One of my third period students dropped this gem on me today.
“It’s only racist if you’re offended.”
He said this right after another student said something that I like to call “casually racist.”
And I responded to this comment kinda jokingly, but also rather serious so they would know that I meant it, “Whoa. Can’t say that one. Kinda racist.”
The class immediately erupted at my use of the “r” word.
How is that racist?!
My best friend is (insert race here), so clearly I’m NOT racist.
And then my student left us all with the pearl of wisdom that I started this post with.
So when I could see we were going nowhere, I said, “Okay. Let’s drop it and get back to our notes on the Holocaust.”
(Because we are, ironically enough, currently reading the novel Night by Elie Wiesel.)
And it’s hilarious because throughout this entire unit, my students have been completely horrified to see how people were treated, simply because they were Jewish or disabled or homosexual.
They couldn’t believe that no one would speak up for these people.
That no one said anything.
That the entire world seemed to remain silent.
And it’s hard because they don’t see their “casually” racist comments as holding any weight.
Because it’s not meant to be hurtful.
It’s a joke.
But when you say things like that…you make it okay for others to say it, as well.
And pretty soon a whole bunch of people are in on this joke.
But what about those that aren’t laughing?
And what about those that don’t mean it as a joke?
I recently stumbled upon Tomi Lahren. (I know, I know. I’ve only recently come out from underneath my rock.)
And aside from being the angriest Playboy bunny that I’ve ever seen, the thing that really mystified me most about her was her very sly, casual, understated racist comments. (And the fact that she calls it “fleg.”)
And I get it.
She has to be controversial.
Who would watch a mediocre-looking person commenting on the events of the world in a sane, level-headed, intelligent way?
No one, apparently.
The scariest thing about Tomi Lahren isn’t the fact that she thinks the world is out to get “the whites,” but her YouTube comments.
There is an entire circle of hell that has come alive in those comments and she is the one breathing life into them.
Because just one person making a comment isn’t that big of a deal.
But then you get a few hundred viewers who like what you have to say.
And then pretty soon those turn into a few thousand.
And a few million.
(And then the “alt-right” is born.)
I know her show is all an act.
It’s a way to get viewers.
Everything is a bottom line.
And even though she might just be in it for the fame and recognition, it is still giving a voice to a very loud group of people.
And these people are shouting hate. Because now someone with a pretty face and a college degree is saying, not only is it okay, but it’s RIGHT. (Get it?)
So this post is for you Tomi and my third period class.
You words most likely will not result in the death of a mass group of people.
But the Holocaust did, in fact, start with just words.
Be careful what you say.