Why the neighbors are just more strangers

I took a poll recently.

This poll consisted of 10 friends that I separately asked one simple question. The question was:

What is your neighbor’s name?

Seems like a fairly simple and straightforward question. If you live right next to someone, you should probably know their name, right? Well turns out only 4 out of the 10 people I asked knew their neighbor’s name, and out of those 4, none were well acquainted.

Now, this is a small sample but I’ll go ahead and surmise this data on a larger scale. House, apartment, townhome,  or otherwise, the majority of people do not know their neighbor.

Isn’t that sad?

We spend our lives, or chunks of it at least, living mere steps from people we don’t even know. It’s almost as if we are blind to them, our existences kept separate due to our smug attitudes — only to our determent though. I believe neighbors can have so much to offer each other. The truth is most of us don’t know our neighbors, and that makes them strangers.

The accident

About a year ago, there was a student at my school who died in a car accident just miles from campus. It happened in the middle of the night, but everybody found out about it the morning after. I’ll never forget the feeling I had. I walked past this guy every single day on my way to class and I never said a word to him. We had mutual friends and would see each other often but I never spoke to him. I found out later how great of a guy he was and it seems I would definitely have benefited from knowing him, but I never got out of my comfort zone enough to strike up a conversation. The morning before the accident I walked past him and didn’t even bother to say hi. I didn’t know it then but that encounter was my last chance to get to know him. To maybe learn something from him, or just be a friend.

Now, this doesn’t bother me because the guy was lonely or needed a friend or had some kind of issue. In fact, he was actually well liked by many people and had no problem being social. What really bothers me is the commonality of the situation. He isn’t the only person I walk straight by on my way to class with a nod and a half-smile. That’s the kind of relationship I have with many people, and it’s nearly worthless.

What’s your excuse?

Of course, it’s good to be polite and smile at someone walking by. I don’t always have time to talk because often times I need to get where I’m going quickly. But what about when I’m standing in line for coffee or waiting outside the classroom for the professor. What’s my excuse then?

 

Often times my excuse is introversion. I’m a shy introvert so I’m not going to speak to you unless you speak to me, and even then it will be short and shallow.

 

What a lame excuse.

Imagine there’s a person sitting alone at the picnic table next to yours. You look over and see that their hair is on fire but they don’t notice. 9 out of 10 people would probably do something in this situation. Why? Because it’s serious. His hair is on fire and he will get hurt unless you do something.

Now I’m not trying to say a stranger will be physically or emotionally hurt if you don’t speak to them, but I think we should have this mindset. Their existence is important and their well-being is serious. It is simply not enough to say hello to our neighbors in passing. We should speak to them as often as we see them because the fact is, one day they won’t be our neighbors anymore. Besides what are we losing out on by avoiding a conversation with someone? Obviously, not everyone you speak to will be your favorite person; it might even be the worst conversation ever — but don’t assume that. There is quite possibly something to gain from a relationship with the person standing next to you in line or sitting next to you at the bus station. It may be something as small as a bit of knowledge exchanged.

 

 

But I think there’s something greater to be gained here — a very specific kind of joy I find every time I give careful thought to the wellbeing of a stranger. That’s because we are meant for that kind of connection. Whether we like them or not, or whether it’s easy or not, there is a joy to be had.

So don’t speak to them in hopes of some business connection, although that is a possibility, but instead for the pure joy of loving your neighbor.

And don’t give up after the first try. Really getting to know someone takes persistence.

 

Why are we passing up opportunities to be a friend to those we meet? Are we just so complacent with our lives that we can’t even imagine an improvement? This is one area I need to do better in. I can’t see the benefit of a future relationship because I’m completely content with the friends I have now. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being content with your friendships, but if it comes to a point where you decline meeting new people, it means you are finding your identity in friends —  and that’s never a good thing.  If you’re working on this as I am, I encourage you to take a step out.

Meet your neighbor. Say hi. You could be surprised.

And don’t worry about being the most eloquent of characters either. All you need is the right attitude and some motivation.

The truth about white privilege

It seems lately that the term ‘white privilege’ is being thrown around more extensively. Debates, arguments, and discussions from every corner of the country are using this term. But is the thinking behind this term legitimate?

