Vikings’ Chris Kluwe Kicks Serious Verbal Ass—And You Should Too

Joanna Schroeder gives a standing ovation to Vikings punter Chris Kluwe for his impassioned open letter about marriage equality, and insists that if we aren’t all doing the same, we’re participating in oppression.

You’re at a party, maybe it’s a barbecue. Maybe people from your church or your place of employment are in attendance. Maybe it’s your high school reunion, or your yearly fraternity reunion. Whatever it is, you’re there and someone says something along the lines of, “I don’t hate gays, I just think homosexuality is a sin.”

Or maybe they say, “I think gay people should have every right to be gay, but I don’t think they should be able to marry. Marriage is for one man and one woman. We can’t go changing that now.” And you pause. You look at your buddy and you think to yourself You’re totally wrong, dude, and I had no idea you were a closed-minded bigot!

Then you go through the internal debate that we’ve all experienced dozens of times when we feel our basic moral beliefs are being challenged. Should I, or should I not say something to this person? I don’t want to upset them or cause a problem … .

Our hesitance to challenge another often comes from a good place—a place of consideration for those around us who probably don’t want to hear a big political debate. We all probably notice a few beads of sweat on our upper lip when someone in a casual setting challenges another’s political or ethical stance. And we don’t want to do that to the people around us … We don’t want people to feel uncomfortable, right?

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On Friday, Minnesota Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe wrote an open letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. about same-sex marriage. And the letter was not nice. Burns recently urged Steve Bisciotti (majority owner of the NFL) to silence his players about the issue of gay marriage after NFL player Brendon Ayenbadejo spoke out in favor of gay marriage—something state delegate Burns believes NFL players shouldn’t have the right to do.

Kluwe’s letter was published on Deadspin and has already gone massively viral, acquiring over 600,000 views in less than 12 hours. That’s INSANE, almost unheard of! Kluwe says, among about a billion other awesome things (laced with some of the most eloquent profanity we’ve ever read), the following:

As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”?

and this:

How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.

and this (emphasis mine):

I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.

It’s that last one that’s the clincher for me.

Here’s the thing: When you say nothing, you’re telling the person who is spouting hate that you agree. When you simply nod and change the subject, you’re saying, “You’re right, I think being gay is abhorrent, and I think LGBT people should be denied their civil rights.” And the more people who say that to your pal, even if they say it with their silence, the more he believes he is right, and that he is in the majority.

That’s why it’s your job as a good person (you do think you’re a good person, don’t you?) to stand up for your LGBT brethren. It’s your job to be the person who says, “Actually, I think you’re wrong” to that lady who insists the family needs to be protected from gay marriage. Why is it your job? Because it’s all of our jobs to defend those we care about against someone who wants to harm them. And people who are against same-sex marriage actually want to harm your LGBT friends, at the very least in the form of discrimination, and at the worst with violence. Remember Matthew Shepard? We need to never forget Matthew Shepard (and the many others like him).

You may think your friend, the one who is against same-sex marriage, is a good person. And maybe she is. Maybe she volunteers at the soup kitchen and brings meals to her friends who have just had babies. That’s so good of her; I admire that. But, as my friends Hugo Schwyzer and Michael Rowe explained to me not too long ago, the time is rapidly approaching where those who are bigoted against LGBT people can no longer be considered “good”, just as it’s very hard to imagine that the racist guy who thinks Black people shouldn’t legally be able to marry White people is actually a really good person deep inside his rancid, bigoted heart.

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Beyond that, I believe there is a way to talk about our support of gay marriage that isn’t mean or highly confrontational. You don’t have to say, “You bigoted piece of crap!” to your neighbor at the block party (though I wouldn’t blame you). You can make your stance clear by saying, “I believe all Americans should have equal access to legal and civil rights, regardless of race, sexual orientation or anything else.”

You don’t have to insult your friend. You can keep your statements to yourself, what you believe, and the legality of the situation. You’re probably not going to convince an evangelical Christian that homosexuality is not a sin, or that they’re hypocrites for not following all of the other rules and regulations set forth in Leviticus.

