Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crossing the line

Everyone's a little racist...sometimes?

I happen to be the kind of person that loves the Avenue Q song professing how everyone is a little racist or judgmental. I'll make jokes with friends about stereotypes of people and have a laugh- but in the end, I'm really not inclined to be serious about any of it. I wouldn't discriminate against anyone for a job or refuse to work with anyone or demand that a specific person shouldn't have the same respect as anyone else based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. A joke is a joke as long as it stays that way. In fact, sometimes I'm the one to say people are too politically correct and that we should loosen up a bit.

However, this Thanksgiving weekend, I have had a change of heart. In conversation with family, they deliberately used words like Oriental and the N word when describing someone or how the neighborhoods have changed over the years. I was appalled that even though they are from a different generation, they still used words of loathing and weren't joking in any context. In one instance, they were describing the frustration with a child's music teacher and how he keeps encouraging a child with no voice talent to still sing. With no subtlety or thought, she then uttered 'faggot', a word that is full of hatred. This crossed a boundary- not only because I am gay and out to my parents, but because even if I wasn't, is something unforgivable. Words like these are the reason why a friend of mine was attacked on the subway in NEW YORK just a few days ago. I can't help to wonder: Why has it taken us so long to have a black president? Why can't everyone have equal rights? Why in 2008, as leaders of the free world can people still use these words and hurt people?

So, in retrospect, I think that the line should move back and be more rigid. When we joke around, it still perpetuates separation and hatred. These words we use are not just words, but give power to the sticks and stones - they may not be intentionally geared towards hate and you may not even be a racist person- but by doing so, it instills acceptance of the idea we should be moving away from.

Some of you may think I am being absurd and that in joking, it may be okay. Some of you may think I'm incredibly stupid and I should have realized this a long time ago. Well, what I thought was clear rationale about how and when to use or not use these words seems to prove me wrong. Even though my family loves me, just hearing someone say it about someone else, made me feel terrible and I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone who doesn't deserve it.

Finally, I know my last post was about not taking yourself seriously sometimes because in doing so you may be acting like a child. But I believe this time is one of those instances where you need to be serious because greater good can be done by putting in a small amount of effort.

Mission 14:
1) Stop making racist or stereotypical jokes- It'll be hard because we rationalize that they come out of 'some truth'- but I wouldn't want someone calling me a kike or faggot for real. The jokes make it okay when it really is not.

2) When someone jokingly says one or actually insults someone with a derogatory term, stand up for yourself or friend. They''ll appreciate it.

3) Post a time where you've felt hurt by something like this even if it wasn't directed towards you.

1 comment:

Cheri Block Sabraw said...

Thoughtful post, Dan.

I agree with your feelings here. Your suggestion listed under #2 is spot on.

I have stopped people, mid-sentence, to let them know that what they said was offensive to me.

Thanks for bringing this experience to our attention.