Until recently, I didn’t understand what people meant when they called me “privileged” (I’m Caucasian). I took offense to it, as most do because the meaning is ambiguous. The impression made by the term is insulting. Are they saying I didn’t put in any work for the things I have, or that my parents didn’t work for what they have because of our skin color? That kind of thinking in 21st century America is undeniably racist. We all enjoy the same freedom under the law.

But it turns out, this is not the intended meaning for most people using the term. Instead, what they mean is this: white people enjoy easier access to success and exemption to stereotypes because of their skin color.

In some respects, this is true. There are stereotypes hindering certain ethnicities and minorities from achieving the same things. Black people are drug dealers, Hispanics are illegal immigrants, white people are racist. But we all know these statements can’t be true when used to cover an entire group of people; in fact, when used as a generalization, no stereotype would remain true.

The term ‘white privilege’, far more often than not, is used as a discriminatory term aimed at demeaning people with white skin color, delegitimizing their beliefs and accomplishments, and propping up another skin color in order to compensate for the gap in opportunity. In other words, it is revenge attempting to level the playing field of inequality — which does absolutely nothing. Instead, let’s find the root cause of this inequality.

It’s easy to differentiate opportunity gaps using only skin color, but they extend much further than one physical attribute. In fact, I think the socioeconomic disposition in America is caused by many associated factors.

Here are a few of them that contribute to an opportunity gap.

Education

Straight from the National Center for Education Statistics, here are the high school graduation rates by ethnicity (2014-15 ACGR):

White: 88%

Asian: 90%

Black: 75%

Hispanic: 78%

We see here that Asian Americans are graduating at the highest rate, while African Americans are graduating at a rate of only 3 people for every 4.

Employment

Following are the calculated unemployment rates in America, by ethnicity, straight from an October 6, 2017, news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Asian: 3.7%

Black: 7.0%

White: 3.7%

Hispanic: 5.1%

Average income (2016)

White: $61,349

Black: $38,555

Asian: $80,720

Hispanic: $46,882

By looking at these numbers, it’s clear that education directly correlates with employment and the trend continues with average income. It’s no coincidence that Black and Hispanic Americans have the lowest average income when they also have the lowest high school graduation rate. On the other hand, Asian Americans make almost 20K more per year than the second highest demographic. Why is nobody is calling for awareness to be raised on Asian privilege?

To a large extent, the above factors can be controlled by the individual. For example, a student is responsible for paying attention in school and keeping their grades up, right? They do so in order to eventually get a good job.

But who teaches kids responsibility? Traditionally, these values are taught in the home by the parents.

Percentage of children in one parent households according to the US Kids Count Data Center:

Asians: 14%

Blacks: 55%

Whites: 20%

Data not available for Hispanics

Clearly, broken homes or homes without both parents have an effect on responsibility in school, and thus subsequent graduation rates. I think it’s also important to note how Asian American families, who financially are doing much better than any other ethnicity, are also keeping their families intact 86% of the time.

I could dig even deeper into this issue but in the end, it will always come back to one thing, responsibility of the individual — whether that be the parent, student, or otherwise.

After looking at this data, the verity of this ‘privilege’ idea becomes clear. “White privilege” is nothing more than an excuse used by those(not just minorities or certain ethnic groups) who feel they do not have a competitive advantage in society and want to place the responsibility for that disadvantage on someone else. It’s true that minorities tend to have a more difficult time finding their way through this society, but it’s not impossible. If it were then we wouldn’t have successful people of every race and religion living here, and Asian Americans — as a whole — certainly wouldn’t be doing so well. I’d say if the above statistics began to level out over the top, there would be very little talk of privilege in our society because it all boils down to personal responsibility.

We live in a very competitive society, but the freedom we enjoy comes hand and note with a healthy competition which, in the past, did well to effectively incentivize Americans.  Every person has the opportunity to make their life better than their parents lives — the American Dream!

Perhaps we’ve reached a point in our society where everything is too easy. Maybe everything has become so simple that responsibility is barely required? In this kind of society, claiming one race has privilege over another when the laws explicitly state otherwise is a conceivable response to inequality — but it’s not the correct response and it’s certainly not the American response.

I’d say if the above statistics began to level out over the top, there would be very little talk of privilege in our society. Let’s just go back to emphasizing personal responsibility instead of faultless victimhood. I bet we’d all be much happier.

What are your thoughts on this?