LETTER: Call for self-reflection on condoning racist behavior

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 8:15 p.m. CST; updated 11:17 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ms. Wilmot’s commentary was excellent; I hope many people will read it. The issue involves more than racism towards people of color, of course. Many groups and individuals are victimized by harassment, bullying, demeaning statements and deeds. America in general decries this type of behavior, yet on an individual level, most people will privately laugh at a demeaning joke — if they or their sub-group are not the target.

I can say for sure that through decisions, by every single individual, to be courageous enough to speak out immediately whenever they witness a crime would reduce the incidents of hate crimes and harrassment. Most people may cringe when they see or hear something offensive, yet they do not speak up because of fear of retribution on some level (social rejection by their own sub-group or active retribution by the offender).

People who enjoy offending others tend to act out when they feel assured of support. A communal atmosphere of immediate disapproval and censure would prevent many assaults. Maybe the MU campus could encourage students to be proactive with immediate responses toward all harassment toward all sub-groups. That would mean white people taking up for black people and vice-versa; Hispanics taking up for the disabled, and so on.

Vengeful actions only maintain an unhealthy cycle. An angry response to hateful behavior is almost a justification. Responses to harassment need to be impersonal. A simple statement of fact, such as, “Did you just make a racist statement?” while waiting calmly for the response in front of witnesses is much more effective than a vitriolic assault in return. This method works because it allows a person the luxury of being self-reflective instead of defensive.

Let’s try to be honest with ourselves and search our memories for when we have laughed at offensive jokes not directed towards ourselves. We are all guilty. We need to absolutely stop the behavior in ourselves, even in our thoughts, and we need to be tempered and impersonal towards other’s misdeeds.


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Jo Lena Johnson March 4, 2010 | 3:32 a.m.

Great commentary - and thank you for speaking up!

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