A Simple Lesson Learned

by Michael Ko


“Treat Others How You Would Want to be Treated”

This is a phrase I’ve been told throughout the early years of my life, but only in college have I realized that it can be dangerous to abide by. While I understand the sentiment, I now know that the logic behind this phrase can be used to push one’s own values onto others.

Just because you aren’t bothered by something doesn’t mean the feelings of those who are bothered are invalid.

I see this all the time back in Bakersfield. A POC friend of mine made a racist joke about Koreans that I didn’t appreciate and I later let him know that I was uncomfortable. While they did give an apology, they prefaced it by saying that they didn’t care if someone made a racist joke about their own culture to them. They tried to justify why they said the joke and in the process tried to imply that they were not in the wrong because I was just being overly sensitive. It’s easy to fall into this trap of thinking that because something doesn’t bother you that it shouldn’t bother others. But this way of thinking ignores the vast differences in experiences and personalities that you may have with others and serves to invalidate the viewpoint of others.

Honestly, I can’t say that I don’t still do this. I still find it easy to be defensive if I say something that I thought was harmless. It’s easier to be defend myself than to admit that I did wrong. But I learned that when I made such a mistake it is important to completely accept responsibility, to learn from the mistake, and to not make it again. I saw what how my friends were affected if I didn’t own up to my missteps and I realized that I would never grow as a person if I followed down this same path. Don’t make excuses; especially not while making an apology.


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