When national impact atrocities occur of the magnitude of the death of George Floyd, it is impossible not to sense the haunting tap on the shoulder of the Golden Rule convicting all of us of the guilt of social injustice.
If the rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” governed every action of every person, regardless of background, there would be no prejudice, no racism, no bigotry, no discrimination.
And let’s be frank here, no person or group holds license to be pious in the discussion of violation of the Golden Rule. Racism, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination are multi-directional. We have all been victims of one or more of these anti-social behaviors to one degree or another. In their bestseller “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,” authors Ori and Rom Brafman group the aforementioned anti-social behaviors under the label “value attribution … our inclination to imbue a person or thing with certain qualities based on perceived value.”
The Brafmans cite a 2007 Washington Post undercover field study conducted during rush hour in a subway beneath the streets of Washington, D.C., where the celebrated violinist Joshua Bell, who performed in stunning fashion on a 3.5 million Stradivarius violin (check out the performance video on YouTube), Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, was virtually ignored by 1,087 passerby. Joshua Bell was dressed in a baseball cap, shirt, and jeans. He appeared to be a street musician. With the exception of one woman who recognized Bell and stopped in disbelief to appreciate the performance, Joshua Bell was judged and therefore prejudiced against because of perceived value attributed to him.
As we all grapple with social atrocities of the past, present, and those we fear for the future, it is counterproductive to generalize the behavior of one individual or group belonging to a category of race, gender, ethnicity or profession (i.e. law enforcement) onto all individuals of a particular category.
Agendas, politics and deflection will add nothing of value to the discussion in our effort to bring healing, justice, and harmony among all people. True resolve for social injustice will arrive only when we all subscribe to a daily gut-check of how we treat others and determine personally that we will treat others only as we want to be treated ourselves.
About the author: Dan Hawkins, of Lake Ann, Michigan, is the Kingsley village manager. Hawkins is a former adjunct sociology instructor at NMC. He earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Akron and a master’s in public administration from Eastern Michigan University.
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