The Tolerance of Intolerance – 87 days and counting

The 2016 presidential election has ignited a lot of racial tension. Donald Trump and his followers have brought xenophobia and intolerance into the limelight. It’s both a relief and exciting to see powerful people from the Democratic and Republican parties uniting against someone whose behavior is divisive.

We are getting a glimmer of what the world is like when groups work together. Things get done. Perhaps, world peace is possible. We still have a lot of work to do, however, because the tolerance of intolerance still exists in many settings.

The first time I experienced racism was when I was six years old.  I grew up in the Midwest, amongst conservatives.

When I went to elementary school, it was the initial years of desegregation. One day I came home from the first grade, and told my mother and best friend that I had made a new friend named Reginald Jones. My friend, who was only a year older than me, started calling him derogatory names I’d never heard before. The next morning, my mother called the principal, and then told me to stay away from him.

I argued with both of them. I couldn’t understand why he and I couldn’t be friends. I did, however, wonder what was wrong with my mother and my childhood friend.

The next day, my supposed best friend quit hanging around with me, and persuaded other children in the neighborhood to stop playing with me. They also started calling me lots of names.

In social situations, I speak up whenever I hear people being prejudice. I call it as I see it. It’s just the way I am.

I don’t feel comfortable speaking up at work though. For the last several years, I’ve worked in contract positions for numerous companies in New York City. Donald Trump and his followers are not the only ones spewing vile, hate speech.

I continue to be surprised that office bigotry is alive and well, and comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, and no one seems to take a stand against it. I’ve seen people at all levels overlook inappropriate comments.

The EEOC has laws to protect everyone, but companies don’t uphold these standards. Many times, the person who complains about the discriminatory behavior is labeled a troublemaker, and is eventually terminated, no matter how offensive the statement, and even when others confirm it.

Some of the comments I’ve heard in workplaces are below:

“All Americans are racist.”

“That lazy Chicano thing is true.”

“She gets special treatment, because she’s black. If I did the same thing, they’d fire me.”

“Did you know he was from Iran? So you never know.”

“That German guy sounds like a Nazi.”

“I don’t want to talk to her. She’s old.”

“I need to hire a white man. This team looks like the ghetto.”

“He’s a god damn Jew who stresses over every penny.”

“I can’t tell if a white girl’s hair is dirty.”

“I didn’t expect someone as attractive as you to be so smart.”

“He’s a faggot freak show.”

“I don’t like to hire black people. They’re hard to fire, even when they don’t perform well. They sue.”

I am getting angry at the fact that I can’t speak up at work.  I’m sure others feel the same way. I keep reminding myself that I’m not the one with the problem. But maybe I am, because I don’t speak up.

What am I supposed to do? What are we all supposed to do?

I don’t understand why we don’t celebrate our similarities. No matter if you’re black, white, Middle Eastern, Latino, European, Asian, Indian, American Indian, or any of the other hundreds of ethnicities in the world, we are more alike than different.

I don’t understand why someone doesn’t like someone just because of the color of their skin, or because they celebrate a certain holiday, or because they choose a certain lifestyle. I believe we should all be able to live the way we want, as long as were not harming others or ourselves.

There are lots of people who are discriminated against.

I’ll say it again. People come in all shapes and sizes and colors and so does racism.

One thing is certain. I am not letting anyone drag me into their dogmatic way of thinking. I will not let the bigots and extremists indoctrinate me into their myopia.

I can’t help it. It’s the way I am. What’s your excuse?