A reader asked me why I never write about politics in my column, given the contentious issues staring us in the face every day.

I responded that, because I am primarily a news reporter, I try not to give an opinion in my column about anything I am covering news-wise or might cover in the future.

When reporting the news, one must get both sides and report fairly. It is not appropriate to insert my opinion, which is unimportant anyway in the grand scheme of things. Besides, doing so can present a conflict of interest.

There are some things, however, that are beyond the realm of politics — or should be. They are about humanity.

For instance, the fact that so many people in our world are racist, sexist, homophobic and holier-than-thou gives me stomach pains and keeps me awake at night.

In school, we were taught to be critical thinkers, and that’s a good thing because I’m constantly seeing politicians and others on the news denying they are racist, but saying and doing things that reveal otherwise.

Who do they think we are, dumbbells, as my mother would say?

There’s nothing less palatable than listening to people who claim to be something they’re not. I find myself exhausted by their words.

I remember teaching a high school English class decades ago and using language in television commercials to help students hone their critical thinking skills. I used an “anti-aging” cream product as an example of something that touts a false message. We may not be rocket scientists, but we know better than to believe we can stop the aging process.

Anyway, the race thing. It really does hurt, literally, when I see bad things happening because people are racist, and they may not even know or believe they are. But those of us who were fortunate enough to be educated by smart and enlightened teachers know the difference. How do we, in turn, help to teach them?

During these horrid times, I am reminded repeatedly of how lucky I am to have had good teachers in elementary and high school who helped us to better understand the world.

I think it was Nick Pierce at Skowhegan Area High School some 50 years ago who taught a segment on race to my freshman class. We read a lot of books, including “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin, a journalist who took pills and colored his skin to appear black. He embedded himself in the black community in the late 1950s-early ’60s to explore what it is like to live as a person of color.

The book made a huge impression on me. I thought about it day and night. My heart hurt to think people were discriminated against because of their skin color. It made me angry.

I came home from school one day and said to my older brother, David — who I looked up to because he was always reading books and philosophizing — that I wished I were black.

He shot back, “No, you don’t! You have no idea what they go through.”

I was deflated and effectively chastised. He was right, and I am reminded every day that I still don’t know.

A friend said recently the only way to promote understanding is through education. I tend to agree.

In school we read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book by Harper Lee, which also was an eye-opener, and whose message has stayed with me throughout my life. Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man unfairly accused of rape, tells his daughter, Scout, that you can’t really know someone until you have walked around in his shoes.

Hatred, fear and nastiness could be eliminated with a simple, universal vow to be kind to one another. With any luck, understanding would follow.

In the meantime, I want to hug those who face discrimination and say, “I am you. You are me.”

Hating takes a lot of hard, heavy work. Loving one another is so easy.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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