“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”Matthew 7:12
We all know the Golden Rule, but a few years ago I learned a variation of it that I like even better, what some have called the Platinum Rule: “Do to others as they would have you do to them.” In other words, treat others the way they want to be treated.
In a previous job, I was sent to Pocatello, Idaho, during the final week of a campaign to pass a citywide non-discrimination ordinance. Around midnight the night before Election Day, campaign staff blanketed the entire town with door-hangers reminding people to vote, so residents all across town would wake up the next morning with one final nudge to get to the polls.
When we all arrived back at the campaign headquarters in the wee hours of the morning, one of my colleagues—a young, Black man—was shaken. Literally, he was shaking. “In a vast majority white town in rural Idaho,” he said, “you have no idea how terrifying it is to be a Black kid walking up to people’s houses in the middle of the night.” As a white person, of course, the thought had never crossed my mind that I might be putting myself in danger simply by hanging some get-out-the-vote literature on people’s doors—because for me, there probably was no danger in what we were doing. It was a very different experience for my Black colleague.
I will never know what it’s like to live with black or brown skin. As hard as I might try to be a racial justice advocate, I will always have more work to do to understand the experience of people of color. The lesson I learned in Pocatello is that I can’t assume their experience is just like mine, or that people of color want to be treated the same way I want to be treated. I need to do the work to understand how they want to be treated—and why.
The featured image for this post, “MN: Election Eve in Duluth, Nov. 3, 2008,” is copyright (c) 2008 AFL-CIO America’s Unions and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Image has been cropped.