Socially Acceptable Bigotry

Working in news, nothing much surprises you anymore. I don’t blink at murders, I’m not blown away by domestic violence and I don’t lose sleep over children found at a meth lab. Sad, but true. It’s part of the job. Just like E.R. doctors and nurses don’t freak out over the injuries of accident victims, I’ve learned to tone down my emotional response to the horrible things humanity does to itself. It takes something special to really make me angry. Something like, say, a school board member advocating gay teen suicide. My apologies for the strong language, but I felt it necessary to quote him exactly:

Seriously, they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I’m wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.

Mr. McCance would go on to outdo himself in a few responses on his post:

…because being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then don’t tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I don’t care how people decide to live their lives. They don’t bother me if they keep it to themselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they also give each other aids and die. If you aren’t against it, you might as well be for it.

And because there wasn’t enough vitriol in the air, he continues:

I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.

Bear in mind, this isn’t just Joe Bigot spouting off at the mouth. This is an elected school board official telling gay teens he wants them to commit suicide and he wouldn’t support them in any way, even if they were his own children.

That’s a lot. For a school leader to advocate teens to kill themselves is pretty bad. For a father to say he would disown his children (for ANY reason, not just homosexuality) is equally reprehensible. But even this isn’t really what got me riled up. It’s the support McCance is getting from others on the Internet. Even on his Facebook comment, people responded with statements like “agree, people have gotten extremely STUPID!!!!!!!!!” and “amen”. Six people gave it the anonymous “like” click. On my news station’s website, several people commented agreeing with McCance. This has all led me to believe that many people feel it’s okay to bash homosexuals.

Of course, I’m not sure why I’m surprised at this. Throughout history, mankind has found ways to excuse his bigotry. Whether it’s the ancient Egyptians and the Hebrews, the Jews and the Samaritans, the Romans and the Gauls, the whites and the blacks, the Nazis and the Jews or, even to some extent, men and women, we’ve always found reasons to treat another group of people with less honor and respect than others. We’ve created socially acceptable bigotry, and without a doubt, today’s version is conservative straight people treating gay people like second class citizens.

Right now, there are plenty of people who not only support McCance, they agree with him and wish his comments went further. And their attitudes will not change so long as the people around them, the people they look up to, are silent. When you sit idly by while a friend makes a snide comment about “queers”, you may think you’re just staying out of it. In fact, you’re encouraging that person to continue. The same thing when you hear people talking about “niggers”, “wetbacks” and “bitches”. When you do nothing, you are playing an active role in keeping bigotry alive.

I’m not saying you should start yelling and screaming at the offender, or worse, get violent with them. But you know how to handle it. A disapproving look, or a single “that’s not cool” is usually enough to discourage that kind of attitude. Maybe you need to take the person off to the side and tell them why you have a problem with what they said. But if you really want to put an end to the socially acceptable bigotry, you have to make it socially unacceptable. You have to make sure that person knows this isn’t alright with you, and it shouldn’t be acceptable anywhere.

As Christians, we are called to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I would argue that most gay people aren’t your enemies, don’t hate you, don’t curse you and don’t mistreat you. If we’re called to be kind to those who actively try to hurt us, how much more should we show love and compassion to those who are just trying to live in peace? It doesn’t mean you have to accept or endorse what they do, their actions. But it does mean you should actively work to stamp out the hatred against them. If you want to call yourself a Christian, it’s the only acceptable choice.

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