But you can explain that we don’t legislate the other things the Bible says are sins, simply because the Bible says they’re bad. It’s not against the law to lie, or to cheat on your spouse, or to lust after your neighbor’s brand new Husqvarna chainsaw. It’s not illegal to acquire a massive fortune while children starve four miles away from your home. And yet the Bible makes clear that these things are sins. Even evangelical pastor Perry Noble asserts that the Bible takes a much stronger stance against gluttony than it does against homosexuality. And yet there are no laws against Supersizing that Big Mac Combo meal and tacking a hot fudge sundae onto the order.

Explain it calmly. Tell them they have every right to believe it’s a sin, but that they don’t have the right to prevent any law-abiding citizen’s equal access to civil rights. And yes, marriage is a civil right! It is a legal process—it happens in the courts—and it affords people civil benefits in taxation, social security, property ownership, inheritance, and in many other ways.

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You never know, your friend may be like Emmett C. Burns Jr. and truly believe that no other NFL player is speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage equality. Yeah, I know you don’t play for the NFL, but maybe you’ll be one of the first elementary school teachers, or construction site overseers, or Catholics, or members of a bowling league, or computer programmers, or youth leader, or fathers of four daughters, or accounts managers, or whatever else it is about you that makes you who you are, who speaks out about same-sex marriage equality to this particular friend of yours.

Because until you say it, even if you say it gently and with love, you’re a part of the problem. Until you say it out loud, even when it’s a bit uncomfortable, you’re telling the oppressors that what they believe is a-okay by you.

You cool with that?

Oh, and Chris Kluwe? You’re a great writer and seem like a very good man. Thank you.

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Also read: The Battle for Gay Rights is a Wrestling Match Over Masculine Identity by Liam Day

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Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. As a Catholic, I am always irritted when Christians see Cristian morality as law and I wholeheartedly agree with the proposal that two unmarried adult people should have the right to marry by law. Legal marriage is anyway a very different animal than religious marriage.
    Reading frequent complaints about laws, which discriminate based on gender, especially on this site, how about an ammendment to the constitution, which interdicts the state to distinguish based on sex or gender? I say “distinguish” and not “discriminate”, because “discriminate” allows for discussions what is “real discrimination” and what is not, which can inhibit the desired effects of gender equality.

  2. Yes. Well said. Allies need to come out of the closet and stand up for their friends and families. No matter the issue (race, ablism, health, gender, sexuality) speak up.

  3. John Anderson says:

    About 18 years ago, a couple friends and I went clubbing. The club we were going to was close to another friend’s house. We had room in the car for a fourth and we hadn’t seen him in years so dropped by to see if he wanted to come. His on-again, off-again girlfriend was there and at this point in time they were “off-again”. He wanted to go. She wasn’t dressed for it and didn’t. We told him that it was OK for him not to come and when he insisted, told him that we had space for him in the car, but he insisted on taking her car, which meant she had to come too.

    We didn’t see any bruises on her arm when she went into the car, but noticed some when she came out. When we got in the club, she was sitting in the corner turning guys down, while he was dancing with every girl he could. He wouldn’t hit her when we were around and didn’t mind us dancing with her so we each gave her one dance and took turns hanging around her all night.

    A mutual female friend had accused me of being afraid as my abusive buddy was built like the hulk and could bench 450. I wasn’t afraid, but I wouldn’t be able to stop him using standard attacks, kicks and punches. I’d have to go after the joints or opt to crush his trachea, techniques that would result in serious injury or death. If we got into it, one of us would be in a hospital or morgue.

    A lot of excuses run through your mind when faced with a situation like this. He’s my friend, not her. He backed me up in fights before. I don’t owe her anything. If we got into a fight, one of us is getting seriously injured. It’s just not worth it. It’s not like he’s hitting her when we’re around so we’ll just hang out with her. It only occurred to me a few months ago that he might have beaten her after we left the club. Maybe we made the situation worse for her because he felt constrained by our friendship also and decided to take the frustration out on her after we left.

