Have you ever bitten into a piece of pizza in a dining hall that you knew was too hot and burned your tongue? Ever thrown a football to someone who wasn’t looking and accidentally hit them in the face? It’s clear that you didn’t intend to do either, despite the impact of your actions.
While your intention may have been pure and worthwhile, the result of your actions was not. Such philosophy stems all the way back to Immanuel Kant. However, the relationship between intention and result is often skipped over when we discuss our day-to-day choices, political beliefs and way of thinking.
Regardless of political orientation, we all usually mean well when it comes to our interactions with people. Especially in the age of Trump, we often hear “buts.” You know, the classic “I am not racist, but ... ,” “I did not mean to offend, but ... ” “I am not a sexist, but ... .”
However, given events during our time at Penn, I cannot emphasize how much people have strayed themselves from their own insensitive mistakes and rhetoric by emphasizing what their intent is. But at the end of the day, despite your intentions, it is your impact that leaves a mark on someone.
Not all Trump supporters are racist, sexist or xenophobic. However, all Trump supporters voted for a racist, misogynist and xenophobe and didn’t see those qualities as being a dealbreaker for our next president. They may not have racist, misogynistic or xenophobic intents; however, they have had a racist, misogynistic and xenophobic impact, by supporting Donald Trump.
That’s probably why I couldn’t (and can’t) find one Trump supporter (not even Trump himself) who would openly admit they he or she tolerates racism, sexism and xenophobia. Why? Because they genuinely believe their intentions outweigh their results.
However, although their intention may oddly affirm that Trump is the true candidate to combat such social issues, their impact put a man in office who attacked John Lewis on MLK weekend. And that is something they have to live with. Meaning well does not always correlate to doing well.
The more I observe this across the recent election results, the more I see it on our campus given virtually every issue we are handed. While the school may have intended to strengthen the Africana Department by combining it with the African Studies Department, the result falsely infused African history with African American history, although it would never dare to do the same with US and European history.
You may have intended to express your opinion on transgender people through Facebook in a civil way. However by doing so, you questioned their humanity, rights and self-autonomy. You probably didn’t mean to belittle your friend group when you bragged about your Goldman Sachs internship two weeks after you received confirmation, however unintentionally you did. You may have intended to decrease sexual assault on campus by targeting off-campus groups specifically. However your result may have caused students and administration to overlook what happens across on-campus greek life as well.
So what’s the next step towards minimizing this issue? Simply, as Harper Lee advises to us in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
In reference to the football analogy above, you would have never threw the football in the first place if you asked your friend if he was paying attention. The realization of the impact of your intentions, whether good or bad, should never come at the expense of who you are engaging with. I’ve experienced this first-hand, as a number of Trump supporters reached out to me with sorrow and regret during the GroupMe incident, just days after they voted for him. In order to avoid this, we must listen to each other with the intention of understanding and moving forward, rather than listening to respond.
What good comes from one’s intention? Not much, outside of its very impact. While it is easy to highlight your intention in order to justify your result, true societal progress can only occur when we make sure that the impact of our actions correlates with our intentions.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.