I got an email from a college friend, Michele, that read the post “Haunting Memory Finally Makes Sense”. She said, “You mention now, that you are older and wiser, you understand and are sorry, but would you have changed anything in the way you handled the situation? You couldn’t change your color, but would you have given him a “pass” because of his [color]?”

Interesting question. No, I wouldn’t have changed my response but I did gain insight. I don’t excuse people’s behavior but I do seek to understand what drives people to do what they do and make the choices they make. We all have history and are effected by our past experiences. Some of us will live in the horror of the past and act based on fear and hate while others will learn, forgive and move on to a better life. I see incredible courage of people forgiving and moving on through the emails and the personal stories I get from former inmates. Many people who write to me were incarcerated at Geneva as children because of abuse at home or the loss of parents and nowhere else to go.

Our world is unjust in so many ways. It damages our children and our society. Are we okay with that? It’s up to each of us as individuals to personally commit to stopping the prejudice, violence and hurt. As a start, we can speak up and intervene when we hear racist, violent and prejudice jokes or comments. It takes a lot of guts but by taking a stand, we can make a difference in our own circles that will ripple ever wider into the community. Be an example of the society you want for your children and grandchildren. We are creating it now.