Self-respect and the respect of others

Published 10:26 pm Monday, November 7, 2016

By Joseph L. Bass

Having the respect of others and self-respect are important aspects of being a psychologically healthy person. Having these qualities is an important part of a person’s good character.

As Dr. King envisioned, people should be judged based on their character, not the color of their skin.

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How does a person develop good character? How does a person earn the respect of themselves and others?

Being an old guy with years of personal experience and having studied psychology extensively, I consider striving to be self-reliant as an important aspect in good character development. It doesn’t take much to see that people that have allowed themselves to become dependent are not respected by others.

The way dependent people live their lives does not indicate they have respect for themselves.

I can see these differences in my own family ancestry, being part Native American. Those that strive to be self-reliant develop good character and have the respect of themselves and others. Those that allow themselves to be dependent do not.

My family, on both my mother and father’s side, lived in the Indian Nations (not reservations) before Oklahoma statehood. On the Bass side of the family our Indian ancestry started during the Jamestown era in the 1600s. I am a distant cousin of the Bass family from the Nansemond Tribe.

Those of us that strived to be a part of the mainstream American economy have done reasonably well, although we didn’t get an early start like the white folks.

My dad’s parents never owned a car, combined they may have had six years of schooling, and my grandfather lost most of his businesses when white laws were enacted after statehood.

In Indian Territory days, a young person could learn a profession as an apprentice without having to go to school or being certified by government. Before statehood he was a barber, an undertaker and a pharmacist.

With the new laws, he could only just barely become a barber. Even though the new laws made them fairly poor folks, they were able to raise three sons, all of whom eventually did well in life, including my dad.

The Native Americans that continue to live on welfare-funded reservations are among the poorest, least-educated people in the United States. They exhibit the same negative behavioral characteristics seen among other groups of Americans that are dependent on government handouts.

Frederick Douglass wrote that no people can be respected by others until they gain self-respect as self-reliant people.

“An exceptionally poor and dependent people will be despised by the opulent and despise themselves,” he wrote. He proposed that any people “noted for enterprise, industry, economy, and success” would have no trouble with civil and political rights.

I have hopes that my Native American cousins that continue to live on reservations will take off the yoke of dependency and strive to become independent, self-reliant Americans.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at