    I’ve never had a problem voicing support for gay marriage rights even with my born again Christian friend, but I can see why some people are reluctant to. Some may even use the excuses I did. It’s not my fight. He’s my friend. I don’t know any gay people or have gay friends. I think we all do, but like in my case, none of the openly gay people I know aren’t close friends. In the case of my abusive friend, even when I know I should have handled things differently, I’m still at a loss as to how I should have handled it. We handle it now by not hanging out with him.

    • Thank you John, for bringing up domestic violence as a large (even larger, in my view), problem within the “It’s not my place, and not my problem,” issue.

      The same issue has loomed for rape victims, and still does, as illustrated by the Sandusky tragedy (tragic for the victims, not the perps), the Savannah Dietrich injustice, and just yesterday, there was a report of a female judge who told the rape victim, “If you hadn’t gone into that bar, you wouldn’t have gotten raped. If you continue to blame others for your problems, you will never be free of them.” (Classic victim-blaming by a FEMALE no-empathy judge.)

      Actually, it’s much easier for people to support rape victims and gay marriage, than it is for people to support targets of domestic violence (physical abuse) and domstic abuse (verbal, emotional, financial, and all other abuses of power, for which there are no laws to validate and protect).

      However, the debilitation that domestic violence causes its targets, and the ripple effect it has on the children (when there’s children involved), cause a far greater decrease in positive productivity in our country and our economy, than any other injustice.

      Again, thank you, John.

    • “When one stays neutral in situations of injustice, one has chosen the side of the oppressor.” ~ Desmond Tutu

      “All that is necessary for evil to thrive, is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke.

      ‎”Real compassion kicks butt and takes names and is not pleasant on certain days. If you are not ready for this FIRE, then find a new-age, sweetness and light, perpetually smiling teacher and learn to relabel your ego with spiritual sounding terms. But, stay away from those who practice REAL COMPASSION, because they will fry your ass, my friend.” ~ Ken Wilber

      • “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” – Abraham Maslow

        ”Real compassion kicks butt and takes names and is not pleasant on certain days. If you are not ready for this FIRE, then find a new-age, sweetness and light, perpetually smiling teacher and learn to relabel your ego with spiritual sounding terms. But, stay away from those who practice REAL COMPASSION, because they will fry your ass, my friend.” ~ Ken Wilber

        I agree wholeheartedly with Ken Wilber’s sentiments – Real Compassion is not pleasant at certain times – Fire is a factor – new-age sweetness and light is a sidetrack, and frying of asses can be a very compassionate thing!

        The one factor that is missing is not the compassion – or the courage! It’s Wisdom! It’s easy to start a fire, and far harder to use fire and it’s power to burn and even incinerate, as a way to protect others.

        Wisdom does not sit well with hammers. It comes with a full tool kit.

  4. “You were A close-minded bigot!” Sounds like someone saying A gay or A black. How about you try, “I didn’t know you had bigoted tendencies.”

    There are arguments for not wanting gay marriage that have nothing to do with bigotry. It could be about simple interpretation and obedience to the Bible; it could be that you don’t think it should be illegal, but not allowed in your church.

    It’s convenient to slap a label on all these people as “bigots” though.

    “When you say nothing, you’re telling the person who is spouting hate that you agree.” That’s why I’m commenting here. I wanted to say something. But you should soften this statement with a “sometimes” or even an “often” thrown in there . I find it’s often the high road to not start a confrontation.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I disagree, Brandon.

      Not saying anything in the face of discrimination is not the high road. Ever.

      As I say in the piece, you can say it gently and with love, and you don’t have to say a single negative thing to the person who is saying hateful things, you can simply state what YOU believe.

      • Hey, I’m all about saying something when unwarranted discrimination is going on. (I say unwarranted, because it’s necessary to recognize that discrimination happens all the time for good reasons. When an employer chooses the best applicant for the job, she discriminates between them and the others. When I I choose one woman over another on an online dating site–same thing.) But using an absolute like “ever” dismisses too much. If I’m interviewing someone and they say bigoted things I’m not going to try and change their minds. I’m going to continue the interview. If I’m a therapist and my client spouts bigoted things. I’m not going to challenge them in session.

