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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 RESPONSEMAKING 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

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.

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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.

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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.

Conflicts: Lessons from Beetle Bailey
CONFLICTS WITH OURSELVES: LESSONS FROM CHARLIE BROWN

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

6 Comments

  1. I have noticed the tendency in people to defend themselves or someone else who is getting called names by insulting the original name-caller right back: the old fighting fire with fire metaphor. But we all know what happens when you try to fight fire with fire…only more pain destruction. For sure, I believe people must learn to respond to name calling with a positive and compassionate attitude. It’s amazing how quickly a tense situation can be diffused if someone is willing to to be mature and respectful even when they are being treated very disrespectfully.

  2. You are correct, JSR, that responding to name calling with a positive and compassionate attitude can oftentimes quickly diffuse a tense situation. There are also quite a few other things that can be done to increase the chances of a desirable outcome for such difficult situations. We’ll be discussing many of them in future blog posts. Thanks for your comment.
    Jeff

  3. That feeling inside when you “laughed too” was your consciounse (sp) Thats Good :). Some people don’t have one or a moral compass. When someone is mean to another person it is often because they don’t like who they are themselves. It’s sad and shameful

    • Hi Verbalbanter,

      Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. Your comment refers to the time when I laughed while my friends were throwing insults at a kid that was a little different than the rest of us and I noticed inside me a feeling that what we were doing was not right. You see this as my conscience. That’s one reasonable way to view this experience. That is, I had matured to a point that I now had a conscience.

      Let me develop this idea a little more, as I see it. It seems to me that as we mature, we can better and better observe what we are doing from more than one perspective. I had begun to be able to see what was happening from the perspective of the kid that was being tormented as well as from the perspective that comes from the desire to bond with my friends by engaging in fun activities.

      You put forth the theory that “when someone is mean to another it is often because they don’t like themselves.” That strikes me as being true to a degree.

      I have found that in a counseling situation I am able to encourage the growth of psychological maturity of people who have had difficulty seeing the perspective of anyone but themselves. One way I have done this was to make it fun to play the part in a TV show that we created together. Let’s call the person I was counseling, Tim. I would have Tim first play the part of one character who was insulting someone else. I then had Tim play the part of the person being insulted. In time, Tim became better able to see the perspective of others, as we discussed the different perspective while viewing the TV creations we made. At the same time, I would work on how Tim felt about himself. Because I would treat Tim with respect, and a person on the road to ever higher levels of psychological maturity, his self image changed to something more positive and hopeful.

      Jeff

  4. DEALING WITH INSULTS: LESSONS FROM THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
    April 20, 2013 - 2:34 pm

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