I never had an occasion to question color, therefore, I only saw myself as what I was… a human being. – Sidney Poitier
What does that mean? Some of us are born into a form of luxury, being part of the majority ethnic or religious group in the local area. Others are born into the minority. For those of us in the majority, this quote may seem obvious.
For those born in the minority, however, it can be hard to not see the difference. Every day, in every face that is different. In every disapproving glance or cold-hearted stare. For someone to be able to move beyond that, to see through or past such petty distinctions, is amazing.
That is what makes the quote, and the person who said it, so special. To have come from such humble beginnings, and to have broken through on stage and in movies as a black man in a white world is impressive enough. To have done so with such class and dignity, that’s truly spectacular.
Why is the dignity of our fellow humans important? I would imagine that even as one of the most privileged of a majority population, you’ve almost certainly been subjected to some form of humiliation at some point in your life. It might have been at school or at home, in the neighborhood or while far from home. But it happened, right?
The rest of us have had our dignity degraded at some point or another. And it’s fairly likely that it’s happened more than just a few times. What does it feel like, to be humiliated? How do you react in such circumstances? I can’t think of a time when it was pleasant, either the experience or my reaction.
So then why would we want to put someone else through something similar? I know I wouldn’t. From the basis of his quotes, I doubt the author of this quote would either. I believe we should always treat people with dignity, recognizing them as what they truly are, a human being.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Yet some people still insist on repeating the mistakes of the past. Why would anyone want to put someone else through something similar? The most common response I’ve seen for that kind of behavior is that it’s an institutional behavior.
Whether it’s tradition, an initiation rite or some other form of ritual abuse, it keeps going because it always has been that way. Or sometimes it is far more personal. Because they suffered, others must also suffer, just to make things “even.” Well, that’s how it works in their minds, at least.
It takes a slightly different attitude to break from that cycle of abuse and restore dignity to the people involved, as well as all who would follow after them. But treating others with dignity isn’t just about stopping existing initiations or rituals.
There are other institutionalized behaviors which are affronts to the dignity of our fellow human beings. There are local areas where a minority had become the majority, and others are not welcomed in their part of town. To me, that is no better than the behavior once directed at them.
In the words frequently associated with Gandhi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” If one group affronts the dignity of another, even if there is historical prescient or a past justification, it does nothing to make life better for either group.
Nor does it help any of the individuals improve their lives. How much different the world seems when you consider that person as a single human being, and not a label or a group. It’s easy to say “they did something to me, so I must get even with them”.
It’s much harder to say that to a person who has never done you any harm, nor treated you with anything less than the kindest behavior. Treating others with dignity, treating them as an equal, and a valuable member of the human race is simply the best and most proper thing to do.
It won’t always be easy, especially when dealing with those who at some point in the past, actually have treated you poorly, as something less than a human being. But that is when it is most important to rise above the petty eye-for-an-eye attitude and to break the cycle.
You can’t control how they will react or respond. Some people are beyond our ability to reach. However, that doesn’t make it right for you to sink to their level. Yes it will be tough, but the right path is rarely easy, or it would be much more crowded.
Treat others as you would like to be treated, as simply another human being. Not better, not worse, just another person trying to grow and become a better person. Treat them with dignity. You will make a difference. Not in them, but in yourself. And that’s what matters the most.
From: Twitter, @patricksplace
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/sidneypoit272842.html
Photo by roger_alcantara
Happy Birthday to an acting legend, Sir Sidney Poitier, born 20 February, 1927.