A few years ago I took a long time associate to a thank-you-for-business lunch. Before our meal arrived, she proceeded to tell me her daughter was dating an Asian. “I told her I am okay with Asian,” she said to me, her voice tinted by arrogance. “As long as he is not black.”
As long as he is not black. She repeated it, loud, confident in her belief that the world was with her.
Stunned, I sat and half listened to her babble about the blacks and their derogatory effect on all things. I didn’t say or do anything, except pay for the meal.
My mind drifted back to my childhood.
Race was never an issue—at school. At home, my parents were vocally against all ethnic groups except those with white skin, and all religions that were not Protestant. When Ray Martinez the most handsome and smartest guy in High School asked me out, my parents would not allow it. I complied. When my brother impregnated a lovely, sweet, 16 year old girl, who happened to be Mexican, my parents encouraged him to walk away. He openly declared the child was not his and her parents were too scared to challenge the privileged white teenager. (Probably should note that was my brother’s only child.)
So, you ask, what did I do wrong? I just didn’t do anything. I didn’t loudly chide the business associate for being a racist. I didn’t run out of the restaurant and leave her to stew over actions. I didn’t do anything.
I didn’t challenge my parents. (I was old enough to think for my self.) I didn’t try to talk my brother out of a mistake that would cost him the important relationship of his life. I didn’t do anything.
Not doing anything. That is wrong. That is reprehensible. That is deplorable. Not doing anything is unforgivable.