  5. Chris Kluwe is a good man…!

    That took real balls! What a rare dude!

  6. Joanna,

    I agree 100% with you that gays should be entitled to the legal benefits and privileges of marriage, however that particular combination of things like tax benefits, child custody, medical authority, etc. wants to be called under the law. I don’t really care if it’s called “marriage” or a “civil union” as long as *legally* they get the same perks as opposite sex marriage. Religiously, I don’t give a shit if some believer or official church refuses to recognize it as marriage in some spiritual sense, because that’s religion and that’s up to them. There’s lots of religion (all of it, really) that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t mean I consider every religious person a bigot.

    I agree 100% that Kluwe’s statement was heroic, not just because of the position he was staking out, but because he risks his own reputation and well-being by not just doing the easy thing and staying quiet. He deserves praise, and it would be great to see more people follow his example. That said, I reject the notion of considering every person who doesn’t do the heroic thing to be a bigot, coward, or whatever word of the day you want to use to describe people as monsters for simply acting like most people instead of doing the heroic thing. No one is a hero on every issue, so if you’re ready to hold the non-heros in contempt for your pet issue, be prepared be held in contempt for not being bravely outspoken and active on some other noble cause that isn’t quite prominent enough for you to sacrifice time, money, work, and reputation for.

    For example, have you saved any whales this week by jumping in a boat to take on Japanese whalers or using spare time to write letters and editorials about whale preservation instead of spending that time with family or watching YouTube videos? No? Whale bigot! You obviously hate animals in general and whales in particular if you don’t dedicate yourself to their preservation with every waking breath. I bet a whale bigot like yourself doesn’t even dream of whales. If you’re not part of the whale solution, you may as well be shooting the harpoons yourself. For shame.

    Doing or saying nothing is what most people do most of the time when there is something to lose, and that’s most of the time, even if the only thing at stake is “what will this person think of me?”. I don’t think that’s noble or preferable, but I think it’s so unavoidable as to not deserve heaping piles of condemnation when it happens. Let’s celebrate the heros (like Kluwe in this case) and hope that inspires others to do the same, rather than taking that heroic action and treating it like the ordinary everyday thing that everybody but monsters do, which face it, makes most people monsters.

    I elaborated a similar argument in my piece, Sandusky, Paterno, Rick Reilly, & Me.

    • John Anderson says:

      I remember when I first wrote about my experience with my abusive friend, I was criticized by one person. My response to her was we prevented him from beating his girlfriend so what’s the problem if I never confronted my friend? I thought about it and realized that the problem is that we’re not always there. He could have beaten her again that night when we left the club.

      I think Joanna’s point is that even if we called same sex marriage something other than marriage, we’re othering LGBT people and that could lead to people committing acts of violence against them. If someone states their opinion to you that gay sex is a sin, you can express your opinion back and should if you don’t believe it to be true.

      If believing that same sex marriage or homosexual sex is wrong is bigoted, I don’t think you get a pass because you say it’s your religion. You’re just a bigot. If you feel that cutting off part of someone’s genitals without their consent is abusive, calling it your religion doesn’t make it any less child abuse.

      • I understood Joanna’s point, and still disagree with it. If someone disagrees with me on a moral position, whether it’s religious or otherwise, that’s not enough to qualify them as a bigot. Bigotry is in actions, not in thoughts. If a devout Christian believes homosexuality is a sin and an affront to God, even bad enough to condemn someone’s soul to Hell, but simultaneously supports people’s right enter into same-sex contracts that cover tax benefits, child custody, powers of attorney, etc, (i.e. the legal aspects of marriage) then I do not care if they think it is real or moral in the eyes of God. Compare it divorce as a legal option. Officially, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize marriages after divorce as valid, and nobody but Catholics care because legally, it has no effect. For those Catholics who care about the spiritual effects, they can jump through religious hoops to have earlier marriages annulled, but as far as the impact on the law, few people lose sleep over the fact that the Pope doesn’t believe in re-marriage.

