Always speak up against racism

Don’t sin by silence, do the right thing

What do you do when you hear someone make a racist remark or tell a racist joke? How do you deal with it when you see a racist meme in your email inbox? Or when someone posts something racist on his or your social media?

Do you say something like, “What you just said/sent/posted is vile, and I don’t support or tolerate it”? Do you email your correspondent back and say, “Hey, it’s not OK with me that you’re emailing this around”? Do you message your social media friend and say, “I don’t approve of what you posted on my/your social media”?

If you don’t have any of these responses when people flagrantly pass on racist thinking, speech or material, why not? Are you remaining silent so you won’t rock the boat or make people mad? Do you want to keep people from feeling shame? Are you afraid of not fitting in? Do you just not want to stir things up with friends or family? Or are you apathetic and/or lazy? Are you a people-pleaser who wants everyone to like you?

There are no valid reasons or excuses for remaining silent. We all need to be hyper-vigilant against racism in any form, and when we hear or see it, we need to address and denounce it. We need to challenge it immediately and make clear we have zero tolerance for racism.

If we don’t intervene right when we hear or see racism in action, we’re contributing to the problem. We’re helping perpetuate racism when we don’t have the guts to do what’s right. We’re being spineless and puny.

When teaching at Butte College, I talked with my students about a favorite quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “To sin by silence when they should speak makes cowards of men.”

Don’t sin by silence when you know intolerance of any kind is being carried out. Don’t be a coward. Speak up. Be a brave warrior and help make the world a kinder, more tolerant place.