Benjamin Watson, who may or not still be a New England Patriot [Note 1], tweeted this today:
We all have a role to play in correcting injustice against our fellow man. Act Courageously https://t.co/wyqfFmD7Wm
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) October 16, 2019
Mr. Watson, you can’t correct injustice once it has been done. You can protest injustice if you like but after all these years, African-Americans, in particular, need to realize that protesting injustice rarely accomplishes anything.
There is one exception which is if what you’re hoping to do is change a law or a legal decision in which instance protesting can be effective. This is simply because you’re asking for something actionable. If there is some injustice that can be corrected through a legal means, a good, high quality protest can be effective.
Where it’s totally ineffective is when there’s nothing actionable which was the case with Tommie Smith and John Carlos. They accomplished not a single thing in addressing inequality except, perhaps, “raising awareness.”
I am completely over all of the “raising awareness” without having something actionable tied to the concept. Everyone wants to “raise awareness” about something or other but rarely will people stand up and say “and here’s what I want you to do about it.”
You can’t correct injustice as if you’re speaking to a child. “If you say the N-word, I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap!” is only going to get a lot more N-words (the only word I’m aware of the English language that you aren’t allowed to speak or write unless you’re an African-American and only then under certain circumstances.) I’m a big believer in civilized language so the N-word is something we need less of rather than more.
You also can’t correct the sin of slavery either.
Ezekiel 18:19-20 ESV
“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
I am not responsible for the sins of my father nor of a great-great-great-uncle who owned 30% of a slave in Georgia.
How then do you change behaviors that lead to some sort of social injustice that cannot be accomplished through State power such as passing a law?
The author Robert Cialdini has the answer which is the same answer for persuading anyone about anything — the use of the Seven [Note 2] Principles of Persuasion from his book Influence: Science and Practice.
- Social Proof
- And in his latest book — Unity
When we met (for something like 11 seconds), I liked you and I hope you liked the audience you spoke to because we certainly liked you. When African-Americans show just a tiny willingness to like an old white guy, I’ll go out of my way to reciprocate (which is the first Principle of Persuasion)
Social proof is when people we respect in society exhibit behavior we want to emulate. People who have called President Trump a “racist” have done more harm for race relations in this country than I can imagine. Half of the country, myself included, admire the president. His actions as a private citizen and as President are not racist. Period. In any way shape or form. Period. Period. Calling someone a racist who clearly isn’t one takes away the strongest means there is to improve race relations. It deeply saddens me.
And in his latest book Presuasion, Cialdini introduced the concept of Unity.
The experience of Unity is not about simple similarities (although those can work too, but to a lesser degree, via the liking principle). It’s about shared identities.
I had written a bit on how an old white guy can have some feeling for the “black experience” and my belief now is that I can’t. Or even if I can, I won’t even try because my belief is that African-Americans strongly believe that it’s not possible. The result is that we have little of a shared identity. Yet another opportunity for Black-Americans to influence for changing behaviors is thrown out the window.
As long as African-Americans set themselves apart as something that only they can understand, there’s little chance of you persuading me of anything.
What should be the easiest shared identity to have? Love of country would be good but that’s pretty well gone out the window as well. Why oh why the “kneelers” felt they were doing anything useful or positive is something that’s beyond me and totally contrary to the principles of persuasion that actually work.
God is always a good choice. Maybe an “Invite and Old White Guy to Church Day.” I’m actually serious here although my choice of name might need some improvement. I’m always open to hearing new ways of thinking about things.
Let me end by saying the door swings both ways here and I, for one, try to consciously make some overture at least of politeness to anyone not in the Old White Guy “unity.” Today, for instance, I wanted to make sure I could pronounce a Hispanic name of a teller at the bank.
During the 1960’s, we went to a Methodist Church primarily because that’s where the Boy Scout Troop was. One day the pastor wasn’t at service and there was an older fellow filling in. This went on for several weeks and I finally asked my dad where the regular pastor was. “Well, son. He was fired [Note 3]. It was just fine with everyone that he was going to march with Martin Luther King Jr. every week and most people are in favor of the cause. What wasn’t fine was telling the congregation that we were bad people.”
Mr. Watson, it’s no different today as it was then. I’m not a bad human being except for being your ordinary, run-of-the-mill sinner. If you’d like me to change any behavior you think I might do, you need to persuade me with something that works and not something that’s guaranteed to fail.
[Note 1]: He was released but there’s talk about the Pats re-signing him]
[Note 2]: He proposed a seventh in his book Pre-suasion.
[Note 3]: I hadn’t realized you couldn’t fire a pastor. I always thought they just came with the building.