Guilty by Assumption

by | Feb 17, 2018

“In the absence of information, we jump to the worst conclusions.” —Myra Kassim

A very strange occurrence happened to me last year where I felt I had no control of the events taking place. An artist that I know, made insensitive comments on Facebook regarding a mother and child. In turn, a strong response defending the child came from their grandmother. In the process of going after the original poster, she added a tagline saying that my gallery represented the artist. A friend of mine saw this heated exchange and what was quickly spiraling out of control and contacted me.

I opened Facebook to find post after post blasting the artist who had made the original awful comments as well as, posts going after me for representing this man. However, I did not, nor had I ever, represented this artist. And yet, my gallery’s reputation as well as my own, was being shredded by strangers on social media.

I immediately began responding saying that I did not represent him but each time I would comment, three more negative posts would appear. I sent an inbox message to the grandmother asking her to take my name off of her post but instead, she simply wrote another post saying that she had learned that I did not represent the man that had created the uproar. This left my gallery’s name still in the original post and since so many react without carefully reading, the hate messages continued online and in private. Some were calling for a boycott of my gallery and one poster offered to spray paint my building’s exterior speaking out against the artist and me.

Eventually the original post was corrected and an apology came. However, by that time, I had been defending myself for several hours to total strangers who had believed the original post and did not necessarily believe my responses. I suggested that they go to my website and view the list of artists represented by me and that they would see that the artist in question was not listed.

This was a horrifying experience that spun out of control in a matter of hours. We are all so quick to judge and believe everything we read without investigating if the accusations are true. So often someone will post a false statement on social media that immediately will be shared when in fact, none of it is true. It seems that many of us are ready to see the worst in any situation and feel that our opinion is needed to fuel the flames. No longer do we believe it’s wise to think before we speak or act.

My upcoming release, Songs from an Imperfect Life, is filled with stories that will shock many and most likely cause some to quickly judge my life, my decisions and my actions. No one can judge me harder than I have judged myself. Yes, things were done to me as a child that set my life into motion and caused me to travel down roads that most would never think of going down. But as easy as it is to judge others, none of us can honestly say what we would do, or how we would react if put in the same situation.

My childhood friend (and prom date), Donna Pence, wrote the foreword to my new book. As a retired Special Agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, I am grateful that nothing shocks her after her years of working in a field that often dealt with the abuse of minors. I appreciate her words in the closing paragraph of the foreword.

Please read this book with the compassion Ron, and others who have had similar paths, deserve. For those who say, “I would never do that!” — remember that all of us live in glass houses. We just keep the blinds closed so the light of our actions is never exposed to others, and perhaps, not even to ourselves.

J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.

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