I’m Not Racist but…

I was speaking with a few people about annoying clients I deal with. The one whose purse knocked over 3 glass candles and yelled at me for not measuring an adequate distance between the candles, the edge of the table and where someone’s bag might land.  The 30 year old who wanted the 10% senior’s discount – on something that was 90% off. Then one of the girls began speaking..

“The other day Olive (let’s call her Olive) said “I’m not racist but, I hate Chinese customers. They’re so slow and have a million questions and don’t understand anything. They’re all so annoying.”

To which my coworker joked “yeah but Olive’s not racist. I mean she said it at the beginning so, it’s fine, right?”

      Everyone uses disclaimers.

– No offense but…that shirt is really ugly
– Not to be judgmental but…she shouldn’t dress like such a slut in the first place
– I love you and I don’t want to be mean but… you’re kind of being a bitch
– I’m not racist but… *insert something racist*

What is a disclaimer besides an excuse to be reckless? The Oxford dictionary describes it as “A statement that denies something, especially responsibility”. The most common disclaimer I hear, and the one I use almost daily is “I’m just trying to be honest”; truly the most deceiving of all disclaimers. It gives the illusion of culpability but really places responsibility on whoever I’m speaking with to take the brunt of whatever I’m about to say. Afterall, I’m being real, truthful and taking on the difficult task of delivering a harsh truth that some would not be so brave to share and THAT should be admired! As I am showcasing such strength and virtue, the least you could do is take it. Don’t be offended or upset. If you are, that’s on you. Why should I apologize for my opinion?

I consider myself to be a fairly insensitive person. A lot of the time, I say what want, in the way that I want and if that rubs you the wrong way, I really don’t care. I meant what I said and I said what I meant – an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent! I won’t apologize for my opinion. No one should. What I SHOULD apologize for is the way in which I share said opinions (or even sharing them at all!). Last week, Donald Sterling was banned for life from attending NBA games after making racist remarks. That dude does not love black people. After his reprimand was made public, Jon Stewart said on his show “it’s good to see the distinction between free speech and consequence free speech”. In everyday life, few people (myself included) face true consequences for the way they use their freedom of speech. Many take advantage of this gift and mouth off believing it to be a right. I, the offender, expect the offended to get over it; especially if we’re friends. A real friend would immediately let it go, right? Maybe. A real friend might also understand if they couldn’t. A real friend reflects on where their responsibility lies. A real friend assesses if there was a better way to speak. A real friend tries to walk in your shoes. A real friend doesn’t use a disclaimer. A real friend says they’re sorry and means it. Not “I’m sorry but”, not “I’m sorry if” – just sorry. And sometimes, when not explicitly asked, a real friend doesn’t say anything in the first place.

 I’ve been struggling lately as to when things are better left unsaid. If you know me, you know I talk a lot. Like…A lot. You probably know that just by reading this post. It’s my talking that gets me in trouble and I think I have been doing a pretty decent job at cutting it down. A friend of mine told me he rarely tries to speak with new people because he thinks to himself “why would anyone care what I have to say?” It’s a humbling attitude and one I’m trying to adopt. I’m getting better at keeping certain things to myself. Plus, I’m 22, and really, who gives a shit what any 22 year old has to say – about anything? The ones that do are close friends of mine. Nevertheless, I’m wondering whether sometimes, even with my closest friends, some things are better left unsaid. As a young adult, a lot of people give themselves permission to speak into my life even though I haven’t given it to them. Most, if not all, are coming from a good place. I really believe that. They just want to help. But if you’re not careful in the way you speak to me, you can be damn sure I won’t be careful in the way I listen to you. You can have all the answers to the universe but if you’re not paying attention to how you convey your thought – if you’re reckless with your words – I don’t care what you have to say. If you can’t think of a proper way to deliver your message, maybe you’re not supposed to be the messenger.

The point is… Don’t use disclaimers. You wanna say something? Say it. But take responsibility. Deal with the consequences. Own up to what you caused. Still, if you have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a disclaimer; it’s ok to let the person off the hook – sometimes…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

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