Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But, conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I spent a good part of my life not being concerned with much of anyone except myself and later my wife. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any empathy but I just didn’t give it much of a priority. I suspect I am pretty much like most people in that regard. I saw the need but just didn’t feel enough compassion to do anything about it.
Martin Luther King Jr. was definitely one who did something about it. His words rang into my heart more than a few time in the 1960s but not enough to rattle me out of my complacency. I was a country boy and really didn’t see anyone of color until my college years. I didn’t understand why so many seemed to hate people who were a different from themselves. I was often fed the small rural town Indiana rhetoric of the 1960s that all those negroes (I use the “polite” word here; they did not) were just lazy welfare takers. Since I had no exposure to them I just assumed that was true.
Then I went to college and found out otherwise. The first two African-Americans about my age that I got to know lived in the dorm room across the hall. They were both diligent students, at least they seemed to study just as hard as I did. They didn’t seem lazy at all! As I came to know them they became good friends and thoroughly destroyed the myths I had grown up with.
Since that time over forty years ago I have always treated stereotypes of people whatever they are with great skepticism. As I grew older I became totally intolerant of people who put others in their pre-conceived boxes without so much as trying to determine if they might be wrong. In other words I started questioning “Is it right?”
I don’t know when I turned into such a radical altruist that I am today? It wasn’t a drastic change but instead increased in intensity as I aged and became wiser. When I went deaf at forty years of age and started seeing some prejudice up close and personal my feelings for others who had it much worse than I do came to the front.
Since those years I have often asked “unsafe questions” whether it was expedient or not and I have become somewhat unpopular with some groups when I bring matters of their prejudice to the forefront. I am telling you this so that you might understand some of my previous posts. When political candidates start writing off whole groups of people as lazy welfare takers I get angry indeed. Thank you Martin for showing me that the final question for all of us must be