Moral Courage at Knifepoint: One Man’s Remarkable Response to His Mugger Reminds Us of What Is Best in Us
By Maria Popova
“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you,” James Baldwin proclaimed in his timely 1970 conversation with Margaret Mead about identity. “If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.” And yet while such telling might be a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one — the world treats us not merely on the basis of how we tell it to treat us but, much more so, on the basis of how we treat it; it responds to our actions far more readily than it does to our words.
An intuitive grasp of this dependency is what led social worker Julio Diaz to have a completely counterintuitive reaction to the attacker who mugged him on the way home after a long day’s work in the Bronx. Diaz’s astonishing moral courage at knifepoint stands as a testament to Rebecca Solnit’s assertion that “hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.”
Diaz tells the story in this wonderful short animation, part of the #WhoWeAre initiative by StoryCrops — an elevating and ennobling series of true stories that “amplify love over hate and empathy over fear,” beckoning forth our highest selves amid a media culture built on exploiting our basest instincts.
You treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.
For more of StoryCorps’s heartening and humanizing stories, see this moving personal account of how libraries save lives.
Published October 27, 2016