Why Don’t We Just Banish or Kill All the Racists, Homophobes, and People We Don’t Like?
Can who you are and whether or not you deserve what you have in life be summed up in just one thought, one expression? Can just one thought or statement cancel out all the good that you have done and could do in your life? The logical answer is “no,” but for many of us we are pleased that we now live in a world where thirty seconds of high emotion and bad judgment can destroy a person’s life.
According to Latest.com, a woman was fired from a hospital in Texas for a Facebook post. As the clashes between citizens and police in Ferguson, Missouri captured the attention of the globe, this woman expressed her feelings on her personal page. “The police need to start mowing them down with machine guns, purge them,” she wrote. While this is not an estimable opinion, it does quite clearly seem to be hyperbole.
Yet, some busybody saw this post and decided to see if he couldn’t ruin this woman’s life. With surely very little research – perhaps just as much as clicking on her page – he learned that she worked at a Texas area hospital. While KHOU, the news outlet that broke the story, did not confirm that he reported her, it seems likely because she was summarily fired. It seems we now skip the sensitivity training and have abandoned the notion that people can change or learn.
I am not going to parse this post or try to figure out if the woman’s interpretation of the situation was a result of the information she was getting from pro-police-by-default news sources like Fox News. I am just going to ask if anyone thinks that if she is racist, losing her job for simply expressing herself on social media – which while public, is not mandatory viewing – is going to make her racial attitudes better or worse?
A woman very close to me, who has worked in the medical field for more than 30 years, recently advocated the genocide of all Middle Easterners on Facebook. Her son deployed in support of the war and she is a relatively low-information voter, getting most of her news from social media. She saw the execution of James Foley and didn’t consider that Iraq and Syria are in the grip of a group as terrifying as the Nazis ever were, but instead saw another woman’s son – much like hers – killed. Despite the fact that she has saved probably thousands of lives, should she be fired for expressing her anger in an unproductive way? Of course not.
If this woman were a police officer or in any way related to the legal system, the argument would be much different. However this woman was identified as being in a “non-nurse position” at the hospital. As the busybody who found this said, “A hospital is a place where you’re supposed to have compassion upon people of all races.” Grammatical problems aside, are we to believe that this woman would suffocate every minority patient she came across with a pillow?
There is still very much a racial divide in this country. However, I fail to see how blowing up the livelihood of private people – who play no role in public policy – will exacerbate those tensions. Without a doubt, the most successful campaign for civil rights in history was led by a man who valued compassion and understanding, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King did not want to see the racists in Alabama or anywhere harmed or killed or even fired from their jobs. Instead he wanted to spread a message of unity, allowing the abhorrent actions of the whites he encountered to speak for themselves. It seems we’ve forgotten the most important thing he taught us.
People are amazing. After the deaths of JFK, MLK, and RFK, rather than stringing up all those who didn’t think like them, the U.S. Government took the most important steps towards civil rights since the Emancipation Proclamation. Outside of race, in the past 20 years homosexuals have gone from being social pariahs to well on the road to equality. People have an amazing capacity to modify their beliefs, to change for the better. If only we’d let them.
So while this man gets to congratulate himself to his pals over a wheat-grass smoothie or bubble tea for having “a racist” fired, what he actually did is give this woman a reason to justify what, if any, hate she has in her heart. Rather than “fighting the good fight” for “compassion,” he arguably makes the situation worse.
If you see people say something on Facebook you don’t like, don’t seek out their employer and try to get them fired, send a friend request. Instead of demanding that people think like you do, why not try to convince them of the merits of your position? Instead of reacting to them with anger or your own hate, you should pity them.
The way we handle these situations now – make a stink about someone, wait for them to get fired – is simply anti-American. It goes against the spirit of free speech or equal protection under the law*. The Salem witch trials were more judicious, because we don’t even check to see if racists/homophobes float before burning them at the stake.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
*I understand that this is not a legal free-speech issue, although I would argue that “at will” work laws are genuine violations of the 14th Amendment.