Speak Up

I remember a day in school where we learned about racism and the African-American Civil Rights Movement. We learned that prior to the movement racism was extremely widespread. It was a popular belief that white and black people should be treated differently. However, decades later it is unthinkable. People cluck their tongues at the thought of racism and shun those who still cling to outdated beliefs. My grandma on my father’s side is sadly still racist. We have not had a relationship for over twenty years as a result. It is unthinkable to me that she still believes the color of a person’s skin holds any bearing on how you should treat them and I find myself unable to associate with her as a result of her bigoted views.

I remember when learning about the civil rights movement finding something quite puzzling. Many of the people alive during that era are not racist today. Cases like my grandma are few and far between. Many of those people would speak out quite strongly against racism should they encounter it. So why were so many racist back then? Many of them were not. They were just going with the flow, being apathetic, or too afraid to speak up against the popular beliefs of their time. Very few would ever admit to it. There is a very special kind of shame associated with defending a view that you always knew to be wrong. Apathy and inactivity actively hurt others just as much as loud, bigoted speeches.

The same thing happens today with gay rights. Many speak out against gay marriage, saying that it is wrong. Others stand by apathetically and simply listen; too afraid to disagree or speak up. In our hearts we know that discrimination is wrong. We’ve watched it all play out before. Yet still we stay silent. Easier to let the revolution happen around us and then jump on the bandwagon when it’s all over. Yet picture yourself as someone who lives during an era of discrimination, watching friends and loved ones around them standing idly while they suffer the parroted views of an apathetic society. Waiting it out is not an answer we can be proud of.

A couple of decades from now we will all look back and cluck our tongues once more, wondering how such an educated and advanced people could have actively discriminated against another subset of society…again; puzzled as to why it took so long for such discrimination to be exiled. School children will read about the actions we take today just as I read in school about all of the racists who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. Many of those people would be appalled to think of themselves as racist today yet their actions, or rather their inaction at the time, are a part of history. Stand on the right side of history, be brave, and let your friends know that supporting gay rights doesn’t make them gay; it makes them human.

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