Why Judge a Book by Its Cover but Not a Person by Appearance

The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” is usually used to explain why we shouldn’t judge people by the way they look or dress. While it makes for a nice metaphor, it is literally wrong, and it highlights one of the basic ways that people see the world.

Literally Wrong

A good book cover is created to entice people, who will enjoy the book, to read it. It doesn’t make sense for the cover to mislead readers because the book will get bad reviews and the author will lose credibility. Romance books use romance covers, so romance readers know what they are getting and those that dislike romance stay away – the same is true of every other book out there. It’s okay to judge a book by its cover because the cover should lead you to an expectation of what you’re going to read. Fulfilling that expectation will lead to a better reading experience and cause you t gravitate to the author’s other works. If you couldn’t judge a book by its cover, which includes the summary on the back, you probably wouldn’t bother spending the $8 to $30 on a copy only to find out three pages in that the book isn’t what you expected or wanted.

How People Judge

Human beings judge everything by the way it looks. Fruits are grown and bred for their appearance rather than their taste. Cars are purchased based on how they look, and how those looks will affect the perception of the driver, rather than how they perform or how practical they are. People spend billions of dollars every year on make-up, plastic surgery, hair dye, and body modifications, and they are judged by others based on how they look.

It’s a basic tenet of human nature that we judge those who look like us as better than those who look differently. This basic tendency is why there’s institutional racism and sexism. The people who do the interviewing are more comfortable with hiring someone who looks like him or her, and they will base their decision on their gut instinct without examining why the instinct is there or what it’s really telling them.

While it is perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover, people aren’t books and should not be judged by how they look. We’re all still going to do it because it’s a built-in survival mechanism. When something confirms our biases, we’re going to place more emphasis on those incidents than on the events that contradict what we believe internally. Even with clear and rational observation and logic, we’re still going to tend to fall back into our old habits and instincts that don’t serve us anymore. We need to be vigilant and courageous to stand up to our own prejudices against those who are different from us. Until we can face our own shortcomings and know our own beliefs, we will continue to fall into the trap of judging people by how they look instead of by what they do.

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No Solution is Acceptable for Mass Shootings; What Do We Do?

I don’t even know where to approach this from. There just isn’t any logical place to start with. What do you do when someone shoots up a garlic festival or a Wal-Mart? That’s where my thoughts end because there doesn’t seem to be anyway to stop it that is acceptable to half the population.

Take Guns Away

We don’t want to take away guns because they are a God given right. It says so in the Bible and is confirmed in the 2nd Amendment, which is more revered than the 1st Amendment, and which ignores the whole “well-regulated militia” part of the text. Besides, taking guns away won’t keep them out of criminal hands.

In school when a kid did something bad and the teacher couldn’t tell who it was, she punished the whole class. Everyone lost their recess privileges. Still, recess isn’t a part of the Constitution, so we’re back to where we started.

Get Better Mental Health

So, if “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then we should get people serious mental help. Psychologists and psychiatrists should be a free resource that anyone should be able to avail themselves of. There should be no barrier, money- or perspective-wise, to getting mental health. But we can’t do that because it isn’t society’s responsibility to care for its own citizens. Besides, paying for mental health care sounds even worse than paying for everyone’s physical healthcare. At least, physical problems we can see and make sure people aren’t faking. What would we do with socialist mental health care?

Clean Up Hate Speech

We could try to stop hate speech at the highest levels. By blaming the “other” and making them “rapists and murderers” intent on taking our jobs and causing the economic collapse of the American capitalist system, certain persons have created a boogeyman that is both nebulous and specific. It’s the Hispanics, the Latinos, the Muslims, those with brown-skin are at fault, and white males are ready to take out their guns to shoot whoever happens to be in the way. Bonus, if you’re a white shooter, you’re less likely to be killed than a member of another race, unless you take your own life. These factors are repeated ad infinitum until some crazy people (who can’t or won’t get mental health help) go ballistic. Unless we can see every race, religion, gender-identity, pick a trait, as human, we will continue to churn out people who are willing to kill the “pests” in our society as they are named by our leaders.

If we take away a person’s right to call other people names, then we are taking away their freedom. They have a right to assert that brown people are at the core of all our problems, and we’re just being intolerant of a point of view that is protected under the Constitution. The Constitution gives us rights. With those rights come great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. You can say racist, hurtful, ignorant things, but you shouldn’t – even if you think them, even if you believe they’re true. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” doesn’t exclude any person on this planet. Basing your actions on a person’s appearance is ignorant and idiotic. Ted Bundy was reportedly attractive.

