[February 19, 2018] A good article by Glenn Ellmers recently focused on the “old ways” of dealing with bigotry and prejudice (link here) . Before I read it, I thought maybe he was talking about fist fights or something along those lines but he argues that the way we dealt with those problems years ago was different and better.
“If someone said something offensive about a particular class of people, there was a quick and efficient way to deal with it and one that did more to eliminate the problem than the kind of agitation we see today. Back then, if some jerk made a disparaging comment about homosexuals, I could just say, ‘Well, I happen to be gay. You got a problem with that?’ And this worked whether you were in the class of folks being disparaged or not.” – Glenn Ellmers, American write living in Washington, D.C.
Years ago, the U.S. military began a number of programs that had its basis in personal responsibility. Whether it was respecting others, reducing sexual assault, etc., each program fell in line with their core values. Emphasis was on dealing with any problem immediately and directly. We were taught – through various scenarios – how to approach bigotry and prejudice while placing responsibility where it should be.
Glenn Ellmer suggests that these older ways of dealing with such problems emphasizes clarity, individual responsibility, accountability, and honesty. It also has much to recommend it because it is effective. Here are the four virtues of such an approach:
First, it deals with the problem acutely by confronting bigotry and prejudice when and where it occurred.
Second, it makes the problem about the bigot, rather than about victimhood. It presumed that we each make our own choices.
Third, it asks a question, rather than hurling an accusation.
Fourth, when a bigot is forced to answer the question, “You got a problem with that?” it addresses the problem immediately and squarely.
Of course, this was not a perfect solution since every solution has its problems. The approach requires boldness and bluntness; something that is difficult for many folks and it entails a bit of risk. Ellmer’s approach, like that of the U.S. military, is something we should all try for the reason that it works.
Got a problem with that?
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