No, it’s not OK. Do something!
I get it.
It’s somebody you’ve known your entire life. And deep down, they’re really great people you want – really want – to associate with.
Okay, maybe they’re even family. First cousins, second cousins, in-laws!?! No, wait, you went to middle school, high school, maybe, college, together.
If you’re carrying a little age, maybe your kids grew up together with pool parties, backyard barbecues, even trips to amusement parks where you and your spouse were chaperones. Could be you played Little League baseball with them, you blocked for each other in high school in that football game you’ll always be replaying in your head for as long as forever.
How about attending the same church!?! You belong to the same social organizations together. Sertoma, Lions, Masons, a Greek fraternity or sorority. Maybe together you’ve crossed a certain plane of accomplishment and you golf together weekends at the country club, where you both, surprisingly to some, are members. A couple of times a month you get together for some after work activity: drinks at the watering hole, the guilty pleasure of shopping together for a new item – like a suit. And so on, and so on, and so it goes.
Then it happens.
They make that off-color remark about blacks, gays, or Latinos or they post a comment on their social media page that bashes minorities, and you just blow it off. You might chuckle or even allow a tight, but polite, little smile to cross your face.
You say, “Oh, that’s just him being him, her being her.” After all, it’s not your place to help save your friends much less save the world.
You’ll feel like a cartoon balloon as you say to yourself, “I wish they hadn’t said that,” and then smugly think “that’s why I don’t post this kind of stuff on Facebook.”
But let me just give you something to ponder. Racism is like an automobile. It needs fuel. A car won’t run without it. People that espouse racist behavior lean heavily on their friends that don’t. They rely on the fact that you DON’T say anything almost as much as they want you to acknowledge that what they say is true. No, they won’t ever go completely away any more than a car without fuel will – sorry, Elon Musk – drive itself away.
It’s sad, but bigotry and racism will never completely go away. All the marching, legislating, even confrontation can happen; because it’s happened since time immemorial, and will continue to do so until the cows come home.
It won’t change anything. A good friend of mine once made a really negative remark about Asians and my response to him, accompanied by a cold stare was, “What makes our relationship so comfortable that you would think that I’m okay with that?”
A month later I ran into him and he apologized, remarking about the realization of how disgusting he must have sounded.
We all have so much power, more than you can imagine. So, acknowledge it, embrace it, and then use it. Because what happened in Charlottesville and El Paso and Orlando wasn’t the fault of extremists. It was YOUR fault, and it was MY fault too. Because we sat idly by every time someone in our family or one of our friends said something bigoted and we were afraid to move out of our comfort zone and respond.
That’s helping to fuel the automobile. So, speak up my friends…or forever hold your PEACE.
I think it was Irish philosopher Edmund Burke who had a couple of sayings, and Dr. Martin Luther King paraphrased one of them:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – and, “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he can only do a little.”
Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7211.