Friday, August 10, 2012

The Price of Inaction

Looking for something else on my blog today, I came across a post that I wrote this in November 2006, that included these comments on a study of the experience of women of color in law firms, almost 50% of whom had reported being subjected to some kind of harassment on the job:

There is open hostility and rising fear out there regarding the rate of change in America .. change that has pushed women into the majority among undergraduates in college ... change that is moving America consistently in the direction of greater population diversity and a reversal of the definition of "majority" and "minority" in some states (California, Texas) and many urban areas (Washington, DC) ... change that is moving America toward greater tolerance, and, ultimately, acceptance of sexual minorities.
This fear and hostility often reveals itself in the treatment of those perceived as less powerful ... women of color, gays and lesbians, immigrants, geeks in schools controlled by jocks, etc.
These folks are like the canaries in the coal mine. Evidence of continued intolerance toward the less powerful (the least of us), especially where such intolerance is accepted or rationalized (whether by faith, homeland security or otherwise), is a powerful suggestion that all is not well in our democracy. 
We who fail to see the signs, those who refuse to speak out against intolerance/injustice where ever it appears, may yet reap a bitter harvest, as those who have power act to keep it and we who remained silent end up like the women in The Hand Maid's Tale consigned to certain roles by the will and force of "the majority."
"The years forget our errors, and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death." Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living
In the intolerant atmosphere of the past legislative session and current election cycle, and in light of the horrific events in a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the thoughts I had then seem particularly salient today nearly six years later.