The human stain is one or all of the idiosyncrasies otherwise classified as differences within the human race that continue to cause conflict. There have been many diversities prevailing in humanity since the dawn of civilization such as race, culture and religion. Other common conflicting interests which keep humanity at odds are terms of authority, economy and belief systems which manifest through hatred, discrimination, apathy, mistrust and loss of respect and tolerance; thereby contributing to worldwide misanthropy.
The driving force behind this article is the 2003 movie The Human Stain with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman as the main characters. The movie was written by Philip Roth who crafted the idea from an unfortunate event which took place in the life of his late friend who was a Princeton professor of sociology for many years. Professor Melvin Tumin, while nearing the middle of the semester noticed two of his students had been missing since the class began, and asked students if anyone had heard of or ever seen these two “spooks?”
Almost immediately Tumin was mandated by university authorities to justify using the word “spooks” because the students he referenced were African-American. The professor had no prior knowledge of the missing students’ race and used the word jokingly as it relates to ghosts; he had no ill-intention when he chose the word. Unfortunately a series of attempts to destroy the professor ensued during the following months from which he managed to emerge blameless, but only after a series of challenges as he worked to prove himself innocent of the alleged hate speech.
The stain in the backdrop from my interpretation is, without proper cause this man’s life was turned upside down based on a preconception that did not even exist. How many people have been affected and infected by these same notions that have stained humanity? Although this is not true for everyone there are many who have suffered unwarranted persecution for an innocent action.
For the professor, it was one word innocently spoken which caused his ultimate downfall. The ironic secret, at that time, was the reality of Tumin’s own ethnicity. He was the light-skinned son of a respectable black family from East Orange, New Jersey. Tumlin had successfully passed himself off as white after he entered the U.S. Navy at age nineteen. This act of deception was the true cause of his humiliating demise.
For much of his life he lived a lie which cost him his all he “lied” for, his livelihood. This might seem extreme for many but the grave truth is most of humanity can identify with the professor’s struggle. Perhaps, on a smaller scale but far too often people try to pass for what or who they are not simply to be accepted by those who would otherwise cast them aside. Why? Because of the human stain called diversity.
Humanity is a concept, perhaps a Utopian concept, that people have lost their lives fighting for. Many have died with the belief that one day all humans would somehow possess virtues attributable to a perfect human being and the world would be one country with one religion called love. This is the belief that has propelled many activists forward in hopes of bringing humanity alongside. Their goal has been to empower others to be kind, honest, cooperative, tolerant and respectful in accordance with the general perception about the virtues that are considered to be philanthropic.
The only way to get rid of the human stain is by learning the power of agreeing to disagree. People must learn to be true to themselves while allowing others the same freedom. We all have different histories and have emerged from different backgrounds; but it is these differences which are designed to bring new hopes, ideas and dreams to humanity as a whole. The differences make us human and the acceptance, or non-acceptance, drives humanity.
One of the few times where this generation witnessed people set aside their differences and join together was the tragedy of 9/11. It did not matter if one was Black or White, Northern or Southern, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Atheist, rich or poor; although short-lived, people everywhere united. Why is this the case? It is definitely not because of an adrenaline boost of good nature, rather it is because at that moment humanity shifted to survival mode.
The human stain returned in full force once the tragedy cleared. It is sad to think that humanity could go back to the defaulted state of extorting their own kind for fame and fortune. Too often people find themselves at war against another in search of a particular status which ultimately means nothing. What is more sad is humanity seems blinded to the corruption they spread while attempting to manipulate one another. In true form, it is nothing more than the stain of humanity.
The United States is becoming increasingly diverse and will continue to include people of many economic groups, languages, religions and other cultural differences. Eradicating the human stain does not mean that citizens should pretend these differences do not matter or exist. Wishing all people were alike is definitely not the answer. Instead, embracing these differences will bring about an unstoppable unity of people who have experienced pain and fear, but continue to love deeply while progressing towards a life of purpose.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Featured Image Courtesy of Pete D – Creativecommons Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of Liz Henry – Creativecommons Flickr License
Top Image Courtesy of Kevin Dooley – Creativecommons Flickr License