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Be They

The first time I heard the story of Kitty Genovese was in an introductory psychology class way back in undergraduate school. As the story goes, in 1964, Genovese was attacked in her Brooklyn neighborhood during the wee hours of the morning while returning home from work. Genovese’s cries for help went unanswered as her assailant stabbed her twice, ran away, came back several minutes later, stabbed her several more times, raped and left Genovese for dead. Neighbors had heard Genovese’s pleas for help, but as my psychology teacher explained, no one called the police because everyone thought that someone else would report the crime. No one did, so Genovese died a bloody, violent death in front of several onlookers. Genovese died, in part, at the hands of they.

Who is they? They is that seemingly innocuous person or group of persons who stands ever so slightly off to the side, making comments and giving false impressions of their intent to render assistance when, most of the time, they won’t. We all know they. In fact, every one of us, at some time or another, has quoted they. It went something like this: “Oh, you know what they say [insert statement or opinion that we don’t want to take personal responsibility for or that keeps us from actually having to do anything meaningful or put any skin on the line to stand up for something].”

They also is notorious for dropping the ball when expected to do something that we ourselves don’t want to do. It could be something as simple as picking up a strewn gum wrapper from the floor to inconveniencing ourselves to provide another with food, clothing, or shelter. When we see situations like this, we often do nothing and soothe our conscience with the assurance that they or they’s close companion, someone, will take care of it. They may or may not, but anytime we give any indication that we’re depending on they to do something, one thing we know for sure is that we won’t.

After having such a long, intimate connection with they, there are some things we’ve come to recognize. They is a fickle somebody, coming and going at will, acting and reacting at whim. At this crucial time in our history, too much is at stake in our communities, our schools, and our nation to put our trust and our hopes in they. If things are going to change—truly change—we, more specifically, you and I, must get to work and take personal responsibility for the change we desire to see. Otherwise, our hopes and our dreams, like Kitty Genovese, will die at the hands of they.

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