Adam, first? Wow. That’s mind numbing when I consider there are so many other people who are more on the frontline, more eloquent, and have been writing about BlackLivesMatter much longer than I have. The take-away: don’t put stock in rankings, but I’m glad the post resonated with you.
Calling People Out
You nailed the reasons to call people out on racist comments. (Maybe the words “call out” is too broad, if not inflammatory. I used it as shorthand, a phrase just about everyone would understand. I’m in no way saying people should get in people’s faces. I think “point out” might be a better turn of phrase.) The “how” is subjective. It all depends on the situation. Let me explain.
As a forty-eight-inch tall black man, I’ve been the recipient of more politically/socially inappropriate comments than I care to recount. To call out everyone who’s made a disparaging comment or gave a suspect look or snickered within earshot would be exhausting, so I choose my battles depending on who said it, what they said, when and where it’s said, why I think they said it (a four-year old’s “you’re short!” comes from a different place than that of a 40-year-old man). And my mood comes into play. Some days I can’t be bothered by comments, other days I’m all about taking no prisoners.
What Am I Saying?
There is no fool-proof method to making people aware that their racist comments are unacceptable. Questlove Gomez (The Roots’ drummer) could use means related to his size coupled with a mere look that might not work nearly as well for me. And vice versa. You have to use your best judgment and find out what communication styles work best for YOU.
But whatever means you choose — friendly, non-confrontational, educational — the goal is to correct people in a respectable yet firm manner. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. corrected lots of people, but he did so with love while respecting the other person’s humanity.
No one wants to be lectured. Simply point it out with care, and move on. If they’re open to a discussion, they’ll let you know. Non-verbal cues will tell you way more than I can convey here. I don’t want anyone pulling out a firearm on someone over getting called out about an epithet.
And Remember . . .
You have no control over someone else’s reaction. You can’t make them think or reconsider, and you definitely can’t make them “get it.” The only thing you can control is how you put it out there. The rest is up to them. And real change usually comes through a personal relationship with someone.
Think of what you’re doing as not so much pulling up weeds, but planting seeds. It’s all about care and respect.
And hey, thanks for commenting!