skip to content
Logo Logo Nick Hodges

The Content of Your Character

/ 3 min read

One of the things I like to say, because I firmly believe it, is this:

I prefer to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

Now, this is a factual statement. It is not up for debate. It is quite true that I do prefer to judge people that way. Not a disputable statement.

But when I say this, I find that some folks react…strangely. They seem to think this is some kind of affront to something. But they never seem to be able to explain what, exactly, is, you know, wrong with this view.

They often say something like “That isn’t what MLK meant,” or “Yeah, people say that, but he also said <some other MLK quote that doesn’t really apply>.” Or they say that saying this is somehow giving aid and comfort to the right-wing or “that is what white supremacists say!” (WTF…?) It is hard to know exactly what is going on. So I am confused.

I like to think that I live my life in keeping with the quote. I’m not perfect, and so I’m sure that I don’t live up to the standard set in the quote, but I want to, and I try to. I don’t want to behave in a racist manner, but I don’t presume to be perfect on the matter. But I promise you I try.

I would think that the statement is exactly what people concerned about racism want to hear. I would assume that if I am, say, a shopkeeper, most folks wouldn’t want me to make a snap decision about someone who walks into my store based on their race and thus judge them on the color of their skin. They wouldn’t want me to have a clerk follow someone around to prevent shoplifting because they belonged to a given racial group. Being a member of a given group shouldn’t say anything at all about that person’s propensity to steal, right?

So, I assume that instead of judging that person as they walk into my shop by the color of their skin, I would guess that the right thing to do is to reserve judgement about that person until they reveal their character. Right?

In addition, I wouldn’t want to think that everyone I meet of a given race is poor or criminals or on drugs. Instead, I think most folks would want me to wait to make such a judgement until their character was revealed. Right?

So, I’m going to continue to judge folks by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. And I urge you to do the same.