Khalid Latif – Stand For Hope
NYPD chaplain Khalid Latif delivers a powerful speech about the irrationality of discrimination and using our voice to stand against injustice.
Man, how short am I? A blind woman just told I’m short.
I was speaking at MIT some time ago. There’s about five or six hundred people there. I took some of my students from New York University with me and the young woman came up to me afterwards and she said, “My sister’s a really big fan of yours, can I introduce her to you?” I said, “Sure.”
She walked up to where I was standing, leading her sister all the way arm and arm because her sister was blind, she couldn’t see. We had a conversation for a few moments and as we wrapped up, this young woman who was blind, she couldn’t see, she said it me, “You know, I thought you’d be a lot taller.” I said, “What?” She said, “Your voice, it’s not coming from up here, but it’s coming from down here.” I said, “Oh.” One of my students who was with me, he said, “Isn’t that remarkable. She’s blind and she could tell how short you are.”
She didn’t need eyes to see. Do you understand? Sometimes we take the most simplistic level of understanding because all we’re seeing is what it is that we see, but we’re not getting to the depth of certain realities. I think when you take that example and you juxtapose it with the unfortunate realities that we are bombarded with day in and day out, today. That the news that you read is the same news that I read and sometimes you can’t even tell if it’s new news or old news.
Individuals so moved by egocentricity and arrogance, greed and selfishness manifesting in racism, bigotry and hatred with no interest other than the serving of their own self-interest and their ability to do so comes from segmenting and dividing us in ways that we buy into a certain antagonistic narrative of the other. You want to be able to realign to an understanding that says, “How you see people is not indicative of who they are, but how you see people will tell you a lot about yourself and if you perceive somebody solely through the way that they dress, the color of their skin, whether they have a certain accent or not.”
The fundamental question you have to ask yourself is, “Why do you see it that way?” Your organs of sensory perception, they are not limited to the eyes that you see with, the ears that you hear with, the tongues that you taste with, the hands that you touch with, even the minds that you think with, but you have a primary organ of cognition that will synthesis all of this information as it goes into you in various ways. If you don’t know why it’s processing in the way that it is, it’s just going to regurgitate the same challenges that we see day in and day out. Do you get what I’m saying?
Our deepest strengths are not when we are apart, but only when we come together in ways that we uniquely can. This is imperative to be able to reflect upon now because in your work, you will have full opportunity to decide who it is that you will serve and who it is that you will not serve. You have to ask yourself today, “What will somebody need to look like for me to not be there for them? What color of skin will the need to have? What will the texture of their hair need to be? What part of the world will they need to come from so that my education, my training, my skills will not be used for their benefit?”
What allows for the perpetration of hate and bigotry in this world, but so many more of us who have the ability to do something about it, we simply sit back and do nothing because for certain battles to be won, those battles have to take place in the first place. Don’t hold back what it is that you have the unique ability to offer. That’s the kind of goodness you want to be able to harness.
Today make an affirmation that your growth as you move forward on every tomorrow that you see will not be by understanding the other only through preconceived ideas and notions, but you will learn the stories of those that are different from you by actually being with them. To take time to understand that what it is that we are fed is not often what is reality and the gain will not be only for those that will benefit from your presence, but your perspectives will broaden in ways that you can’t even imagine.
May you be protected always from hearts that are not humble, tongues that are not wise and eyes that have forgotten how to cry. You might be the only one that is standing when everyone else is seated. You might be the only one that is speaking when everyone else is silent, but you might be that critical voice, that critical body that ignites what is needed for everyone else to get going. Go forward and be the reason that people have hope in this world.