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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Friends don’t let friends spread prejudice

By Monique Merrill

There’s a difference between saying something problematic and being problematic. For starters, one is much easier to correct than the other.

You like your roommate, sure. They keep the space tidy, cook a mean chili, but maybe they call things “gay.” Or maybe they frequently use accents from languages that are not their own to land a joke. Maybe they tell you to “stop acting like a girl.” And maybe they said all of that in the privacy of your dorm. And maybe you didn’t say anything.

Next time, say something.

Combating these behaviors at an individual level is something we can all do. Yes, these examples are not extreme, but they’re emblematic of a larger undercurrent of intolerance. And yes, it is “PC culture” in full swing, but language is powerful and using inclusive and inoffensive language is not hard to do.

If you’re privileged enough to be excluded from the wrath of prejudice (hello my fellow white, cisgendered friends), it’s on you to step in and attempt to correct that behavior. If it’s not safe to do so, then don’t. If it’s not comfortable to do so, then do.

This doesn’t mean the friendship is over. You should be able to have a conversation with your friend without nuclear fallout. It’s not always the easiest thing to do (Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” could tell you as much) but it’s better than ignoring it altogether.

At the national level, there is no accountability for the “leader of the free world.” President Trump has no qualms with “grabbing [women] by the pussy,” calling Mexicans rapists and criminals or mocking a reporter with a disability.

But he’s never been one to look up to.

Instead, it is on each of us to be mindful about what we say and do and why we say and do it. It’s also on us to be mindful of what our friends are saying and doing. If it’s true that you’re only as good as the company you keep, then it’s time to tell your white friend that “not seeing color” is not the solution to racism (often it is, in fact, the opposite).

The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Monique Merrill, Dante Koplowitz-Fleming and Laura Place.

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