The Day I Became a Bigot

That title is totally clickbait.  Everyone hates clickbait, right? Believe me, it will be relevant soon.

I’m not a bigot, but I was called one this week and I just had to share.

The trouble started with this article on Facebook (doesn’t it always?)

Regulars Stopped Going To Cafe After Realizing Owner Was Gay

Not the most concise headline, but I wanted you to know what I’m talking about without having to click. Because this, too, is clickbait. Tl;Dr One couple in a small Australian town stopped going to a cafe because they’re bigoted assholes.

Even in this era of shoddy Internet journalism, to call this an article is a stretch.  Basically an anecdote shared by the owner.  We don’t hear the couple’s side or even their identities; to say nothing of the misleading “regulars” making it sound like the entire town was boycotting.

I had gone over a year without commenting on stuff online because there’s always a keyboard warrior itching for a fight. I had been slowly working back into it with a modicum of success; no fights, and some of my comments were very popular, in one instance garnering over 100 likes.  I was drunk with power!

I knew it couldn’t last. Don’t get me wrong, the comment that got me in trouble has 88 likes as of this writing.  But a fight was started nevertheless.

All I said was, “I’m as anti-bigot as the next liberal, but people don’t have to use a business if they don’t want to.” (Not that I require validation, but if you do click the article most of the comments there agree with me.)  I see now I should have added “but they still deserve to roast in hell for a thousand eternities” to avoid the wrath of the SJWs (social justice warriors, which I used to proudly count myself as one until today).

Some people protested that boycotting businesses for policies or practices you don’t like isn’t the same as boycotting them for who the owners are as people. Which to me is six of one and half-dozen of the other. Your reasons can be thoroughly justified or batshit insane; the fact remains that you are under no obligation to do business where you don’t want to.

But one woman came after me as if I had pissed in her cornflakes that morning.  “You created a false equivalency (oh, the SJWs LOVE that phrase) between boycotting businesses because they discriminate and boycotting businesses IN ORDER TO discriminate.  Perhaps you’re not QUITE as anti-bigot as you’d like to think.”

Hoping to end this quickly (because I don’t get paid to faff around on Facebook all day),  I chalked it up to “outrage exhaustion. With so many real and present dangers coming out of the White House,  I just can’t bring myself to worry about where one couple (ONE FREAKING COUPLE) in Australia eats lunch.”

How DARE they not eat lunch at a gay restaurant!! (I even chose a shot with the opera house so there can be no doubt they’re avoiding gay Australian cafés)

Let’s get real here. We have PLENTY to worry about at the hands of a Trump presidency.  At the risk of sounding hysterical, the short list includes our healthcare, our democracy, and our entire planet (I can’t comment on the fact that his entire cabinet appears to be Putin’s BFF because it’s an ongoing investigation, but still, MILDLY ALARMING). Am I upset because an anonymous pair of Aussies is taking their business elsewhere?  No, and I don’t understand how anyone has the energy to be.

To be clear, yes, they were assholes and I’d be happier if we could all just get along.  But I’d be more upset if the story had ended with them going back and burning the place down, or even painting a swastika somewhere. But in the struggle for equality and all the truly horrific things that have been done to some of us, one couple quietly eating someplace else is barely a blip on our timeline of persecution.

But this woman wasn’t done yet. “Endorsing bigotry because ‘I’m tired’ remains endorsement.  So much for that ‘anti-bigot’ thing.”

I wanted the record scratching sound effect but there’s no visual representation of that

 

This. This is why conservatives (and even centrists) can’t stand liberals. We keep those words BIGOT and RACIST close by, like pepper spray in a dark alley.  Whip them out at the slightest hint of disagreement. Yes, unfortunately all too often they’re fitting, but not every single time. So don’t be so quick on the draw, Facebook Annie Oakley.

Chapter Two: In Which I Illustrate My Point With Anecdotal Evidence

Let me tell you a tale of two people.

I came out to my dorm mates my sophomore year over dinner one night. I lived in a smaller “family style” dorm, so picture a table of about ten as opposed to a cavernous cafeteria setting.  It seemed to get largely a positive (if not apathetic) reception, except word got back to me later that a girl on my floor, not a friend or even acquaintance by a long shot, admitted she “didn’t like gay people.” Well, it was 1989 and not many people did. How did I handle it?  I wish I could say, “Now we’re the best of friends!” but the world doesn’t always work that way and we need to get over that fact.  Actually we stayed out of each other’s way, went about our lives and that was the end of it.

(That was also, thankfully, the most overt homophobia I ever experienced firsthand, apart from the stupid freshman roommate I got senior year who heard the rumors and comically changed her clothes cowering behind her closet curtain. Which, if you saw her, was laughably presumptuous to assume I’d be unable to control myself.)

Fast forward to 2014-ish. My good friend and coworker very bravely admitted that she was homophobic before meeting Tery and me. Then she got to know us, and now she’s as staunch an ally as I could ask for.

This.  This is how the battle is won. By letting people get to know us and realize we aren’t scary or threatening or any of the things the bigots think we are.  Not by forcing them (still not clear how that would be accomplished) to eat at our cafés or buy our products or however we make a living.

And some people may never like us.  That holds true no matter your sexuality or your race or your gender or your hair color, or a hundred different signifiers people foolishly zero in on. But you can’t force them to. When you spend most of your life in an unpopular minority, you learn to recognize which battles are worth your energy. And changing every single last person’s mind isn’t one. The train is still moving forward even if a few are left behind.

I eventually stopped trying to explain myself to my Facebook accuser because I realized it was pointless. If you think entrenched bigots’ minds are impossible to change, try a SJW’s who’s got ahold of a stick, even the wrong end.  The exchange has reminded me sharply of this wisdom:

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