Not too long ago, the organization I work for had a young girl volunteer with us. Her name was Khristina and she is American-born and raised, 17 years old, and a fierce advocate of Palestinian rights.
Although it was both a blessing and privilege having her help, it was also curious; as far as I'd ever checked, most Americans don't care too much about the Palestinian cause.
Why did this American family care?
Later, I found out that Khristina's family lives next-door to Palestinians. Khristina told me that as a result of this, her family has always been able to ask the questions they had about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and bring up anything they heard on the news.
They were never misled by the media. Rather, they were able to disassociate the stereotypes typically associated with Middle Eastern people in America - all it took was being educated through the humanity their neighbors offered.
Putting all of this side, I guess what is really crazy to me is that people often times judge each other on the basis of purely accidental details.
That is, every single human being lives their life with a number of accidental details attributed to their existence. For example, where you are born is not something you can control; it is an accidental feature of who you are.
In the same respect, how much money you are born into, who your parents are, the color of your skin, are all things that are accidental features of your existence.
Honestly, I have never experienced blunt forms of racism, it is so scary to think about. There are people out there who probably judge my character and intentions based off of the fact that I am an Iranian-American; an accidental feature of my existence, that I could have never controlled.
What's even scarier is that my story is far from the average. Every day, people are both discriminated against and praised on the basis of the color of their skin or their birth-place.
Despite these accidental features, however, we are all human beings. And I feel confident that Khristina and her family's ability to sympathize with the Palestinian conflict had nothing to do with their neighbors being Palestinian - and has a lot to do with them being human.
I mean, although every person has a distinct experience because we are all human, we can relate to, and understand each other. Whether it be understanding that someone has had a vastly different experience than our own, or identifying with a particular kind of joy or sadness. All human beings are firstborns, children, and at some point reach adulthood.
It is the idea that we can imagine putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes- even if we wouldn't choose to and even if they are not wearing shoes - simply because they are also someone.
Most people have a favorite color, fall in love at some point in life, work a job, experience the pain of losing a loved one, and etc.
Putting aside the accidental features of our existence, allows us to understand each other through our humanity.