Kindness is an action word.
It’s how Ellen DeGeneres typically ends her daytime talk show: “Be kind to one another.” It’s Harry Styles’ call of action to his horde of fans around the world. He so often iterates to “treat people with kindness” that it’s the title of a track off his latest album, “Fine Line.”
Defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate,” kindness can be difficult in a year like 2020. The ever-looming cloud of anxiety and sorrow strains our ability to bounce back from minor inconveniences. Momentary poor internet connection and getting stuck behind a slow walker at the grocery store can feel so burdensome.
In his victory speech on Saturday, President-elect Joe Biden made a call for kindness. He said, “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans… This is the time to heal in America.”
Singer Katy Perry appeared to have followed his advice. On November 8, she tweeted, “The first thing I did when the presidency was called is text and call my family members who do not agree and tell them I love them and am here for them.”
But kindness is not politeness. Like I said, it’s much harder than that. Kindness is considerate, wholeheartedly selfless action. Yes, kindness is essential to our nation’s healing, but it must be genuine to actually work.
As was made clear last week, a lot of people voted for Donald Trump. Young people came out in waves for Biden— except one group. Just over 40 percent of white youth voted for Trump. In an increase from 2016, more than half of white women voted for Trump. All of this support, despite impeachment by the House, an obliterated economy, almost a quarter million dead from an unnecessarily rampant virus, numerous sexual assault allegations, multiple racist and sexist tirades and a lack of commitment to the American people.
I often consider what journalist Nikole Hannah Jones said in a panel about suffrage.
“If you are a white woman watching this panel, I’m gonna evoke this sign that I saw at the Women’s March right after Trump was elected. There were these white women sitting together and they had a sign that said, ‘If Hillary had won, we’d be at brunch right now.’ That’s the problem. Life was not good for your sisters of color and it wouldn’t have probably been good for your sisters if Hillary had won.”
Kindness is empathy, and then putting your clarified understanding in motion. Even though Black and brown communities have historically been the change makers in American society (just look at the election), white people have always been the gatekeepers. White supremacy, invigorated by celebrated individualism, so runs through the course of our country that we cannot have real progress until we (you, me and other white people) accept our advantages in a racist society and actively seek to dismantle it. Inaction is complacency; kindness is the solution.
To start, take a look at this list of resources that includes books, film and podcasts by NPR.