Just Another Number

When thinking about the housing crisis in 2008, I think about how inhumane and insensitive we must have become as a human race in order to get to the point that it came to. The housing market crash is directly related to greed, naivety and ignorance- all connected to the nature of humanity. Families were viewed as another number in the crisis. Their humanity was stripped away from them, and their displacement was not thought about for too long, as long as the top 1% were benefiting from the rest of the worlds pain and misfortune. After reading A Mercy by Toni Morrison, which was “coincidently” published in 2008, I notice the same kind of ignorance within the characters and their inability to see other humans as a whole rather than another number in the world. Just like the housing crisis, A Mercy highlights the pain many of the characters endure, however they lack the tools to fully understand why this pain is occurring and where the pain is derived from. The lack of tools to interpret each other has functioned as a way to expel people from the places that they once called home, whether it is literally or figuratively.

In this beginning of the semester, we watched a film in my “Expulsion and the Housing Crisis” course called The Old Man and the Storm. In this film, we became connected to Gettridge, an 82 year old man in New Orleans, and his family. This family was devastatingly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, causing his children and grandchildren to be displaced and his wife taken away and put in a nursing home. For years, Gettridge worked hard to rebuild his home and bring his family back. According to Season 2009: Episode 5 in the Frontline, “The moving personal story of Mr. Gettridge and his family reveals the human cost of this tragedy, the continued inadequacies of government’s response in the aftermath of Katrina, and how race, class, and politics have affected the attempts to rebuild this American city”. Gettridge expresses how he received little to no financial assistance from the government to rebuild his home, which should have been enough for him to pack up his stuff to move out. However, Gettridge is resilient and refused to be another number to the government and their lack of tools to see him as an actual human being.

Just like Gettridge in The Old Man and the Storm, we see the same inability in the characters of A Mercy to view each other as human beings. We become aware of the forces that allow them to easily expel each other from the places they call home. For instance, Lina is unable to see Sorrow for more than what she appears to be; quiet, inadequate, and evil. Lina does not hold back on how she views Sorrow; “In Sorrow’s presence, eggs would not allow themselves to be beaten into foam, nor did butter lighten cake batter. Lina was sure the early deaths of Mistress’ sons could be placed at the feet of the natural curse that was Sorrow” (Morrison, pg. 65). Lina doesn’t have the tools and compassion to see past her appearance and her name. However, I am unsure if Lina has no desire to comprehend Sorrow, or I should say Complete, on a deeper level or she physically lacks the tools to be able to do so. Whether she has the tools and chooses not to use them, or doesn’t have the tools accessible to her, she is still engulfed with the same naivety and ignorance as the CEOS during the Housing Crisis. Not only is Complete expelled from her home on the boat due to a storm, but she is expelled from her new home with the Vaark’s due to Lina’s inability to comprehend her and see her more than just another number on the farm.

When deeply analyzing the actions of other beings, we can be quick to say, “oh, that’s just human nature”. Throughout this blog post, I keep asking myself, why? Why is it important to understand the actions of others? Well, for a starter, it is important to understand each others actions because it allows us to understand what they don’t know. For instance, can we truly judge Lina for being so cautious around Complete, if she doesn’t know her whole story? (I’d like to point out, I am purposefully referring to her as Complete and not Sorrow because it is the name she gave herself, and one’s identity shouldn’t be given to them by someone else). I personally don’t think we should be judging Lina per se, but we should be hoping that Complete can have the patience to open Lina’s eyes to a new perspective and world, and hope that Lina can learn to see her as a whole human being, not just what she wants her to see. The same thing can be applied to the housing crisis. Can we truly judge the CEO’S and upper class for being so ignorant during a crisis, if all they’ve ever known was ignorance? Instead of falling into the human nature of judging, we should be hoping that someone can open their eyes to a new perspective, and that these individuals are full human beings, with real hardships, emotions, and blessings. It should be mutual. We should be trying to understand, comprehend and learn from each other, instead of trying to label each other off of what we know and not trying to understand what we don’t know. Instead of focusing on the tools and knowledge that we lack, we should be focusing on ways to better ourselves and understanding each other on a deeper level. If we don’t give each other this opportunity, we will all stay as a number, be forced out of our home. We all have a story to tell, we just need to use the tools we have accessible to us to listen and learn.

After I submitted my post, I continued on with my quarantine routine, which looks a lot like many of yours probably. Homework, tv, self-care, laying in bed, and calling family members. When on the phone with a cousin of mine, we discussed what was going on around our world. Unfortunately, a close friend of hers past away due to COVID-19. Together, we walked through her emotions. Im sure a lot of people are feeling the same away about a lost one due to COVID-19, that their loved ones passing feels disconnected, cold and too soon as you’re unable to mourn the proper way. As I tried my best to comfort and console her, I realized that I found myself talking about numbers. It feels like your loved one is just another statistic, another COVID-19 victim. They are no longer identified as someones friend, mother, father, brother, sibling or spouse, but “someone else to add to the data”. I found myself thinking about the World War Victims and 9/11 victims and how the news lacked the tools to comprehend that each one of these numbers is a full human being with a story to tell. These forces expel them from their home base and identity causing them to be seen as half of their full self. Lets not let ourselves get caught in this trap. Lets not watch the news and here a statistic and think of it as another number. Take the time to really understand the depth of that number, and pray that for every person who gets added to the disconnected list, may their memory be eternal.

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