“Just ignore them, they will stop”, “Don’t give them attention”, “They’re wrong. People won’t believe that stuff”, are a few of the things I hear when someone in the media does something to spread misinformation about a group I happen to be associated with. Why do we tell each other to ignore this? Why are we forced to ignore potentially harmful information?
I have a feeling it plays into the idea that we most be a model at all times. We must always be on our best behavior and that we must always play the game with a smile and a nod. Yes, we see you being problematic, but don’t worry, we wouldn’t dare call you out in case we lose an ally! This is of course, extremely harmful, dangerous, and can be potentially deadly.
Take for example one of the most recent the Regular Guys show on Atlanta 1005FM. They had a caller call in about Karen Adell Scot, a teacher who recently came out as a transgender woman and will be attending classes from now on as the woman she is. They took this segment to pull the “think about the children” card as well as repeatedly call her transmisogynistic slurs, and violently misgender her.
This comes not too long after the one year anniversary of Lucy Meadows, another trans teacher who was harassed by the Daily Mail and other media outlets to the point she committed suicide. A year after, we are experiencing the same issues of misgendering, transmisogyny, transphobia, and blatant disrespect for the mental well being of another human.
When we fail to call these people out for their misinformation, we fail the people they harm. We allow this misinformation to spread without any regard, despite what the public may think at the time. We allow these people to get away with potential murder (as the Daily Mail writer did). These people cause direct harm and allow harm to be perpetuated in our society. We set an example of these people said not only problematic, but openly hostile things with no backlash, so, others can say and believe it too. This is unacceptable.
We need to call these people and their misinformation out. If we do not, then this misinformation becomes the dominant story. These are the kinds of stories we hear, as opposed to the truth and the reality from the mouths of those who live it. Will there be backlash? Of course. We are challenging those with more privilege who believe that freedom of speech protects them from criticism or repercussion from the minorities they are harming. We need to speak up, and act out, including if these things do not directly impact us.
Every time we let one of these stories slide, we allow the people who hear, believe, and ascribe to these messages to grow. It should not matter who is spewing this vile misinformation, whether it be a small time pastor, a radio show host, or someone who is sitting next to us in class. Every time these views are allowed to go unquestioned, they are allowed to grow. People become a little more bold, a little more daring to say these things. We cannot let these things slip by, for if we do, we allow them to infect another person, someone who may react in potentially harmful ways. These ideas are like a plague, a small flea jumping from person to person, multiplying and infecting, getting stronger with each hop. As their numbers grow, we need to grow louder.
Do not rely on others to call someone out first either. There is fear and anxiety in doing this, especially if the person is someone with power and status. We cannot let this deter us. Nor can we let the possibility of simple ignorance leave our minds. Only if unable to educate should one let someone else take up the action. Start with a shadow of a doubt, they may have not simply known, if true malice and willful ignorance was at play, it will rear its ugly head. We cannot let their numbers grow at the expense of our own. The only thing that comes from letting these people come out unquestioned is death and oppression, justified not by anything but numbers of support alone. We need to act up. We need to speak out. Every time we do not, lives are at danger, at risk including our own.