Let me ask you all a question. When did it become such a bad thing in our society to be ‘nice’? Really. It seems like being mean gets all the attention. “Bad Girls Club”, “The Real Housewives” series, “The Bachelor and Bachelorette”…magazines that showcase horrible behavior in order to sell more copies…fights being filmed in order for the uploader to get more views…bullies who push their victims to hurt themselves and even commit suicide…and the list goes on.
I’m a nice person. My family says I’m nice. My students say I’m nice. My friends say I’m nice. But, as I learned last week, being nice is sometimes a bad thing. Let me explain.
I had a student who was my age and for the first couple of weeks of class, we clashed. I thought some of his comments were stated in a way to provoke me, so I met with him one on one and found that he was an intelligent man who was more inquisitive than others in the class. He assured me his comments and questions were genuine, and we started to get along much better. I told him I was a blogger (love that word!) and he asked for the URL. I don’t share my blog with everyone in my life…since there are very personal things on here. But, I thought he could appreciate the content. He started e-mailing me various questions, and I gave him my cell number because it’s much easier for me to get to my texts than to my e-mail so often. Remember, this is college and we are the same age. Many faculty include their personal numbers on their syllabi, and getting together with students outside of class isn’t unheard of. I remember going to a professors’ house for a party once and it was awesome to see him as a ‘person’ instead of just my ‘prof’.
Anyhoo…after a few days, the content of his texts became sexually inappropriate, and I sent him a message telling him that needed to stop. He agreed we started texting again about everyday things, and I felt as if we could be friends once class was over and he was no longer my student.
Last week, he started texting me in the middle of the night. It started with a couple of love poems, and then, when I didn’t answer (I was sleeping), the texts became more and more vulgar, irate, and threatening. He sent around 30 texts during a 5 hour period. One of them ‘damned me to hell’, while another called me ‘a Jew whore’. More included things like making lampshades out of me and calling me names I will not type. All of them included disgusting language…things he wanted to do to me…and cursing at me because I wouldn’t answer him. I think you get my drift.
Now, let me clarify something. I’ve always been fascinated with Jewish culture and read anything and everything I can on it. For my 30th birthday, my mom had a cake made that said “Happy Bar Mitzvah, Marvin!” because I always teased her about why I didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah! I love Cynthia Freeman books in which she writes so poignantly about generations of Jewish families and their culture and issues, as well as reading Elie Wiesel and Zoe Heller. I’ve also studied the Holocaust for years, and lecture on it in my classes. Anyway…I did the 23 and ME genetic testing kit, and when it came back, it showed that on my mother’s side, my 4th great-grandparents back, were 100% Ashkenazi Jew. As these ancestors married non-Jewish folk, the amount of Jewish heritage became less and less until it’s hardly there. But I have some. And I think that’s really cool.
We talk about ethnicity in my Intro to Sociology classes, and I share my report with my students to encourage them to have their own DNA analyzed and to also see an example of genetic ancestry. That’s how this particular student knew I had some drops of Jewish blood, and sent the texts referring to that.
Are you kidding me? Because I have a SMALL percentage of Jewishness, that’s going to be used against me in such a vulgar, despicable, hateful way?
I’m a white woman. And I’ve experienced very little discrimination in my life. All of my profs and later, my male colleagues and deans have been nothing but supportive of me as I’ve gone through college and then built my career as a professor.
But now, seeing that people can take something about you…something you can’t control like ethnicity (and of course race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, developmental disabilities, etc.) and make it so spiteful and ugly was shocking to me. It gave me a teeny insight into how minorities are treated in our society everyday and it makes me…well…to be honest, I have no idea what word to use. It’s simply horrible.
I talk about prejudice and discrimination in my classes…and I’ve had black students, gay students, and transgender students talk to me about terrible things they have experienced. Simply because of who they are. Simply because of a color. A preference. A knowledge of their true self. That’s it. And that’s the basis for hatred? What kind of world are we living in?
I tried to get an Order of Protection against this student, and the judge, at AN EMERGENCY HEARING WHERE THE LAW STATES THE RESPONDENT CAN’T BE THERE SINCE THEY ARE THE THREAT, allowed this man to BE IN THE COURTROOM WITH A LAWYER and allowed him to ‘testify’, submit ‘evidence’, and question me. I had to act as my own lawyer (per the judge’s order) and actually question this man at an EMERGENCY HEARING AGAINST HIM (and yes, there was a police report filed because the texts were considered to be so threatening)! It was completely wrong…I was ambushed by these men…and I left during a recess because I’m not a lawyer and had absolutely no idea why the Judge would allow this man to be there. They are supposed to be served papers AFTER the EMERGENCY HEARING and then a trial date set where BOTH can attend with representation. It was hellish at best. (And yes, I’m pursuing this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. What if this had been a battered woman, and she had to go against the man still living in her home? She would have walked away and gone back to even more abuse…it’s terrible to even think about).
So…this man, who turned our ‘friendship’ into something so ugly and outrageous is basically the ‘winner’. Simply because I wasn’t awake in the middle of the night to answer his first texts. Wow.
At any rate, here’s what my friends and family told me: “Professor K, you just can’t be so nice to people anymore. People will use it against you and hurt you. Stop being so kind! It’s simply a different world now.” And these people, who I love, are right! Look where kindness and niceness can get us. Look how people will use anything they can against you. Look at how something ‘good’ can turn ‘bad’ so quickly.
I don’t want to live in a world where kindness and niceness are bad. I don’t want a future grandbaby to grow up in such a world. I want the nice and kind to be the rule…not the exception. How can we make this happen? And for all of you out there, who have been harassed, hurt, discriminated against, and judged because of who you are, I’m truly sorry. For anything and everything you have suffered. I got a teeny taste of it, and for people to face that every day is unimaginable to me. I pray for the day this all stops. Where we accept each other for our character…and nothing else. And for those of you who live this everyday, God bless you. You are special. You are loved. And you are respected. Especially by me.
Professor K ❤