Thieves are lowlifes. Gang members, drug dealers, they’re all scum. Why don’t they just get a real job like the rest of us?
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard comments like this. It’s scary how comfortable we are stripping people of their humanity; something akin to roaches to be exterminated. Too often we fail to acknowledge that they’re people, just like us.
Big KRIT is one of my favorite rappers in the game right now. Heavily slept on and immensely talented. If you’re into hip-hop at all, you should check him out. In an older track, he articulates such a humbling perspective on the matter,
“It’s hard to be broke and do better. Father forgive me.”
This single line addresses so much: A sober judgment of right and wrong. Good intentions; honest weakness. It gives just a glimpse into the realities of living through adversity. Simplifying the human experience and obsessing over people’s flaws; it only leads us further and further away from legitimate understanding.
It’s easy to assume people are one-dimensional. They choose these lives. They want to be crooks. The narrative is played out in every form of media imaginable. It’s always the same: featuring the crooked villain with hell-bent selfish intent, all to be trumped by our ever so vigilant hero. Justice is inherently satisfying. We love the idea of no-gooders getting their just desserts.
But our lives aren’t scripted. No matter how insignificant to our story, people are never one-dimensional characters. When we recognize that people are multifaceted; when we learn of their history, their family, their dreams and struggles, suddenly it doesn’t feel right to call that person scum. Humans are complex, and complex situations give rise to behavior.
We can’t dismiss the realities of life, and we mustn’t be afraid of what we don’t understand.
The human experience is an accumulation of choices to be made. And some have more than others. We are born into circumstances out of our control. Financial stability, moral guidance, race, gender, location. I have to constantly remind myself of how blessed I am for my opportunities, because it’s far too easy to forget how privileged we actually are.