When it comes to a dilemma, decision, or question of any kind, there are right answers and there are wrong answers. The easiest way to look at this concept is through math. 2+2=4. 2+2 doesn’t equal 5. Nor does 2+2=a delicious elderberry pie. 2+2=4 and we can prove it through examples, logic, mathematics, and probably other ways that I can’t even imagine.
However, it’s possible that someday, we will learn that 2+2 does not equal 4. Maybe a more advanced alien race will come down to earth and show us where we made an error in our math rules. We might learn that 2+2 actually equals “molten lava”.
Once we get our proof that 2+2=molten lava and not 4, we will now realize that 2+2=4 was wrong. It looked right. It seemed to add up. But we now have much stronger evidence that 2+2=molten lava.
This now rock-solid proof of 2+2=molten lava would show us that, even though we were pretty certain that 2+2=4 before, we now see that the slight room for error was justified. We can also see that things we did based off of the belief that 2+2=4 were wrong. We were operating off of a faulty elemental belief.
That example is a little bit insane. It does, however, provide a solid foundation for slightly more abstract points in the discussion of right and wrong, which is where we will go next.
“Racism is always wrong”. I think (I hope) that most people would agree with this statement. But when it comes to more sociological or abstract items, some strange things happen in the brains of many people.
I think almost everyone you meet will agree that racism is wrong, but many of those people probably participated in racist acts at some point in their lives. For example, a white person may have dressed in blackface for a sketch or costume 20 years ago. At the time, this person may not have had any intention of acting in a racist manner. But either way, he did. He acted wrongly. Even though this person was wrong, he will many times try to find a way out of admitting fault: “it was common back then” or “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings” or “it was meant to be funny, not racist” or other common defenses often come up in these situations.
As hard as it is to accept, there is right and there is wrong. We may not know what the right answer or action is, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a right answer or action. Our lack of knowledge does not absolve us of our mistake. Even if there was no possible way we could have ever known that we did the wrong thing, we still did the wrong thing. Unfortunately, instead of taking responsibility for our mistakes, many of us try to push back, redefine terms, or lie.
Luckily, there seems to be a movement where the average person is acknowledging the existence of right and wrong. Where apologizing earnestly and without qualifiers is a common practice. Even those who acted with the best of intentions, but made a mistake, are starting to realize the weight of their words and actions.
It’s good to see, but we still have a long way to go.