        The things “marriage” means aren’t just words, but “marriage” is. Legally, I think all people should be entitled to the same definitions and protections, even if it takes a new word or phrase to achieve it. Spiritually or religiously or metaphysically, it’s as impossible to define “marriage” as it is to define “love”, and I think it stands in the way of progress to insist that anyone who can’t agree on that level is a bigot. I think the fight for legalizing gay marriage is winnable – there’s already some successes – but the fight to force religions to treat it as spiritually legitimate is pointless, doomed, and pushing a free exercise boundary that shouldn’t be pushed. When the other side tries to block legalization on spiritual grounds, that’s an establishment problem worth fighting, but that victory must (or should) stop short of telling all the assorted religions that they’re obliged to provide rituals and blessings to gay people (or anyone else) based on what the secular law says.

        I want gay marriage to be more like divorce, where there’s an abundance of moral and religious views about it, many of which I disagree with, but legally, it’s available.

  7. Those who fight for same-sex marriage but don’t also support or oppose poly marriage are no better and no different than what they criticize. They are no less “closed-minded bigots” than those they criticize.

    • Better said, “Those who fight for same-sex marriage but don’t also support or, worse yet, oppose poly marriage are no better and no different than what they criticize.”

  8. John Anderson says:

    On another occasion in my late teens, my uncle told my mom that my cousin’s boyfriend had beaten her up. My mom told me and my brother so we asked my cousin where he was at. She told us and we found him with a group of friends. We asked them which one of them was her boyfriend and he spoke up. There were five of them and two of us. He was cocky for about 30 seconds before we started dropping people.

    I heard from the grapevine that after the fight, her friends were telling people that her cousin’s were crazy, but I doubt very much that her boyfriend stopped hitting her. I heard other things through the grapevine also. I think my cousin just stopped telling my uncle and her boyfriend just got more subtle about it.

    That one was easy. I was defending someone I cared about against someone I didn’t know. This was traditional masculinity at its finest. The way we handled this situation was more satisfying, but now that I’m older, I’m not satisfied with the way we handled it. It probably stopped her from getting hit for a while just like hanging out with my friend’s girlfriend stopped him from hitting her, but it didn’t get to the heart of the problem. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we’re accomplishing something when we’re not. It’s a half measure that makes us feel good.

    I think that when it comes to LGBT rights, we sometimes think in half measures to convince ourselves that we’re doing something because we’re good people and we believe in being fair. A civil union is the same as a marriage in the legal sense so we’re not really being bigoted. What’s the problem if we want to reserve the word marriage to refer only to heterosexual couples? Let’s ask the other question. What‘s the problem with just allowing LGBT people to get married?

  9. For some reason, EVERY time someone is arguing for speaking up when someone starts spouting bigoted crap, the setting in which said crap is being spouted is a party or other friendly, ‘low-risk’ social gathering. Like the barbecue, church picnic, office christmas party, or school/college reunions alluded to here. Which then makes it bloody easy to argue that a failure to speak up against it makes you equal to a bigot yourself.

    Seductive argument … except it’s a load of pony :-) Because unfortunately, it’s all too often the case that the reasons for not speaking up aren’t, in fact, because you’re a precious wallflower who avoids a scene like most people avoid mosquitoes. In fact, it’s very often because the bigotry-spouting is going on in a social context in which speaking up would be against your own best interests, or where the spouting is being done by a person you can’t afford to antagonize. Classic example: at work. Or by your boss. Or both. Surely you’re not suggesting that the only way people can avoid being bigots is by confronting their boss for being one, even if she makes Sarah Palin look like a member of GLAAD :-)

    The sad fact is, a lot of the time speaking up carries a lot of pretty bad consequences for the speaker (or vulnerable loved ones, such as their children, elderly parents, or even a fragile spouse). And by ‘bad’, I don’t mean “a bit uncomfortable”, but downright dangerous. Sometimes, there’s even a flipside to the whole idea that not speaking up means you join the ranks of the oppressors – speaking up makes you part of the oppressed, and defending the minority makes you ‘as bad as them’ in the eyes of the bigots. Very rarely are you in a position where the only risk is a few vague threats from nutters or a few pundits calling you names online. Most of the time, it’s worlds more immediate than that. If it wasn’t, we’d have a lot more people speaking up.

