Harvey Fierstein writes
in the New York Times
op-ed page today about the Imus brouhaha, and wonders how we choose which hate speech we will tolerate, and which we'll protest until the speaker is fired. He notes that "hate speech against homosexuals is as common as spam."
He finishes: "I urge you to look around, or better yet, listen around and become aware of the prejudice in everyday life. We are so surrounded by expressions of intolerance that I am in shock and awe that anyone noticed all these recent high-profile instances. Still, I’m gladdened because our no longer being deaf to them may signal their eventual eradication.
The real point is that you cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently."
I am glad that Harvey noted the inconsistency / hypocrisy in some of this, but I wish he'd stopped before writing that last paragraph. Suffering in silence won't help anyone. Virtually all of us have at least one prejudice stuck in our heads. I prefer to stick with Harvey's penultimate paragraph: if we are no longer deaf to some of these epithets, maybe we are one small step closer to their eradication. Let us acknowledge (and address) our own prejudices, but let us not be silent as we do so.