Friday, November 18, 2016

The Flipside of Empowering Racists

I've heard a lot of concerns voiced over the past several months about how Donald Trump's rhetoric has empowered racists to come out of the closet and vent their hatred. To a degree, I view that as a positive sign: if that kind of poison is roiling around in the brain of the person sitting next to me on the bus or working in my office, I want to know about it.

Others, though, have rightly pointed out that it is dangerous. The racism that's been unleashed isn't just about people outing themselves because they finally feel like it's acceptable to be a bigot--there's also violence. It's clear that more people are at risk since Trump started saying those things racists believe everyone was thinking, and especially since the election created the impression that the majority of Americans agree with him.

But something else is happening, too.

Something I've seen congratulated and celebrated again and again at an individual level, but not recognized as a trend.

Good people are coming out of the closet, too. People who used to mind their own business are speaking up for a colleague when a racist comment is made. People who haven't mentioned a gay brother or Muslim son-in-law in social media because there was just no reason to make waves have recognized that if those things make waves, the problem lies with the other person.

They're often small acts--a comment made, an action reported, a disagreement where they once would have remained silent. But they're spreading. Just as racists and sexists and xenophobes and whatever it is that we call people who get unduly fussed about other people's sex lives are increasingly showing their true colors in public, so are those who recognize that humans are humans...and that the broken ones are those who can't see that.

Those bigots who are feeling liberated right now may just be in for a surprise.

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