I like to think that I would jump in to help anyone that needed helping.
I also like to think that I would be able to give a potential attacker a run for their money should they attempt to assault me.
But we never really know until we are faced with a particular situation what our reaction, our action, might be.
I remember watching a video a few years ago, something caught on a street camera, where a man was hit by a car and left laying in the street. The car that hit him, other motorists, pedestrians, not a single person stepped forward to come to this man’s aid.
I recall that I was absolutely appalled. I still am, that not a single soul helped him.
And that video made me really think about what I would do in that situation.
Another video I watched more recently had me asking myself the same question.
The video, posted on Facebook, was from ABC’s “What Would You Do?” with a young male actor posing as a racist customer, another young male actor as a Muslim deli counter worker.
The point of the experiment, it seems, was to gauge the reaction of other customers in the deli.
One man got outright angry with the young man spouting racist comments, which included calling the Muslim deli worker a “terrorist” every chance that he got.
Later, after being told he was on a TV show, the man admitted that he wanted to deck the kid for his racial attitude.
In fact, most of the reactions shown on the video were that of outrage and disgust at the actor’s comments.
Only one man agreed with the actions of the white actor.
But later in the video a soldier comes into the deli.
The man in uniform, though, was calm as he asked the white actor to buy his chips and leave, telling him that the young man behind the counter had every right that he himself had.
Americans come in all shapes and sizes and practice all sorts of religions, or no religion at all, and the soldier said he defended all Americans’ rights. He said that was why he wore the uniform.
When the host of the show, John Quiñones, later asked the soldier if his words and actions were heroic, he said they were not. He said he was just “being a person,” and defending everyone’s “inalienable rights.” “We live in America. He can have any religion he wants.”
“If you’re an American, you’re an American, period,” the soldier said.
But it also begs another question, what is America, or an American, to you?
Our country has certainly seen its fair share of discrimination and racism. Heck, our history is covered in the blood of those who lost their lives because of the ignorance of others.
And while we may have come a long way, there is still a ways to travel on the journey to really appreciating every man.
To me, America is a place of freedom and possibility.
We are not without our problems. Lord knows, we all know that.
But we have long been a country where anyone can come and, by law, enjoy certain inalienable rights such as those spelled out so long ago. You know the ones: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And I can’t help but wonder how I would react if I had been in the deli situation?
Would I sit quietly, inwardly outraged but outwardly doing nothing? Or would I spring to the defense of the deli counter worker, Muslim or not?
Would I stand up for my fellow American?
I certainly hope so.
And it is my hope — no matter how I see, really see another person — that nothing about what I think of that person is altered by the clothes on their back, the traditions that they follow, the nation of their heritage, or the name of their god.
I may be a nondescript little person that nobody pays any attention to.
I may pose just about as much of a threat as a gnat, really, to the security of my country.
I may live in a rural area that is not the most diverse, but I certainly know that an American doesn’t have to look just like me either.
An American comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
An American has the right to go to a cathedral today, a mosque tomorrow, or a synagogue next week.
An American is granted certain inalienable rights as set down by our forefathers, signed more than 200 years ago by men who envisioned a country based on freedom and equality.
I hope that if I heard someone making racial comments or committing any other form of social injustice I would step up, even at the risk to my own wellbeing, because if I don’t do something, than I might as well be the one hating.
I want to be someone who stands up for what is right.
What would you do?
Angela Shepherd can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.