This evening, a question was asked elsewhere on the ‘Net that deserves to be repeated here. Along with the question, I will include my response.
Question: Will outlawing the confederate flag really change America and its views and perceptions of black people?
It is a quality question to ask, because it points to the intention of the action on several levels. However, my response is as follows…
In short, no. But I say this based upon how the question is worded.
Attempting to “change views and perceptions” of anything by getting rid of anything else fails on its face to address the real issue.
It is the actions and words of the people on all sides that drive the “views and perceptions” everyone develops over time of each other. Simply put, there are three natural mental actions – association, patterning, and profiling – that will forever be active in how people view each other. We can all gasp in horror at these actions, but it is the way everybody functions in the world. It is how the human mind evaluates the situation it finds itself in.
Some will call it the “fight or flight” approach; others complain that assumptions are being made about the people. Yes, that is correct. But all of this goes into the decision-making process of each person to address the surroundings they find themselves in. Consider:
Example 1: each of us could be driving along Somerset St. in New Brunswick at two in the morning in a convoy.
Example 2: we could all be standing outside the entrance to J&J’s world headquarters.
Example 3: we are individually in the middle of a parking lot of an abandoned housing project in Philadelphia.
We are each going to respond in our own way to what we see based upon
- our prior experiences in the area,
- the experiences in our overall lives, and
- what our comfort level is at that time.
Does that mean any of our actions are “wrong”? Generally no. Unless we are intentionally responding in a manner that is illegal, immoral, or unethical, our action – our response – is going to be based on senses. Yet, that does not condone so-called situational ethics. Nor does it condone actions that are intentionally meant to degrade, humiliate, or marginalize a specific group or individual within a group.
But this goes both ways. Just as one person will respond base on their experiences, their knowledge, their comfort, so, too, will each other person. Thus, it is up to each person, within themselves, to identify their responses that will also not be illegal, immoral, or unethical.
I agree with others who have said, we must teach our children not to “hate.” But even that term is relative within the English language. What do we mean by “hate”?
In St. Augustine’s Letter 211 (c. 424) there is the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” I freely admit I fail at this more often than I wish. Can it be done? Yes. But it takes effort every day to remind ourselves that the other person is human just as we are first. Likewise, this means putting within each persons’ mind, the established protocols or “way of life” that is accepted within both the society and the culture. Individuals do not have any right to pick and choose the fundamental aspects of both society and culture they will follow. Rules, protocols, practice previously established is accepted and adhered to unless the majority of citizens in the culture and society clearly define a change. This change is not “because I say so.” It is not because “times change.” It is because this new method is proven to be an advancement from what had been done previously. Forcing people to accept a change, solely because someone else says so is indicative of a tyrant or cabal, not an open or free society.
Yet, once everyone changes their view on this reality, the next step toward trusting irrespective of how much melanin is in our skin tissue will happen.