|In the Waiting Room — Casting Stones|
|Friday, July 05, 2013 12:18 AM|
I have been reading a lot in the news about Paula Dean. I have noticed that she has been getting a lot of criticism for words that she used a number of years ago. While I definitely hate the word that she used, it seems more important that she also feels sorry for using that word in the past and doesn’t currently use them.
It is tempting to think that punishing people who act in a racist way or use racist words is going to improve that behavior. We know that, in fact, it will more likely make them more ingrained because it makes them feel justified in using them.
It is better to take the high road and act with forgiveness towards those who want to change. I learned this very important lesson from my son who had to deal with this recently.
My beautiful son has a Hispanic surname and a complexion that makes people unsure if he is African American or Hispanic; either way, it has not stopped people from using racial epithets towards him.
I have always told him that it doesn’t matter what people say you are, it only matters what you are. Their words show their stupidity.
This was put to the test last year when kids, who he thought were his friends, began to throw his books on the floor and refused to allow him to sit at their lunch table because he was a “wetback” who had illegally crossed the border.
My response was to want to go to the school and demand that those boys be suspended for their stupid, hateful behavior. My son, on the other hand, insisted on handling things himself. He instead went to school and announced that people could sit at the racist table with those boys, or sit at the fun table with him. He said the first day one boy came and sat with him; by the end of the week, his table was full.
Since that time, he has had no more problems with those boys and it required no punishments, just a spotlight to be shown on the behavior. I was proud of the way he dealt with it; not only did he know how to handle it, but he did a much better job than I would have.
I truly believe that most people are not racist and don’t like the idea of racism. I also know that many people who don’t believe they are racist will listen to a racist joke and laugh, or listen to a racist statement and not say anything.
By saying nothing, you are condoning the behavior. By saying nothing, you will embolden the speaker into thinking he is right. By saying nothing, you are hurting people who have done nothing to deserve it.
You don’t have to start a fight, just shine a light on it. If you tell someone you don’t like listening to those kind of jokes because being hateful and hurtful isn’t funny, it takes the power out of his joke and shows other people around that their laughter is also not appropriate. Point out that you can’t agree with his statements because they are inappropriate and you know he is a better person than that.
It is time to put a spotlight on the racist attitudes but it may be more effective to give them a hand into the light, rather than a shove into the darkness.
Dr. Celeste Lopez graduated cum laude from The University of Utah College of Medicine. She completed her Pediatric residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. She is certified with The American Board of Pediatrics since 1992. Dr. Lopez practiced pediatrics in the Detroit area for 8 years before moving to Van Wert in 2000. In 2003 she moved her practice, Wishing Well Pediatrics, to Delphos and is located at 154 W. Third Street. Dr. Lopez can be reached at (419) 692-WELL (9355). She is the proud mother of a 13 year old son.