One of the most damaging arguments made by people, about a particular topic (usually a socially taboo issue) is what I call the “One Time” argument. I’ll explain what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s damaging.
What is it?
It’s a point that the ignorant use in order to justify why something shouldn’t be accepted. It is used in arguments by a person who believes they aren’t in an argument, but just a healthy conversation. It is usually phrased as “One time I did it…” or “It happened once, that’s why it’s not…” and is followed by some sort of prejudice/reason as to why it shouldn’t be allowed to happen again for others. We tend to see this involving people of color, and by this I mean human beings. “We had a Black President, one time, that’s why racism doesn’t exist” or “I smoked marijuana one time, I didn’t like the way it made me feel, that’s why it shouldn’t be legalized”. Now, obviously this is paraphrased, but you get the point and can probably think of a particular example of somebody using the “One Time” argument and can safely agree that it’s bullshit. Nothing should ever be determined from one time, mainly because the negative ramifications from one time usually leads to three strikes, followed by 25 to life, for a majority of those affected. Also, logically and due to human curiosity, hardly ever is anything done just once. It is something to help you relate and is certainly a ticket to a larger conversation that should be had more openly.
What isn’t it?
A concrete reason to brush off ignorance. When used by most rational people, it is used as an individual reason why they are personally not partaking in something again. “I smoked marijuana once, I didn’t like it, but to each their own” or “Yes, there is a Black President, but having something happen once in no way means racism is gone.” In fact, in most instances, the invoking of the argument usually means that the issue at hand is just as pertinent now as it was before. It isn’t a good point and the exact reason why we have the scientific process, which is less scientific and more about just being absolutely certain about a point of contention (even if the issue has no reason to be contended in the first place, such as institutionalized racism). It isn’t a direct connection to something that affects you indirectly. It isn’t a valid reason to turn your head away from other problems and issues. It isn’t something that defines you nor is it something that changes things immediately.
Why is it damaging?
To most, it’s damaging because while it’s said to be empathetic, it ignores the plight of those that continue to suffer from the issues being argued against. These problems and issues are real, affect everyone indirectly and the resonating waves that bounce off of the oppressive walls of Hate, forces arguments such as “One Time” into the conversation. It is excellent that you were willing to try something that carried an irrational stigma and fear, however it does not address the continued prejudice that is imposed on the individuals affected. Guilt drives quite a bit in this world, and “One Time” tends to be a reason for people to remain hands off, while airing their guilt. However, do not feel guilty for being a product of a culture that has persisted for generations, rail against the machine by not marginalizing your experience and simply state “I did as well, therefore others should get the opportunity to do as well without fear of violent repercussion.” For those arguing in the name of “Freedom”, look no further than the prison system to view your hypocrisy. One time offenders remain in a database.
Interesting thought: It could be a linguistic issue, as we tend to say that we did something or something happened one time, but the prevailing thought from the other person is that while they may have had it happen one time in their life, it doesn’t feel the same. The fallacy in this lies in the fact nobody is ever certain how something feels exactly for the other person. It’s impossible. The point of this…rant…is that the conversation I want to discuss is what tends to get lost in the surface struggle, is the underlying feeling that allows others to relate to each struggle. It is just as important to empathize as it is to stand next to the person still struggling. If you cannot fully understand, try to knowing that most of the time the only way to do so is to leave your comfort zone.