I am a racist.
I am a homophobe.
These are not statements you normally hear someone say about themselves. These are not goals to which most (civilized) people aspire. And, if you know me in real life, you are probably shocked to hear me says those things… as there is (hopefully) very little in what I say or do that would lead you to this conclusion. But yet, it’s there.
What prompted me to write about this was a recent exchange I had with someone I don’t even know. I’m sure you’ve heard (or had) a similar conversation somewhere in your experience as well. The person began his statement with, “Do not call me a homophobe. I have plenty of close friends and family that are gay…” You know what comes next. A list of opinions that are clearly homophobic. I wanted to call this person out, but decided to take some time to think about exactly what I would say before responding. This post is the result of that time of reflection.
In case you haven’t noticed, something has gone extremely screwy with our society. We have lost the ability to see things on a continuum. Everything must be black or white, good or bad, left or right… It follows in this popular philosophy therefore, that people either are or are not racist. People either are or are not homophobic. But in all truth, reality simply isn’t that simple. We all carry some degree of racism in our hearts and minds. We all carry some degree of homophobia. While it is certainly true that some people are extremely bigoted and there are some people that have very little bigotry, it still bothers me when we pick an arbitrary line and use that metric to decide who will and who will not be labeled a bigot.
This brings me to my main point.
Nearly everyone will draw the line between bigotry and acceptance so that they come out on the “correct” side.
In my opening statement, I chose to draw the line differently. I chose to put myself on the wrong side of the line. I chose to recognize that I do harbor racist and homophobic thoughts. These thoughts were planted in my heart and mind long ago in my childhood. They were planted by the adults in my life. They were planted by my peers. I have a handful of very clear memories of some of these seeds being planted. These are not memories to be proud of… but they are there and they are real. Those individuals who infected me were, most likely, infected by the adults and peers of their childhood.
By recognizing this flaw within me, I can take action. I choose in my daily life to not act on malignant thoughts. I choose to knock those thoughts down when they arise. I choose to better myself. I choose to be vigilant in avoiding infecting others (especially my children and other youth with whom I have influence).
Some may want to quote Albus Dumbledore and remind me that “It is our choices that show what we truly are…” I would typically agree with you. Moreover, in judging others, I would almost certainly apply this philosophy. But in judging myself, I must be honest and frank. I must recognize the flaw so that I do not fall victim to it. I must recognize the flaw so that I do not inflict it on my fellow man.
So my friend that prompted this post, I will not call you a homophobe. I do not know your heart. While, I see elements of homophobia in your thoughts and words, it is not my call. It is yours. All I ask is that you (and everyone else) judge your own actions in such a way that others will see you as you want to be. And, I’ll keep trying to do the same.