If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything

Erin Wethern and Erin Wethern

Icannot tolerate hate speech. Nothing makes a person sound more ignorant than when they throw a “that’s gay” or “you’re so retarded” into conversation. People should pause to think about the meaning of the words they use, or how they might sound to someone else. Such language sends a message of intolerance, and it makes the speaker look incredibly insensitive.

I have a smart and successful friend who is a homosexual male, whom I will refer to as Tommy. For the purpose of this anecdote all names have been changed. One night Tommy was walking with his longtime boyfriend Dylan, when they ran into Tommy’s high school friend and his obnoxiously drunk girlfriend. The girl tried to persuade my friends to come to Junction with them, but when they declined, she repeatedly yelled “Stop being gay, just come to Junction.” After she said this a handful of times, Tommy got fed up and said something like, “Actually, I am gay. Meet my boyfriend,” and stormed off.

The point to the above story is when a person uses the word “gay” in a derogatory manner, as in “I do not like this column, it’s pretty gay,” he or she is implicitly stating that there is something wrong with being gay. Most of the gay and bisexual people I know are courteous and fun. I have not found anything that is inherently wrong with all of them. I do not mean to say that being gay automatically makes a person awesome, but it does not make them stupid either. When one uses the word “gay” in a negative fashion, it sounds like he or she believes the opposite.

The same goes for the word “retarded.” Many of these people are courageous and overcome obstacles every day. We should not verbally negate them by throwing the phrase “that’s retarded” around in conversation. It is insulting to the people about whom you are actually speaking.

There are countless other words that people use in casual conversation without considering whom they may be insulting. Racial and sexual slurs come to mind. Using these in conversation sounds just as intolerant and ignorant. People need to think about their words before they use them. If people stopped using hate speech so casually, it would foster a peaceful, more tolerant environment.

Send comments to [email protected].