A few days ago I had a very heated discussion with someone about a certain minority group that we’ll call The Newcomers. My sparring partner, who we’ll call The Twerker, decided to pollute my Facebook newsfeed with an incredibly racist speech about how The Newcomers can do nothing right because they don’t know English as well as he does, and one bad encounter completely ruined his day. He then went on a lengthy rant about how they are basically the root of all our problems in Canada and he deserved better than them because of his all-mighty tax dollars. Naturally, the Newcomers’ tax dollars were far less-significant.
I was annoyed of course, but even in such a situation, we all have options, don’t we? What were my options? Ignore him and find a happy place. Hide him. Delete him. Report him. Engage.
I chose to engage, but I thought I’d try to lighten his mood and steer him in a different direction. Perhaps, with a little humour, there was a chance that he would see how angry his words were, and he could address what was really bothering him about his interaction, and his expectations of others.
Of course, I knew ahead of time that by saying anything to the contrary, he might turn his anger toward me. I decided it was a chance I’d have to take. I would rather spar with him, than have some innocent Newcomer fall victim to an unwarranted outburst by The Twerker.
I cracked a joke about First World Problems, and waited for his reply. Truly, I didn’t know The Twerker well enough to anticipate his response. He’s an acquaintance, not a dear friend. But still, maybe humour would be enough to diffuse his rage -- somewhat, at least.
His response was sort of scattered, as his rage seemed to touch on a variety of topics that he lumped together in one comment. I wasn’t really sure what to address, so I chose one tiny aspect to comment on, and then told him he needed to see the bigger picture. To me, it didn’t seem as though The Newcomers were the true source of his anger, but the prevailing system they operated within. I suggested he consider refocusing his anger, and use his energy to change the system.
So he attacked my argument, and more or less called me an idiot who had no idea what he was talking about. I responded that I didn’t understand what he was talking about and never would, because I refused to take the side of racism and hate a group of people for merely moving to Canada and trying to make a better life for themselves.
Now that the “R” word was out in the open, The Twerker went berserk. He was so incredibly offended that I would suggest he was being racist that he said I had lost all credibility. I told him that so long as he polluted my newsfeed with his racist thoughts, I would respond, every single time. If he didn’t like that, he was welcome to delete me.
He said I was overreacting and had no time for negative people like me. I told him to stop blaming an entire group of people for one insignificant experience, for it truly was a petty thing he was upset over.
And that was the last I heard of The Twerker because I was deleted and blocked immediately after. I shook my head because it was a lot of drama, and I prefer to avoid drama. But I meditated on it, and thought of all the times in my life I hadn’t said anything when something inappropriate was uttered around me.
Only the week before I’d been on a road trip with one of the most fearless women I’ve ever known. She regularly confronts racism as part of her job, and the stories she shared with me were both heartbreaking and awesome.
Listening to her encounters would send a jolt of courage and inspiration through anybody. Amazing people have that effect on me. I want to be more like them.
Shortly after I returned from my road trip, my husband shared a story with me about our son and how he had intervened between a neighbourhood kid who was bullying a Newcomer. Our son told the bully to lay off the Newcomer because he didn’t speak English very well, but just because he couldn’t understand the language didn’t make him dumb. My husband overheard this exchange and was quite proud of him.
These were two examples that drove me to say something to The Twerker. I lost a friend because I wouldn’t accept his intolerance, but I gained a little more self-respect because of it.
Without naming The Twerker, I shared the encounter on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by the response. My intention of sharing wasn’t to be self-righteous. I was merely announcing to the rest of my friends that I wouldn’t tolerate racism from anyone because I have kids to raise in this world and I want to make the world better than how I found it. The status update was more of a vow to myself, and a warning to others that I refuse to be silent anymore.
Then I prayed that The Twerker would find peace and love instead of anger and hate. Oddly enough, the next day, a Newcomer I did not know sent me an inbox message thanking me for taking a stand and blessing me for my courage. He had seen the status update and our ensuing argument. I was flabbergasted. I certainly didn’t expect a thank you for speaking up, though it was a nice surprise. He had been hurt by the statements. For all the drama that had resulted from my exchange with The Twerker, I was happy I chose to speak up. A newcomer felt a little better because of it.
I wanted to share this story with my readers in case it inspired anyone else to speak up when they hear any racist remarks. There is a way to effectively take a stand. We don’t have to be angry or confrontational when we challenge others. We can simply state that such language is unacceptable, and model love, peace and tolerance instead.
As long as one racist mark is allowed to pass, none of us are free of racism. We are all liable to become a target. Please speak up today. For our kids. For ourselves.