It’s our duty to be intolerant of points of view that are advocate diminishing the personhood of any human being. It’s our duty to stand up to those who would abuse their rights and use them for evil. It’s our duty to make sure that people understand the difference between facts and stupid opinion and feigned outrage positioned as pseudo-supported editorializing. If someone is shouting “the truth” at you and you’re getting angry because it sounds like you’re being taken advantage of, it’s not the truth. Not all anger is righteous, and much of righteous anger isn’t accompanied by shouting into a television camera.

No Single Solution

Even if any of these were enacted, none of these alone will do the necessary work. Worse, these are the first things that people rally against, even before the barrel of the gun is cold. They don’t offer solutions first, they just say what we cannot do, as if the Constitution has never been altered – as if the Bill of Rights itself wasn’t an alteration. But they do not offer solutions.

Thoughts and Prayers

Instead, they offer their useless thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers about what? How do they help the dead 6-year-old and 13-year-old? How have they helped over the past 6 years or longer. Thoughts and prayers don’t do shit. But they are the last refuge of the person too enthralled in the NRA, too enthralled with his or her own wealth, or too stupid to see what’s going on. Thoughts and prayers without action are dead – just like the victims of the gun violence that brought them on and the souls of those who are decidedly against protecting the lives of those who they have sworn to protect.

Everyone Should Have a Gun

Some advocate for giving everyone a gun. Society was much more polite when people could meet out on the street at high noon and shoot each other because of a perceived slight or because they wanted to see who was the fastest draw. They fail to recognize that in the shooting of a suspect in New York, eight bystanders were injured – all of them by the police officers who are supposed to be trained with the weapons they use. The criminal didn’t shoot anyone.

Everyone Should Be Educated

Alternatively, they say there should be gun training in schools. This would be great. It might only be a partial solution, but if every child knew what a gun was, how it worked, and what it could do to other people, animals, targets, an argument could be made that there would be fewer accidental deaths in the homes that have guns. It might even work later in life for these young, white men who perpetrate these horrible crimes. But we can’t even get schools enough funding to take care of the core elements, like math, science and English. How are we going to afford gun education for every child in the U.S.? More importantly, when will it fit into the day?

Still No Solution

Education is not a panacea. It doesn’t cure everything. There are plenty of educated people who have subverted their education and decided to support the cigarette industry by denying the danger of smoking. There are plenty of educated people who have embraced tenets that are reprehensible in light of their education. Educated people can be racist, elitist, and dumb. They can choose to see poverty as a choice rather than as the systemic problem it is. Maybe, it can be a part of the solution, but by itself, unless it changes behavior, education isn’t the be-all, cure-all.

Back to the Beginning

So, what’s the solution? Until the two sides of the issue are willing to come together and discuss the issue without taking possible solutions off the table, we’ll always be where we are now. People getting shot and killed every day; some of those shootings will be mass shootings that will allow politicians to send their thoughts and prayers and 14 minutes later they can tweet well wishes to their favorite fighter. So, sit back on your couch, turn up the noise on the TV and shut your heart to the hurt of your fellow Americans. Once we’re all dead, God will sort us out. And He’ll probably wonder what we found so hard about loving our neighbor, and what was so hard about knowing He is Love and we were created in His own image.

Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ powerful commentary on America today

In BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee delivers another powerful joint. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs first black police officer, and his infiltration of the KKK in 1979 with the help of his white partner Flip Zimmerman, Lee taps into the past to cast light on the present.

The writing revels in knowledge that the characters can’t possibly have, spitting it out as a foreshadowing of America today. It’s easy enough to catch the references to “America First” and making America great again. Those less steeped in politics may fail to realize that the real David Duke, played by Topher Grace, was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 and a Republican in 1992. Making (movie) Stallworth’s belief that such a thing couldn’t happen all the sadder and more naïve.

Lee’s powerful message is on point and strikes at the heart of his audience. Seamlessly edited cuts race between the KKK ritual David Duke is running and the Black Power meeting where Jerome Turner, played by Harry Belafonte, is describing in detail the torture and death of Jesse Washington, a mentally retarded black teenager in Waco, TX. The tension mounts as Stallworth’s and Zimmerman’s identities are discovered at the KKK meeting. All of the pieces are there to bring about real tragedy, including a bomb and police brutality against one of their own.

BlacKkKlansman, however, stops short of being an indictment against all white people. Instead, it points at those who espouse racist views, those who refuse to stand up to demagogues (in a brilliantly ironic speech given by Duke), those who implement budget cuts for nefarious reasons, and those who passively allow racism to continue unobstructed. If this Lee joint enrages you as being anti-white, maybe you need to take a hard, long look in the mirror and question your beliefs, values, actions and inactions.

For the viewer that isn’t able to keep up with the MAGA and America First references, the ending shows actual news clips to bring the message into focus: Not much has changed in the last 30 years; America is as racist as ever. BlacKkKlansman is clearly a cry to bring America together through the elimination of bigotry and hate. If Stallworth could do it as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, so can we.