, I know you feel that way, but curb that talk when my friend gets here?”

So, I did what any shrewd person does. I waited. Just when he caused me to lose a little faith in humanity, my friend Faith walked up. It was much needed, because if you have the privilege of knowing her, you know she is one of the most positive people I have ever met, and her energy is never ending. So, I bit my tongue about what happened for the moment, and kept my eyes open, and we all had a blast.

This has bothered me since the moment it happened. How is this okay? Long story short, it’s not. Playing devil’s advocate, but what if he was ‘joking’ (and I KNOW he wasn’t)?  That spurred several conversations with friends of varying races, the difference between a racial remark and humor. The general consensus was: intent. That is why shows like Key & Peele and the Chapelle Show are funny and can be enjoyed by everyone. The equation for comedy is tragedy plus time, and now there should have been enough time for us to have learned that we are all one people. There is no hatred behind true humor, just a presentation of obscure views in a humorous way. But how do you explain something reasonable to unreasonable people? You can’t.

I have room in my heart for humor, but I have no room in my heart for hate. And I would rather go to a concert with my friend Faith than most other people, because she has never judged me based on any physical attribute, and she wants the best for me as a friend. What makes me sad is that as long as these racial tensions continue in our country, it may keep people from meeting the best friend they ever had, just because they couldn’t get past an external feature.

How can we fix this though? We can’t sit, and pretend hatred is not a problem. We can’t sit, and stay blind or quiet, refusing to acknowledge that there are problems. In the words of a song August Burns Red played at the concert, “Your quiet heart makes us sink further” (Invisible Enemy). Staying silent and pretending I heard nothing is not an option for me. I don’t have much of a reach publicly, but I wanted to do whatever I could to just get out there and say that hate is not okay. Discrimination is not okay. Whether you X-ray a white person’s chest, or you X-ray a black person’s chest, you will still find a heart inside.

Division causes so much tension, and the tension intensifies until there is a complete separation. As a people, we are not united. It seems we are furthering from that actually, since the tensions have been increasing again in recent years, and soon we will have full separation if we can’t learn the basic emotion of love for all, and then implement it to promote equality.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion or belief, but when that opinion starts hurting others and impeding the chance of others to be happy, then it becomes an issue. We need to remember that labels such as black or white need to remain purely descriptive, not stereotypical. We need to have love and respect for all people regardless of race, beliefs, or other defining characteristics. We need to have One Love.

 

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