How to suffer prejudice in two stepsI have a friend. Let's call him Toby.
I first met him while in college. At the time I was in my 40s. I attended college late in my life.
He is older than me, and we got closer when I decided to help him to prepare a college IT fair.
When I got to know him better, I learned that Toby was Protestant. I am a non-practicing Catholic.
If I can trust my memories, he used to be Catholic too, but then converted to Protestantism.
Toby is a nice guy. He is the kind of man who regularly helps rescue dogs from their bad owners. This kind of thing tells a lot about him.
For a time we even started a business together, but nothing came out of it.
The last time he got in touch, we have been without seeing each other for several years.
He had a business proposal, but I was not interested.
While talking, he conveyed he had converted to Judaism.
I was nothing short of amused. I asked whether he was using the kippah or not - Toby is a little bald. He said he wasn't, but probably would in the future.
And what about kosher food? He was struggling with that, trying to find affordable kosher food.
He even regretted having once something he did not know wasn't kosher.
Then I asked why? Why he's gone from Catholicism to Protestantism, and then to Judaism. I thought he was OK being Protestant.
He said that while he was Protestant, not everything seemed right. He kept his doubts to himself.
And then one day he was talking to a rabbi, I think, and the rabbi's answers resonated with him.
Then, he told me the following:
One of these days, someone knocked on his door, late at night.
It was his neighbor. She was not feeling well. She was an old woman, living by herself, and needed to go to a hospital.
Toby did not think twice. He took his car and drove her to the nearest hospital. He stayed there waiting while she was being seen by a doctor.
Fortunately, her condition was not life-threatening, she was only distressed. She was medicated and released.
Toby left her at home and then went back to his own home to have some sleep.
The next day his neighbor went to his home again, this time to thank him.
Her words were along the following lines, "Yesterday I was not feeling well, so I forgot to thank you.
Despite your people, I would like to thank you for helping me."
Toby did not get it. He said, "My people? I don't understand. I'm not different from you... We're both <born in this country>."
She said, "You know, your people. The Jews."
He said he went mad. He said, "You descend from Italians, right? They're the ones who persecuted Jews.
If anyone should be annoyed about anything, that would be me."
I don't recall what happened next, but I suppose she just left.
The sad part is that that woman thought he was thanking him for taking care of her.
She did not realize he was offending him, implying he was a good person "despite" being Jew.
I still think about it from time to time.
I suppose when Toby was a Catholic, nobody would ever think about saying he was a good person, despite being Catholic.
I suppose when Toby was a Protestant, nobody would ever think about saying he was a good person, despite being Protestant.
But then he was Jew. And everything changed. He was not a good person per se. He was good despite being Jew.
I realize I have some privileges. I am a man. I don't expect to be harassed by people when I walk down the street because of the way I look or the way I dress.
(But I had my butt grabbed once by a gay co-worker...)
I am straight. I don't expect to be mocked by others when I walk down the street because I am what I am.
I am white. I don't have to worry about risking my life when I walk down the street because I'm walking down the street.
I am a (non-practicing) Catholic. I don't expect to hear BS from people I might help because of it.
I am not rich, but I'm not poor either. I don't expect to be followed by a security team member when browsing in a mall shop. (Although it happened to my wife once.)
Heck, I went to college. Most people in my country cannot afford to do that.
(Unfortunately, I am not a first-world country citizen. I expect to face some prejudice if or when I ever travel abroad.)
Now, don't get me wrong. Women should not be harassed. Gay people should not be mocked. People of color have the right to walk down the street without risking their lives. Poor people should not be stalked by security team members while browsing in mall shops. Jews should not hear BS for being Jews.
The thing is I never had to face this kind of thing because I am the way I am.
It's not like it's my fault I am privileged, but I am aware of it nonetheless.
If that's something I can take from Toby's story, is that we should not judge people. We should be kind to each other.
And, as it seems, things can change in a blink of an eye.
(The two steps mentioned in the title are: 1) Convert to Judaism; 2) Help people in need.)
Next week we'll see some reasons why we cannot fully simulate inheritance in VB6.