Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When is it my responsibility?

At work, a part of my job is to talk about harassment. I stand in front of new employees and remind them that harassment is more than just the big's also in the subtle things that we do. It could be an off hand comment that you make to the person next to you, the joke that you tell, the phone conversation that you're having with your girlfriend. When it's done at work, it isn't private. I am not trying to change your beliefs, I tell them. I'm just telling you to keep it at home.

I am not the type of person that jumps up and yells racism at every comment. In fact, sometimes, I think I am far too slow to react. I have never been a person that enjoys attention and there are times where I let things slide just to avoid the inevitable confrontation. It's something I'm working on, but I suspect that if I am not comfortable in the spotlight yet...I'll probably never get there.

One of my family members (who happens to be Caucasian) is always very quick to jump on the racism bandwagon. Truthfully, I don't think that's good either. Sometimes, a comment or an action, though directed at a minority, is not meant to be racist. When people jump to racism first, I think it damages the fight against racism. It makes the actual instances of racism seem less important.

So, when is it my responsibility?

I know that I am responsible for my own actions. There are times that I have rolled my eyes at my own thoughts and kept them in my head because I realized that I was making a judgement based on stereotypes or news broadcasts. I try very hard to make sure that I think about what I say about other people before I put it into words. Sometimes, even the most good intentioned statement can sound wrong when it is spoken out loud. As a minority that has had these comments directed at me (both the bold and the subtle), it will hurt a part of me to know that I have turned that type of hate on someone else...whether the difference is racial, ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation...

I know that I am responsible for teaching my children what I believe is right. Sometimes, I wonder if I am being too sensitive to what my son brings home to school. I recently explained to him why pretending to stutter was making fun of people and assured him that by pretending to speak another language some people might thinking he was mocking them. But no, my responsibility is not the other children, but explaining to my children why I don't think certain behaviors are okay. I can't stop the way other people believe (though I can hope they will open up their hearts and minds), but I can keep it out of my house. That is definitely my responsibility.

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