There seems to be so much throwing stones at people who have made mistakes in their youth, some egregious mistakes, some foolish mistakes and some thoughtless mistakes, but I feel we are going overboard by demanding these now adults lose their jobs and having their reputations ruined by something they did at an age when they weren’t the wiser. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about anyone who caused physical harm to another human being. That, to me, is something else altogether. No, what I’m talking about is someone who thought it would be entertaining to dress up in black face for a party or someone who was caught on tape telling a racist, homophobic or some other joke that is offensive and not understanding the harm it can cause. I think much of the problem is the lack of education.
For instance, a few years back, I was at a social gathering and we happened to be discussing the kinds of nuts we enjoyed. Someone preferred walnuts while another said they liked cashews. Then there was the woman who announced without any hesitation the kind of nut she likes, referencing it toward black people in a racist way. It was clear when I first met this woman that she didn’t have access to as much education as most people, for whatever reason. However, I immediately stopped her and said that the actual name was Brazil nut and not the discriminatory term she used. She looked genuinely surprised, only having heard it in her household by the offensive term without giving it much thought. I explained to her why the description was offensive, and the light bulb seemed to have clicked on at that moment. Was this woman racist? I cannot say since our paths never crossed again. But it was clear that she was not educated.
Let me share when the light bulb came on for me many years ago when I used the phrase, Indian giver, when someone wanted something back that they’d given to me. I’d heard that phrase all through my childhood without giving it much consideration and spewed it when I felt it made sense. It wasn’t until I realized what we as a people did to the Indians that I realized how wrong that phrase was and stopped using it. I’ve also called something that someone did “retarded.” Again, it wasn’t until I paid attention to my words that I realized just how off the mark that was. Had there been videotape back in the day of me saying such things, would my reputation be ruined now? Should it be?
Here’s my point: I’m pretty sure all of us have said and done things from our youth or from having little education about why certain things should not be tolerated. Rather, it’s the ones who don’t correct themselves, after having the light bulb moment, that should be called out. It’s also the ones who don’t speak up when someone does say something demeaning who should be called out. However, I think it’s time we put down those stones we are so willing to cast and help educate each other so we live in a kinder society where we respect one another.