“Why I Left the KKK”: One Man’s Revelation

In The Republic, Socrates asked whether we should be good and just, and why.

A listener suggested that if we are trusted we’ll do better in our business and personal relationships.

But what if no one knows you are a good person?

“The gods will know, and reward us,” observed another.

But what if the gods don’t know that you’re good? Socrates pressed.

Later, I read Emerson on the same topic. His Minister had lectured that while the wicked are often successful, and while the righteous can be miserable, at least compensation would be made in the next life.

Emerson felt that the fallacy lay in conceding that the base estimate of the market constitutes success, and assuming that justice is not done now.

What really makes us happy? Doing ill to others? Stepping on others so we can get ahead?

What Emerson and Socrates were getting at was made more real to me when I heard a man talk about why he had left the KKK.

He and his wife had become so filled with hatred in that organization that misery had overtaken their lives. They left because acting hatefully, hurting others, had ended up mostly hurting themselves.

As it turns out, when we work to harm others we harm ourselves.

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 16, 2012, in psychology, race/ethnicity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The power of context is what comes thru here for me. We are the meaning-makers; what happens around us only “makes sense” when we make sense of it; occurrences don’t carry around a particular meaning as part of what they are – we provide it. Thus the KKK family found their living inside a KKK-provided system of hatred did not provide them peace. Some might have gotten frantic and done something extreme, like a lynching, to prove the “reality” of their viewpoint, rather than question the underlying context they had embraced – perhaps this is behind the “wisdom” of the mob. If we accept our role as meaning-makers, we can establish an environment that is aligned with our values, such as goodness and justice, and that is what gets reflected back to us and shows up within us.

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