It’s easy to pretend that the world isn’t in trouble when you’re not the one who’s suffering. It’s simple to turn a blind eye to politics, and it’s comforting to shrug bigotry off as a lack of understanding. It feels better to consistently focus on the “bright side” of things. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia are difficult subjects to address, so when they arise, it’s always my first instinct to avoid confrontation. This is how I’ve been enabling bigotry, and it needs to stop.
Bigotry comes in many forms. Some is intended to be comedic, some is hate-fueled and some stems from pure ignorance. It can range from blatant hate crimes to often-overlooked casual racism. No matter its form, bigotry should never be left unaddressed. It may be uncomfortable to call someone out for making offensive remarks, especially if it’s someone that you like, but discussion is always necessary to provoke change.
This is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time, and I know that others have as well. I tend to avoid confrontation at all costs, so pointing out others’ flaws is completely out of my comfort zone. When a friend makes a transphobic joke or calls something “retarded,” I often find myself waiting for someone else to call them out on their bigotry. Sometimes, I’ll even attempt to change the subject to avoid the awkward confrontation. This response, or lack thereof, sets the precedent that bigotry is not only tolerated, but is normal – not even deserving of discussion. I’ve been disregarding my privilege and failing as an ally, which is unacceptable.
President Trump recently had the same struggle, to an extreme extent, when he refused to directly blame white supremacists for their violence in Charlottesville, North Carolina. This is a disproportionate example, of course, but it brings to light the same point. By declining to directly call out white supremacists for their bigoted behavior, Trump further instilled the belief that bigotry is tolerable – a basic right granted by the first amendment. Through willful ignorance, Trump is legitimizing hate and helping white supremacists become socially acceptable.
While they’re in the minority, there are those, even at Piedmont, who speak up against bigotry whenever they can. These individuals give me hope and encourage me to follow in their footsteps. Kadence Cole, a junior theater major at Piedmont College, always makes an effort to call people out for their ignorance.
“I think challenging ignorance and bigotry when the affected party isn’t around is the most important job for an ally,” she said. “I try to do it for as many groups as I can. An instant push for my courage is imagining whatever was said was in front of the people who would be hurt by it. Imagining how it would hurt them gives me that push to speak up where others may stay silent.”
I beckon myself, and to anyone reading this, to challenge bigotry wherever it appears, no matter the scale. Silence guarantees that bigotry will go unscathed and ignorance will go unrepaired.
I will no longer choose the easy way.