Where is the line drawn when it comes to discrimination? I mean, is it a hard and fast line or is it more fluid and ethereal? Is it okay to possibly be discriminatory in one area of our lives while we are vehemently opposed to it in another? Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that many of us are good, solid folks who are able to identify someone who is being discriminated against. And most of us claim to not like it when we see it happening …especially to us. But I’ve also been more aware lately that many of those among us are probably discriminatory in the back, dark, hidden closets of our minds -- yours truly included. You know exactly what I mean … the recesses that no one knows about, things we just could never verbalize. We justify it in our heads. And we dare not let it leak over into our hearts or we may be called upon to reconcile the head versus heart debate. Blatant, outright crimes against one group of people are not generally tolerated in the city where I live. We call for justice frequently here. But I’m painfully aware that not everyone sides with fairness on a regular basis. And I know that some would shout out “You don’t know what it’s like where I live -- in my family, in my part of the world” as a quick rebuttal in an attempt to justify less-than-pretty words, feelings or actions.
I grew up in a family where we were not allowed to “hate” anything. We couldn’t use that word. We could hold “strong dislike,” but not hate. As much as I’d like to think that my family circle was welcoming and accepting -- and I do, in general -- I know that my father would never have bought a Japanese-made car … “the war,” you know. And my step father frequently makes fun of other races with jokes at their expense. Or he’s happy that “the school is such a great one because it doesn’t have any spics in it.” It’s not pretty. And I do call him on it. Regularly. One day, I even threatened to turn the car around and drive him right back to the church service we had just piously sat through. And at the same time, he loves and accepts my partner and I to death. He really enjoys his time with us and would defend us to the end. And then, there are the passing comments from my ex brother-in-law that “No child of mine is going to speak any language except English.” Or even my close gay friends who I overheard say “Man, would you look at the size of that girl” and “I suppose it was an African-American who did that?” with added emphasis and inflection on the African-American part. Or what about yelling “Go Home!” to a woman from Rwanda when she struggles at a cash register to find her money because we harbor a growing intolerance and unfamiliarity with Rwandan customs and culture. And these prior words from a woman who is a good Democrat, liberal, has two gay sons, and a huge animal rights advocate. Another friend made mention of “Those Puerto Ricans” that he works with. Or the Jews. Or the fact that “there are always homeless people there.” And what about getting out of your car to go and tell a prostitute that she “should get a job like the rest of us and stop asking for money.” And even “White Trash” is tossed about with liberality. And dare I even bring up the less-than-amiable feelings among gays, myself included, toward “those right-wing nuts who hate us." (Now, that outta hit home.) I don’t know….maybe coming from, or being in, a group that continues to be discriminated against gives us the right to do it to others. Maybe we’re just trying to repay what’s been tossed in our own faces. Or possibly if we just joke about it, it suddenly makes it acceptable or at least takes the sting out of it.
Again, don’t misconstrue my intention here. I’ve long been a believer in accepting people for who they ARE, not necessarily for what they DO. I do not condone someone’s poor behavior or believe that it should ever be an excuse. Many times, I’m afraid that we let certain behaviors continue simply because “he’s just that way” or “it’s just how they were raised.”
I’m not sure, my friends. It seems to be nearly everywhere, in nearly every subset of our society, on some twisted sort of dark level. It has dug its way into the very fabric from which we are woven, individually and globally. It bridges divides of religion, nation, races, homes, portions of nations. And, no, I don’t believe it will ever truly end in its entirety. But I’m not so sure we should stop working toward it.
I’m not quite sure how to bring any sort of adequate conclusion to my thoughts. They are deep and varied. But, of course, if I actually had a proper conclusion, I could probably market it and end the world’s hatred…right? I’ve had the stone thrown at me and, sadly, I’ve also been the one throwing the first stone. I guess it’s a work in progress. Progress being the key word there. Bit by bit. One less comment and bad thought at a time. I only know that I don’t want to end up at the same place at the end of my life that I started.