INSULTS: LESSONS FROM THE CASE OF THE MAN SENTENCE TO JAIL FOR MOCKING DISABLED GIRL
Earlier this year, I wrote on this blog about a YouTube video called “Making the Bus Monitor Cry” (see posts titled MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: RATING HER RESPONSE, MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: WHY THE BOYS DID IT and MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: RATING THE SCHOOL’S RESPONSE). During that sad episode several youngsters tormented a 67-year old bus monitor, bringing her to tears.
This week another YouTube video dealing with insults that made someone cry went viral. This one is called, Bus Stop Ignorance.
In the video we see 43-year-old William Bailey taunting Hope Knight, a ten-year old girl with cerebral palsy. Hope uses crutches and Mr. Bailey, in the video, mocks the way she walks. He also gets his son to join him in the taunting.
According to ABC news, Mr. Bailey was caught on an iPod camera by Hope’s grandmother, Marie Prince, while she was picking up Hope at the school bus stop.
William Bailey “was dragging his leg and patting his arm across his chest to pick his son Joseph up,” said Hope’s dad. “I asked him to please stop doing this. ‘My daughter can see you.’ He then told his son to walk like the R-word.”
On Nov. 27, Judge John A. Poulos of the Canton Municipal Court sentenced Mr. Bailey to 29 days in jail.
Here, sitting in front of her mother, we see Hope covering her eyes to hide her tearful reaction as the taunting is discussed.
Hope was born 29 weeks premature after the Knights were involved in a head-on auto collision. When Hope was born, she weighed only two pounds, 12 ounces, which caused several medical problems resulting in two brain surgeries. She fought for her life the first two years. And now, to have to face this….
Here’s Mr. Bailey and his son being interviewed about this incident.
Mr. Bailey at first denied mocking Hope. But then he said he was reacting to name-calling directed at his son. Mr. Bailey entered a plea of ‘no contest’ to a menacing charge and to disorderly conduct.
Through his lawyer, Mr. Bailey has provided an apology. “To Hope and her family, please accept my apology for my inappropriate behavior. I know that my actions were immature and lacked the respect you deserve. I didn’t realize the impact this incident would have upon both of our families and I truly regret it.”
So, there you have it. According to Mr. Bailey, he insulted the girl as a reaction to someone, presumably from the Knight family, calling his son names. He doesn’t say who started it, but most people would agree that even if someone from the Knight family started the name calling first, Mr. Bailey’s reaction was still wrong.
It is interesting that many people who responded to the video and felt Mr. Bailey’s actions were wrong included in their criticism of him, insults and advocated that someone needed to beat him up. For example, one person wrote, “I’d be worried about this idiot and his idiotic son retaliating when he’s released. Anyone with that cruel type of mentality is not to be trusted.” Another wrote, “Would love to beat the living crap out of this turd.”
According to the DIG Conflict Model we have been discussing, providing criticism with physical attacks is the lowest level of psychological maturity on a five-level scale (see post titled PROVIDING NEGATIVE CRITICISM: FIVE LEVELS OF MATURITY). Calling a person names or insulting the person in other ways is a level 2 response, the second lowest level of maturity. Both physical attacks and insults increase the probability of an escalation until someone gets killed. The last thing that is in the best interest of ten-year old Hope is for her father to end up dead.
Rather then to think of Mr. Bailey as an idiot, the DIG Conflict Model teaches us to view him at some very specific level of psychological maturity. It also provides us some very specific information about what he has to learn to reach a higher level.
I know that many people feel that for most situations the five levels of criticism make sense but when someone acts as Mr. Bailey did, it’s time to put the five levels aside. Moreover, they feel that it is perfectly correct to call him every name in the book!
Well, let me see if I can encourage those individuals to change their minds without calling them any names.
First of all, one reason that I view styles of providing criticism in a developmental framework is it fits my own personal experience.
When I was very young, I remember distinctly some kids in my elementary school insulting someone that was a little different than the rest of us. I laughed along, finding the situation genuinely funny.
As I matured, at one point, some students called a kid that was also a little different than us some names, and I laughed, but as I did, I remember feeling that it wasn’t quite right. Later that day, as we went down the stairwell at school, I told the kid I was sorry.
Then, one day I had a party and many of my friends brought dates. At one point during the party, a couple of my friends started teasing another friend about bringing a girl to the party who wasn’t very smart. They teased him in front of the girl, and I noticed her face turning very red. I found that I did not laugh at all. I thought the girl’s reaction would be enough to get my friends to stop insulting her, but a couple of minutes later they said something about her that was even more insulting. I asked to speak to them, and we went into another room for some privacy.
“You know I love you guys,” I began, “but the things you’re saying about that girl, I’d like you to cut it out.”
“Hey,” said one of my friends, “can I help it if that girl has the intelligence of a kumquat!”
I must admit that I did let out a little involuntary laugh at this–something about the kumquat comparison struck me funny. But I very quickly recovered and said, “The girl is really feeling bad about this teasing.”
“Listen,” said my friend, “we all tease each other and have some fun with it. If she can’t take a little teasing, it’s her own damn fault!”
“I don’t think continuing to humiliate her is the best way to get her to be more mature,” I replied. “Please, give her a break.”
They waved their hands at me, complaining I was turning into a political correctness police officer, but in the end, they let her alone.
Notice that as I criticized them, I didn’t use any name calling and it was certainly not my intention to throw any insults at them. Also notice that from my experience, I changed in a particular direction as I matured.
Now, there are a great deal of additional arguments that I can make about the value of a developmental perspective, but allow me just one more for today’s post.
The story involves the first black major league baseball player, Jackie Robinson and his team mate, Pee Wee Reese.
Just before Mr. Robinson began to play in the majors for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Dodgers’ general manager, Branch Rickey, made it clear to him that he would face criticism in the form of the most vile insults. If he was to play, Robinson had to show the courage to not return insults with insults or to lose his temper and jeopardize the chances of all the blacks who would follow him if he could help break down the race barriers.
If Mr. Robinson couldn’t return the insults, could nothing be done? On one particular day when fans were being particularly insulting to Mr. Robinson, the smallest ballplayer on his team, Pee Wee Reese, stepped out of the dugout. Mr. Reese was a beloved player with the fans for his hard, hustling play. He stepped over to Mr. Robinson, put his arm around him and stood by his side.
This gesture was discussed around the country, and even today. And a monument honoring this moment stands tall and strong in Brooklyn.
If you go by it some day and watch for a while, from time to time you’ll see a grandfather describing to his grandson how the statue symbolizes what can be done even by two men who responded to insults without returning insults. I must admit that I’m no kid anymore, and yet, whenever I walk by that statue, I get all misty inside.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.