skip page navigationOregon State University

Gold or Platinum? Beyond the (Incomplete) ‘Golden Rule’  May 31st, 2012


The so-called Golden Rule, “Treat others as you wish to be treated” is something we probably heard from teachers, parents, peers, etc. The rule was a way for us to think about how our actions or words impact other people.

I recently read a philosophy excerpt titled “The Moral Insight” by Josiah Royce. It explains how we do not see other people as real as ourselves. We come from a selfish self-centered point of view where we see other people as objects whose feelings are not as powerful or real as our own.

Royce explains how pity and sympathy are not enough to gain moral insight. When we hear of someone else’s experience we never really take it in as our own; instead, we may hear their experience but quickly forget it as if it really never existed. Sometimes we may feel their pain or joy in the moment but this quickly dissipates. The only way to gain true moral insight is to acknowledge others and their experiences as real as our own. Royce explains the moral insight:


“If he is real like thee, then is his life as bright a light, as warm a fire, to him, as thine to thee; his will is as full of struggling desires, of hard problems, of faithful decisions; his pains are as hateful, his joys as dear. Take whatever thou knowest of desire and of striving, of burning love and of fierce hatred, realize as fully as thou canst what that means, and then with clear certainty add: SUCH AS THAT IS FOR ME, SO IS IT FOR HIM, NOTHING LESS.”

This passage is very true for me. Would there be so much violence and hatred if we understood that the people we hurt are as real as we are? Would someone be able to bully and pick on others if they understood the pain they were inflicting, especially if they have experienced that same pain? Would it be as easy to use derogatory words like “gay” and “lame” as part of our everyday speech if we felt or understood the hurt these words caused? Just because these examples may not hurt you directly, the pain others feel from these experiences is as real as the pain you have experienced in other ways.

Understanding this makes it impossible to excuse our actions by simply saying “I don’t know why this word offends “them,” it’s just a word!” or my favorite “But that’s not how I meant it”.

The reading from Royce was very insightful; it completely changed my way of viewing the “golden rule”. I began to reflect on: What if someone doesn’t want to be treated the same way I want to be treated? Like Royce stated, our viewpoint comes from a self-centered experience and the pain one feels might not be the same pain another feels.

I grew up hearing the golden rule but it wasn’t until I began learning about how I can become a better ally, that I realized the golden rule was incomplete. I learned that treating others as they wish to be treated is a better “rule”; people often call this the Platinum Rule. One experience that helped me realize this rule happened my first year in college. I said a joke that hurt the LGBTQ community. I am not proud of this experience looking back but I was fortunate to have a friend of mine confront me about it. He explained to me how the joke was offensive and had the power to hurt people. I became very defensive; I told him that I saw no harm in my joke and to stop being so sensitive. I walked away feeling bad but not understanding why I felt that way. I kept thinking about the incident and realized that I did not need to “understand” why it hurt my friend, but simply that it had. I realized that just because I couldn’t understand his pain it did not make it untrue. Thankfully, I had the courage to speak to my friend about the joke and my reaction. I apologized for invalidating his feelings and this allowed us to have a very good conversation that taught me a lot about his experience in the LGBTQ community at OSU. I know that if I remained defensive I would have never learned all that I have from him.

Through my development I learned that the Platinum Rule is especially crucial when working towards becoming an ally to a marginalized community. The targeted community knows best what I can do to be an ally. I learned that I cannot approach allyship it thinking: “I know what to do and how to fix things.” I am not part of the community and do not know the experiences and pain they may feel. As an ally, you are coming from a point of privilege, so it may be hard for you to understand some of the feelings a targeted community may have. Acknowledging those feelings as true and valid as your own is the first step in becoming an ally.

Miguel Arellano, Community Relations Facilitators


Language is Power  April 18th, 2012

Have you ever found yourself using words you don’t completely understand? As a Community Relations Facilitator I have used and heard words really new to me, and although I have looked them up several times, I still don’t really understand their real meaning. I also tend to confuse the meaning of words with other words. For example, I always confuse the words race and ethnicity.  So, you ask yourself, what is the difference? Well, According to a book titled Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2007):

Race is a social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation or history, ethnic classification, and/or the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Ethnicity is a social construct that divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical location. Members of an ethnic group are often presumed to be culturally or biologically similar, although this is not in fact necessarily the case (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 2007).

I always try to separate both by thinking that race is the thing you check off on an application such as the census. On the other hand I like to think of ethnicity as the culture and traditions you belong to.

I know my first year of college I was very confused by all the terms, vocabulary, and acronyms that were thrown at me. So, I have decided to provide a list of vocabulary words that are used a lot and are also commonly misunderstood. I have also included words that I have recently learned that I find very useful. I think this is very important because these words come up in everyday conversations. You might hear it in class or at workshops. By knowing this information you can prevent miscommunication and prevent unintentional prejudice and hurt feelings. Language has power to express your identity and life.  You can also educate others about the definitions. Hope you find these definitions helpful.

Culture: A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication.

Oppression: The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

Discrimination: (unfairness + power) An action against other people on the grounds of their group membership, particularly the refusal to grant such people opportunities, access, or resources that would be granted to similarly qualified members of one’s own group. There are many forms of discrimination including: racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism etc.

Horizontal hostility: The result of people of targeted groups believing, acting on, or enforcing the dominant system of discrimination and oppression. Horizontal hostility can occur between members of the same group or between members of different, targeted groups.

Internalized oppression: The result of people of targeted groups believing, acting on, or enforcing the dominant system of beliefs about themselves and members of their own group.

Social Constructionism: A perception of an individual, group, or idea that is “constructed” through cultural and social practice, but appears to be “natural,” or “the way things are.” For example, the idea that women “naturally” like to do housework is a social construction because this idea appears “natural” due to its historical repetition, rather than it being “true” in any essential sense.

Social power: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Feminism: The valuing of women, and the belief in and advocacy for social, political, and economic equality and liberation for both women and men.

Ally: A person from a different racial, gender, religious, sexual orientation etc. group that acknowledges the oppression and who will committee and who will commit to working on his/her own part that may contribute to that oppression, continue to increase knowledge and awareness, and who will commit to supporting people who are suppressed through action and stands.

LGBTQ: “LGBTQ” is an acronym that originated in the 1990s and replaced what was formerly known as “the gay community.” The acronym was created to be more inclusive of diverse groups. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities.

Transgender person: A person whose self-identification challenges traditional notions of gender and sexuality. Transgender people include transsexuals and others who do not conform to traditional understandings of labels like male and female or heterosexual and homosexual.

Transvestite: Men and women who enjoy wearing the clothes and appearing as the other sex. Most are heterosexual. Some gay individuals enjoy dressing in “drag” and view it as liberating and sometimes humorous.

Transsexual: A person, whose biological sex does not match their gender identity and who, through gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatments, seeks to change their physical body to match their gender identity. Transsexuals’ sexual orientation can be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.

Now when you go to workshops or when you are in class and you hear these worlds you will be able to understand. I know there are several words that are still confusing but I challenge you to start including this type of vocabulary in your everyday conversation.

I found Racial Equity, Purchase College, and The Welcoming Project web pages to be very useful while writing this blog, most of the definitions come from these websites and from the book Teachings for Diversity and Social Justice (2007), which is available in the UHDS Multicultural Cultural Resource Coordinator’s Office (UHDS Central Office).

Thank you for reading,

Angelica Perez, Community Relations Facilitator