“What if I was on the other side? What will my story be?”
“They played audio recordings of the training sessions they had before they went on protests. They were slapped repeatedly, spit on and verbally abused wantonly. It was practice for their protests. They learned to take it in and not give it back.”
She narrated her tour through the Martin Luther King Jr. house in Atlanta, USA. Few would listen to this narrative and not be moved. As she spoke, I recall the feelings of anger from the injustice and abuse caused by race, tribe, religion and gender.
While listening to this story, I tried to apply a bit of empathy, not to Dr King and his comrades, but those who were the oppressors. The police men, administrators, judges, soldiers, doctors, teachers, politicians, who were against the march for freedom and believed that the protesters were unworthy of freedoms because of their differences.
I tried to envision the perpetrators of these acts, all resolute in their belief that their races qualified them to certain privileges and not other races. How would they feel now? Knowing that they actively participated in the persecution of a people that is completely derided as evil today.
But, there’s something to take note of. If we say that, they are as much human as we are, then we are as much human as they are. Therefore, we have the same capacity of hate that they showed.
It’s unsettling, and not easy to accept.
“They cry, we cry. We hunger, they hunger. If we are successful in doing that, you’ll be shocked to see your reflection staring back at you.”
Seeing with this perspective, humbles us, and removes the veil of outrage that has long outlasted it’s purpose and that halts progress. It also makes deeper healing possible.
This won’t absolve the wrong of the past, but it will lead to forgiveness. It unlocks the future. Now, more than ever all sides with skin in the game should ask (repeatedly) “What if I was on the other side? What will my story be?”
In Nigeria, countless lives have been lost, property destroyed in this feud of tribe and religion. To end it, a step is to see ourselves in the other’s shoes, to connect to our collective humanity. They cry, we cry. We hunger, they hunger. If we are successful in doing that, you may be surprised to see a reflection of yourself in them.