“…by the content of their character”

I think it is important to remember this part of MLK’s speech:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to confuse judging the content of character with the judging of other things like skin color.

This is a feedback problem. The reactions we get from how we behave are feedback that signal when our behavior is acceptable and unacceptable to others.

If it is made easy to believe that changing our behavior will not change the reactions we produce in others when we behave unacceptably, because we attribute their reaction to something else (like skin color), then we are less likely to change our behavior.

In his book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell traces the origin of the collection of behaviors that we recognize today as the ‘thug’ and ‘redneck’ cultures. He hypothesizes that these are evolved versions of the same culture with the same origin.

He also shows that both of these cultures were waning in American society through the first half of the 20th century, due to normal societal feedbacks that encouraged politeness, productivity, self-reliance and cooperation. However, the introduction of the welfare state reversed this course among both blacks and whites, because it enabled folks to get by without adopting these virtues.

Sowell also shows, remarkably, that the behaviors commonly associated with these cultures tend to produce the same reactions in others no matter the skin color of the person practicing them.

I recommend reading it.

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4 thoughts on ““…by the content of their character”

  1. It’s entirely irrelevant that the color of Barack Obama skin is “black” (or actually, a darker shade of brown than mine). What is relevant are his policies and his character. If one were to retrieve the various posts I have authored on this site, there’s no doubt that one would reach the conclusion that I disagree with most, if not all, of his policies. However, that has little to do with his character, which the press and left wing pundits routinely tout as above reproach.

    Dennis Prager has a great definition of hypocrisy. A hypocrite is not someone who says that other people should act one way, but then acts a different way himself. That’s simply a definition of a sinner. We are human and we all fall short. The sinner sometimes acts in a way that he recognizes as wrong, but the key is that he recognizes (and admits) that it was wrong. A hypocrite is one who says that a certain behavior is wrong when other people do it, but that it’s right when he does it.

    Barrack Obama and John Kerry are hypocrites. Let me say that again: OBAMA AND KERRY ARE HYPOCRITES!!!

    Now, let me be perfectly clear, this has nothing to do with whether or not I think they should take action in or against Syria. Rather it has everything to do with their accusations and condemnation of the Bush administration for its response to the Iraq situation as well as their politicization of the Iraqi war and their current about face in an attempt to save face for Mr. Obama’s after his foolish “red line” challenge last year. As an aside, if he hadn’t made it a point during the early years of his presidency to belittle the US in front of foreign leaders and show his weakness (for which he won an undeserved Nobel prize), perhaps Assad would have had second thoughts about using chemical weapons (assuming he did).

  2. From Don Boudreaux:

    By far, the profession that attracts into its ranks the highest proportion of two-faced shameless unprincipled and cowardly and often buffoonish egomaniacs is politics. This reality is explained, in part, by the fact that politics – compared to other professions, legal and illegal – disproportionately rewards with success and garish ‘honors’ two-faced shameless unprincipled and cowardly and often buffoonish egomaniacs.

    • That was a lesson I learned early after being disappointed again and again by who I thought were the good guys. When my friends and family ask which politicians I like, I say that I don’t trust politicians, even the ones I think I like.

      It amazes me how the illusion that politicians are doing a public service and are leaders continues for much of the population. Distance blurs narcissism. I think celebrities in Hollywood are the same, but thankfully they have to earn our dollars.

  3. I never thought that I would pass along anything that Noam Chomsky said nor that he would agree with one of the very few politicians I respect (Sarah Palin), but here it is:

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