I’m hearing a lot of pain at work these days.
I hear anger. I hear hurt. I hear excuses and defensiveness and minimizing. I definitely hear minimizing, and my personal favorite, helplessness.
We can’t do anything.
I am not going to call any one person or any one group out specifically, but I am referring to the various themed parties that occur on most if not all college campuses.
I believe we as the old people are missing a chance to invite our college students to take a developmental step forward, evolve and imagine that when they use racial and gender stereotypes for their entertainment that this hurts. It hurts people. Actual people. It causes harm. It causes pain. It makes some of us think “is there a place for me?” “Is there room at the table?”
Should we feel guilty for attending a party that mocks and belittles people of Asian ancestry or exalts and makes fun of the crime of grown people using children for sex? To be honest, when I began hearing about these parties I literally said to myself “they should be ashamed of themselves.” I did. I pulled something right out of my 82 year old mamma’s mouth.
But, no. Shame is not useful. Guilt yields very little that is productive. Because guilt looks backward. And I’m not convinced that is useful. I am looking for remorse in our children who organize and attend these parties.
Remorse is forward looking. I want to issue an invitation to all of us to explore remorse. Make friends with remorse. Sit in it. Sit with it. Invite it to lunch. Take it with you to your mosque, temple, church, synagogue, yoga studio or favorite meditation tree. Let’s be curious about what it might have to teach us.
I sit across my office looking into the big brown eyes of a young woman so tiny her feet do not hit the floor. And I think my god she's just a year older than my daughter. And she's suffering. She's suffering obviously from surviving a rape by one of her peers, of course, why else is she in my office? But she’s also suffering because this was no isolated occurrence by a random stranger. No, it occurred with witnesses, bystanders and people attending such “themed” parties right in the vicinity of the crime. Parties that, by the very nature of the shameful themes, the very nature of the type of alcohol and amount of alcohol are perfect set ups for predators to isolate an incapacitated young woman who only a few years earlier may have still believed in Santa Claus. My daughter, you, me, our children, good people reading this blog, our children. They are sitting with their big eyes filled to their beautiful rims with tears, dangling feet in my office on my couch day after day telling me about these parties and I have to tell you it leaves me no room for patience with the current defensiveness from some of my own community members. You are naive if you think that hosting or attending one of these parties is harmless fun. You are, unwittingly, creating space for a criminal to procure their crime. You are endorsing, voting with your very bodily attendance, in favor of racial and gender stereotypes that hurt you, me, your neighbor and people you love.
I’ve no doubt that whoever is reading this blog would not attend one of these parties. Preaching to the choir I am. But you know someone who does. Talk to them, but do not, please, I ask you, do not be satisfied with their faux explanations and defensiveness. Invite them to sit in their remorse, give them a hug, offer them a tissue, but do not be quick to make them feel reassured. Give them the gift of sitting in it. Sitting right on in it.