Social insensitivity begins as a quick laugh
As long as I live, I’ll always respect someone with the genuine ability to eat crow when it’s being served in any situation in life. If you’ve ever had a relationship of any length, you understand how tough that is to do.
Well, I’m about to devour an entire heap of a dirty trash bird.
After a day of high-octane football and stale press box hot dogs on Saturday, I returned to the office to write my column, edit a video and try not to fall asleep to the eerily pleasant sound of buzzing newsroom lights.
While waiting for the next creative burst to hit the finish line, I browsed Twitter and came across a tweet from a friend, who apparently found a new guilty pleasure within Miley Cyrus’ hit song, “We Can’t Stop.” Now, while I too enjoy the song, I also found it comical my friend tweeted it out to the world, given the song’s content and general odd acceptance in mainstream culture.
A quick YouTube search led me to a clip from the NBC sitcom “Community,” where Señor Chang, played by the talented Ken Jeong, makes an amplifying hand gesture before shouting “Ha, gay!” at Joel McHale’s character, Jeff Winger. As I had many times before, I sent the link to my friend, hopeful to get a chuckle that we’d later discuss in person.
However, it was met with a different response.
Another one of my followers — a gay MSU student — sent me a note on Twitter.
“Are you serious? You should know better.” He was right; I should. By now, we all should.
Initially, I was offended by his remark, quickly scrambling to craft a rebuttal that was sensitive to the situation while getting across that I didn’t appreciate being Twitter-policed for an inside joke between friends.
Yet, the longer it went on, the sooner I realized I was wrong and reached the point of apologizing, obviously never intending to offend anyone.
After all, it was a dumb joke. Sometimes I say dumb jokes. Usually, it’s part of my charm.
We shared a brief dialogue on the subject before reaching a stalemate, where the person suggested I stop perpetuating negative attitudes toward gay people before later unfollowing me. Ouch.
The person didn’t care how about many gay friends I have. He didn’t care that it wasn’t coming from a place of hate or disrespect. It only mattered that I was a mouthpiece for a specific string of social insensitivity still present in American society.
On the drive home, I reflected on the incident and realized what had happened made me no better than a middle schooler saying, “That’s so gay” to a group of friends on the playground or a middling comedian carrying out an immature Internet clip show on Comedy Central.
This time, it was me.
Now, I’m a huge proponent for the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press — the latter of which I hope will get me a job so I someday can pay for an apartment that doesn’t have an eternal smell of cat urine in the hallway. But I think as a society, we need to reach a point of sensitivity on the subject of racial, religious and sexual commentary.
One of my favorite comedians, Bill Burr, has a social commentary bit where he mentions that real prejudice isn’t represented as it often is portrayed in movies with a loud, over-the-top character meant to represent all of the evil surrounding a particular subject. Real social insensitivity happens quietly in everyday life with people who check to see who’s around before inserting whatever joke or comment into the conversation.
That is where the battle begins and ends.
It’s time to rise above these types of remarks and grow as human beings.
The word “gay” is not and never will be a synonym for “dumb,” “idiotic” or “lame.” It’s a word intended to identify a group of people who love and appreciate each other, just as any of us in this life try to do.
There’s not a damn thing that’s “dumb,” “idiotic” or “lame” about that.
If there’s someone in this life that you’d do anything to make sure they’d never come to harm or feel an ounce of pain because you love them so deeply, who’s got the right to mock you? What right do I have to belittle that feeling by insinuating something that I feel is lame is on the same level? Exactly.
The winds of change are blowing. And now, this one starts with me.
Dillon Davis is a State News football reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.