“Think before you Speak” – It probably should be “Learn Before you Speak”


This is a primarily a blog dealing with business issues. The First Friday Book Synopsis is a monthly gathering in which Karl Krayer and I present synopses of useful, best-selling business books.

But, I also write frequently about social justice issues, partly because I also present one synopsis a month of books dealing with social justice, poverty, race, and education issues at the Urban Engagement Book Club (sponsored by CitySquare).

And, as everyone else has, I have thought long and hard, and read much, about the horrible shooting by a white supremacist domestic terrorist in Charleston that took the lives of 9 black worshippers while in church.

And, I’ve thought about this:

We all know the old and good adage, “Think before you speak.” It is very good advice indeed. I know, in my own life, there have been so many times that I wish I could pull words back into my mouth.

But, as smart and wise as the adage “Think before you Speak” is, maybe it needs to be preceded by this:

“Learn before you Speak.”

Let’s consider just one issue. I think every person in our country, before he or she speaks about the Confederate Flag, owes it to the conversation to read about its origins, the “cornerstone” on which the Confederate States of America was built.

That word “Cornerstone” is chosen on purpose. Because, it comes from the “Cornerstone Speech,” delivered by Alexander Stephens, the one and only Vice President of the Confederate States of America. You do remember, don’t you, that the Confederate Flag is associated with the Confederate States of America?

The entire Cornerstone Speech demonstrates, in certain terms, that that nation was built on the very premise of white superiority and black inferiority. Here is a key passage. The “opposite idea” refers to the United States’ founding on the premise that “all men are created equal.” Here’s the excerpt:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
Alexander Stephens, Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861

Note:  he called this a “great moral truth.”  To state the obvious, I strongly disagree.  (Read the full speech here).

Now, obviously anyone who wants to can state an opinion about the Confederate Flag. But, if I hear someone do so, the first question I want to ask is “Have you read the Cornerstone Speech by the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens?” If not, they have not learned before they offered their opinion.

This principle — “Learn before you Speak” — strikes me as a good principle. And, in areas where what people think really matters, maybe it is an essential practice to learn.

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