Learn the Platinum Rule

The words we use can be simultaneously inclusive and exclusive. It is a matter of perception, unconscious bias and the very essence of who we think we are. 

This can become explosive when we are crossing cultures. For instance, when we use terms like illegal or illegitimate as a prefix to anything — immigrant, citizen, child — we are deliberately denigrating the people to whom it is being addressed. This will strengthen the views of those who support and oppose the prefix.

Or consider the response when some members of white culture hear the term “Black Lives Matter”; they feel excluded and immediately counter with “All Lives Matter.” But when black citizens use the term Black Lives Matter, they are specifying a context in which they, their friends, relatives, neighbors and other people of color are systematically abused and killed by police officers. The references are real, personal and immediate. At least once a week, there is report of a black male being killed by a police officer under implausible circumstances. The term Black Lives Matter addresses this systematic continuing history of racism specific toward people of color.

Those who cannot understand this share the ignorance of those in power situations who, even if they mean well, have not mastered the cultural competence to see the world from multiple perspectives. White people’s blind spot is often due to their inability to see the world from another perspective.

The statement “All Lives Matter” is a mindset for people looking for universal principles based on their perspective of reality, not a mindset from someone who is being oppressed. White politicians and others are operating from the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. But they must learn the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they want to be treated. If those who seem sympathetic to the cause do not get it, how can we expect others who are disinterested or worse to appreciate the meaning of Black Lives Matter?