They asked the Pharoah, what made you a tyrant? He said: No one stopped me – Arabic proverb.
Many of us have been there – a friend, acquaintance, or stranger makes a remark rooted in bigotry, or a hateful sentiment wrapped in colorful language and packaged as a ‘joke,’ or a blatantly ignorant comment on an online forum. We laugh it off uneasily as locker room talk or at worst, we stay silent because we know how much of an uphill task it is to change the mind of a person, or group of people who have made a vow to stick to their prejudice. 4
As we say on the streets ‘why carry the matter for head?’ Silence might be the safest thing to do in situations like that but it compromises the safety of the targets of prejudice.
Speaking up is essential for many reasons. Certain minds might not be completely changed at the introduction of a new idea but that idea could kick start a process that in due time would birth a transformation. For some people, it’ll take months, years, or even decades to liberate their mind from the shackles of prejudice but that change might not happen until you plant a different world view with your words.
An overlooked aspect of speaking up is the effect it has on the subject of prejudice who might be a bystander.
For instance, pre-teen kids who are coming into the realization that they are attracted to the same gender, kids who are battling to make sense of their identity in a society that has labelled them ‘evil’ and are on the lookout for a beacon of light to reassure them that just like every other human they are worthy to give love and receive love in return.
Speaking up to dispel a homophobic statement either in person or on an online forum could be a life raft of hope to a young person standing by the sidelines and observing people share their opinions on queer identity.
Lastly, we must evolve into a society that does not give room for discrimination based on tribe, religious beliefs (or lack of one), gender, or sexuality. This isn’t going to happen magically. It’s going to happen because you and I are going to speak up for our brothers and sisters even if they don’t act, look, or love like us.
You and I are going to be a voice for those who have been silenced throughout history. We won’t only speak up, we will stand up, and we are going to change the narrative.