    In a perfect world, you’d be able to keep your job or your home (and not get bullied or harassed or threatened into quitting or moving), not get ostracized from the community that supports your business and looks out for your old mum, or otherwise singled out or even targeted, sometimes to the same degree as if you’d been a member of the group you defended. But this is anything BUT a perfect world. Expecting people to have perfect behavior in an imperfect world is an unrealistically high standard on your part – not to mention really freakin’ unfair.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Listen, yes, you should exercise good judgement. But I think most of the time one can say something very mild and about oneself (instead of specfically calling out the other person or speaking about them at all) and it won’t upset the status quo at all.

      Do you do the same thing with racists? Or with disabled people? If someone’s saying that Black people shouldn’t be allowed to vote, for instance, or if someone’s making fun of a disabled person? Do you think people should stay silent on that?

      I think a simple, “I actually disagree with you, but I was actually hoping to talk about the expense report today” for instance will often work. Especially if delivered with a smile and a persistent drive to change the subject.

      Everyone has a lot of excuses for why they don’t speak up. And some are valid. If you’re going to lose your job or if you’re going to be physically harmed are good reasons. I hope that one can infer that I’m not being absolute in circumstances that are dangerous for you. If not – then make a note here – you need to keep yourself physically safe and not get fired.

      But the fact is, most of the time it’s not a dangerous situation, it’s that people are chickenshit and would rather be part of the problem than make others upset with them. Then they use the cop-out that it’s not in their nature to upset people, and what if their friends don’t like them, and whatever else. Well, fuck your friends if they want to oppress people based upon sexuality.

      At least that’s how I see it.

      • Look, it seems to me that you continue to talk about friends, and I wasn’t. I was talking about people with whom you have no choice, except to interact with them, and more – get along with them. And I don’t know about you, but that describes the biggest chunk of human interactions and relationships for about 90% of the population (I’m fortunate; I’m in the 10%, for now, but that’s neither here nor there). It’s all very well to get faux-vocative and say ‘well, fuck your friends if they’re oppressors”, but how does that help us progress? Okay, it’s a nice way to vent, but is it useful?

        For most non-bigoted people (ie those likely to even think about protesting), the dilemma you outlined rarely presents itself when they’re among friends – at least, real friends, which means peers and people with whom you have things in common :P. Usually, it presents when they’re in complex social situations involving someone (or an entire social context) on whom or which they depend (they personally or a loved one). And then, sticking your neck out can have lots of pretty unpleasant, pretty far-reaching consequences. Especially since nobody reacts well to being called out on their bigotry. Plus, bigotry – whether it targets black people, gay people, people with disabilities, or anybody else – is such an objectionable behavior that calling someone out on it is IN ITSELF a challenge to the status quo – no matter how gently you think you’re saying it.. It’s one of those things that you just can’t put tactfully – pragmatically is the best you can hope for. You could be muttering in the corner, it’d have the same impact as if you’d hollered and pointed :P

        What gets me is that if we forget that reality, or ignore it because it doesn’t apply to us or whatever, then we ‘re just kicking away something that could help start fixing this. Then all we do is write inspired, passionate tirades that only touch the people who ALREADY do what we enjoin everyone to. We think it’s enough to tell people over and over again they need to speak up, but when we pretend the only reason NOT to do it is because you’re either a coward or a bigot yourself, we lose people’s trust and respect because it makes us look like eejits who can only think in black and white – and they live in a colorful world with more than its fair share of grey.

