Bigots – They’re Closer Than You Think

I have, for years, taught discrimination and harassment prevention courses for employers large and small. And I have, for just as many years, spoke my mind to participants in these courses who laugh and joke about the content.

“If you think this is funny, you’re part of the problem” has been the message time and time again.

For years, I believed the folks who misbehave in a course about misbehaving are in the minority, and certainly aren’t the type of folks I have in my social or professional circle. But these past two years have proven to me that I have clearly been blissfully ignorant.

Bigots everywhere are emboldened, and they are, unfortunately, closer than you think. In fact, the Today aired a segment on June 1st regarding the number of openly racist candidates who are running for public office around the country; over 22 of them.

A friend of mine sent me and a bunch of others this meme:

He is a business owner who recently was recognized for his dedication to the community for the upteenth time – every year it seems he’s getting an award. He said the meme was funny as hell. When I called him on it, he wouldn’t acknowledge that it was inappropriate. He deflected, instead, to the person who coined the name of the movement and claimed the tragedy was her mistake, not the mistake of the thousands of men who have victimized women.

Another friend who I’ve been close to for years claims she’s a devout Christian. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that lately, she talks about homosexuals’ “demise to hell,” minorities’ “unfortunate lack of intelligence,” and pro-choice womens’ “demonistic tendencies.” When I called her on it, she says she said she’s justified in speaking her mind, she’s happy she has a large sphere of influence, and that she has an obligation to God to teach his word. She refuses to acknowledge that her words are hurtful, hateful and not to mention factually inaccurate.

A colleague of mine posted this meme on social media and said it made his day:

He is is a college professor who has been recognized numerous times for his positive influence in the community. When I called him on it, he told me I was too sensitive. He refused to acknowledge that his circle of influence included hundreds of impressionable minds and hearts and that by sharing such an image/joke, he was validating very inappropriate behavior.

Another colleague is a popular radio host and small business owner and, as you can imagine, has a huge network of listeners and fans. His thing, his schtick if you will, is patronizing anyone and everyone who dares to resist something he likes or believes in. For years, people spoke out about favorite restaurants, if Coke was better than Pepsi or which way to put in the damn toilet paper. It seemed harmless, and certainly made for interesting banter. But the last couple of years the callers are talking about race, gun violence, abortion, immigration or the state of our country. If their opinions don’t align with his, God help them as they become the butt of his jokes for days. And people eat that shit up…he’s more popular now than ever. When I called him on it, he told me I didn’t have to listen.

And he’s right. I don’t, so I won’t. My circle of friends and professional colleagues has been reduced by about 1/3 if not more these last couple of years. My knowledge about their true beliefs and values make it impossible for me to respect them or want them in my life. I’m deeply saddened, and find myself quite lonely both personally and professionally.

I know I am a hypocrite – shit, maybe even I am a bigot in its truest definition which is the intolerance of others because they have difference beliefs and opinions. I, certainly, am passing judgment on those referenced above.

I can’t seem to reconcile this.

I’m open to your thoughts.