Skip to main content

A lot of folks don't realize this, but one of the demands of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) in seeking to desegregate the City of Montgomery's busses was:

Better treatment and more courteous actions

on the part of Montgomery's bus drivers: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/...

After more than a hundred years of racism being used both as a political weapon and as a means of economically controlling a segment of the American population, after lynchings and countless acts of violence were visited upon African Americans living in the post-Reconstruction South, when the time came for direct action to break the strangle hold of Jim Crow one of the first demands civil rights workers made was for better treatment, and more courteous actions.

That simple request reverberates today as we try to honor the victims of Saturday's massacre in Arizona.

What does it mean to treat someone better and act more courteously toward them? We all know what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean "targeting" them politically by putting gun sites on a map. It doesn't mean dialing up the political rhetoric and then publishing their home address in the hopes that people will "go and talk to them". It doesn't mean engaging in racist or sexist or homophobic slurs.

But what does it mean?

For me, it means in the middle of a political debate tempering my language in such a way that I never close the door so hard that I can't come to an agreement with someone in the future. It means calling out the bad and praising the good as I see it with each public figure, and being open to the possibility that someone with whom I might normally disagree might actually be right or have valid points to make on a number of different topics.

It means taking a breath before responding to someone in a comment thread and beginning my questioning of their position with the words: I respectfully disagree.

Not everyone is going to have the same working definition of courtesy and respect as I do, and that's okay. Not everyone is even going to agree that courtesy is needed right now, and some folks are probably going to make the argument that you can't be courteous with someone who isn't courteous to you in return. That's an understandable emotional response when one feels disrespected or attacked.

But, if we want to change our country for the better, we need to start at home and change the small things that we can. If everyone here starts reflecting on how our words may be heard by others, if we attempt to be wise even while cracking wise, we might be able to infect other people we come into contact with and infuse them with the virus of respect.

Josh Marshall on Countdown last Saturday compared the vitriolic discourse in politics to a contagion that affects all of us, but that affects the weakest among us the most. I think we need to counter that contagion with one of our own, one built on love and respect and an understanding of our shared humanity.

Or as Dr. King put it:

Originally posted to grannyhelen on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 08:31 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site