        I mean, hey, the above route’s been tried for several decades now – at least since the poem about how they took the jew, the black guy, and everybody, and I said nothing, then when they took me there was noone left to protest. And we can go on using that approach, with kids for one. But we’ve been serving it up, in a variety of formats, to schoolchildren AND adults for some 50 years, and I don’t see progress relative to the effort. In fact, extreme bigotry is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence in Europe (yes, that Europe – the one that the Nazis, universal archetype for bigots everywhere, starved and massacred just a few generations back). Isn’t it time we looked at OTHER ways of making this work? Starting with gaining an understanding of why and when it DOESN’T work that’s a touch more complex than, ‘because people are chickenshits’?

    • John Anderson says:

      “Classic example: at work. Or by your boss. Or both. Surely you’re not suggesting that the only way people can avoid being bigots is by confronting their boss for being one”

      Yet there are people who do. Maybe it’s because of all the crap I took when I was younger, but I rarely back down. I admit that when it comes to my friends, I have a greater likelihood of remaining silent. That probably also goes back to my childhood as we were a small group of Asians growing up in a white neighborhood and we needed each other.

      Sometimes you don’t have to confront your boss. Just speak up. I’m half Filipino and was raised in that tradition so consider myself simply Filipino, but I rake after my Scottish/Irish father. Some people don’t recognize that I’m half Asian. My boss always wanted to see the 7 wonders of the world and the Great Wall of China was next. I asked her if she would be stopping in the Philippines. She said no because all the women there are whores. I never raised my voice and just matter of fact said that I was wondering because I’m half Filipino and probably could have helped her out.

      You should have seen the horror on her face. She apologized profusely and explained that her brother had married a Filipino woman and they later got divorced. It was a contentious divorce and that was where the sentiment came from. If she didn’t apologize, how far would I have taken it? I was just reflecting on one of the prouder things I did. I guess I needed it because I still feel like a punk for not standing up to my friend when he was abusing his girlfriend.

      I was solving a technical issue in one of our departments and a woman there was pregnant. I asked how she was doing and she told me that her back was killing her. I asked her why she didn’t request one of the braces that they hook over the back of the chair. She told me she did, but her boss told her no. I asked if one of the chairs in the board room would be more comfortable. She said yes and I brought her one. The next day my boss asked me if I took a chair from the board room and gave it to the pregnant employee. I told her that I did and told her that her back was hurting. She requested a brace and they told her no. I told my boss that you don’t do that to a pregnant woman. She got a back brace that same day.

      I might be crazier than most and wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they were afraid to speak up, but you would be surprised how many people know that they’re not doing the right thing and just need someone to point that out.

      • well, I’m glad you spoke up those times. You made a direct difference, especially with the pregnant gal, and I reckon that’s a nice thing to carry :-)

        But the argument remains: we can line up all the personal experiences on one side that say ‘I spoke up and nothing bad happened’ but it’s just as easy to line up as many examples of, ‘I spoke up, and it messed with my life’. I could add my own either side – direct ones, where I was dong the speaking up, and indirect, where I saw or heard someone else do it, or they related the story. I mean, even in your post, there’s an example of what I was talking about, when you said you’re less likely to confront your friends. This is what I was trying to show by making the distinction between friends who are your peers, your equals, not people you *need* but people you *want* to interact with. In this case it sounds like you’re not confronting these people because you *need* them – or grew up doing so and it’s still an automatic reaction (which I’m sure you’ll eventually get over if they continue to do or say awful stuff, since as grown ups we’re stronger to stand alone than as teens).

        The point is, if we keep adding personal experiences, it gets pretty hard to see the big picture. Talking on a more abstract, generalized level can help see it again, sometimes. That’s all I was trying to do, I guess. That, and be pragmatic, knowing not every culture (even in the same country) values individuality – many value conformity and (informal) pecking order above all. And in that context, sticking your neck out is mega-risky, and most people just don’t have it in them to play hero. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know right from wrong and are bigots, and neither does it make them particularly cowardly. It just makes them ordinary people. Now, if you want to say ordinary people can be maddening, yeah, I’ll agree lol, but being just average isn’t a moral failing, and that’s what we’re discussing here (using a sort of old-school term).

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