Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bigotry Has a Face -- It's Somebody I Know

Today I came face to face with bigotry. It’s not the first time I’ve met it. It was just surprising how bold it was in its argument. Yes, it was person I knew – a colleague. For that reason I mention no real names. Instead I will call him Arthur. The conversation began with comments about the Democratic Convention in Denver, where it is presumed that Barack Obama will get the nod to be the Democratic candidate for President. Arthur said that America was not ready for a black Commander-in-Chief (CBC today reported that four persons were arrested in a conspiracy to assassinate Obama at the Convention). Somehow that topic led to discussion on a recent accommodation measure by Calgary city administration to allow ethnics to wear non-traditional clothing in swimming pools (i.e., other than revealing bathing suits). Added to this discussion were disparaging comments about how this allowance will lead to the spread of disease, etc. It had all the markings of cultural entitlement and encroachment.

When all was done, the exchanges made between us left me feeling so angry, with what he said and how I had little to counter his claims. I returned to my workstation and all I could do was stew on my thoughts. For example, I am sure no matter what I could have said it would not have changed his mind. What do you do in a situation like that? Do I continue to waste my time trying to reason with him, to offer Truth? Another thought is that despite how repulsive Arthur’s ideas are I know that I must still show him respect. What irony! He views most people of colour with suspicion; believing they are making his kind a minority; forcing their values on him, and therefore he sees that as a threat. Yet weren't people of colour marginalized for many years by people just like him? Were not Aboriginal people denied citizenship and the right to vote until 1962? To show him any less respect potentially gives an inch to hate, which I won't do.

By lunchtime I had to vent. Even though I had brought a lunch I allowed myself to go out with some other people from the office for Vietnamese soup. In that setting I couldn’t say anything. But, I felt better allowing myself to become involved in other conversation. I also waited. Taking someone from the group aside upon our return to the office I told of what occurred. Considering he was a person of colour I got a receptive hearing. Yet, there is nothing that can be done. Unless the bigot says something hateful directly to someone, which he won't because he wants one day to retire and won't jeopardize his pension, there is nothing that can be done. It feels quite crappy knowing how much I am just going to have to suck it up for a few more years.


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