“Ewww. Eww. To get fucked? Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. They’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS … I would be so scared if I were a gay guy … You’ll, like, die of AIDS.”
These were the words of none other than the infamous hotel heiress, Paris Hilton. This disrespectful and offensive rant was caught on tape in a NYC cab this past week when a gay friend of hers was trying to describe to her the very popular app called “Grindr.” I think it goes without saying that not one part of what Hilton has said is true, by any means, but what comes to my mind is, what would have happened if the cab driver never recorded this rant? My guess is absolutely nothing. I firmly believe that her gay friend probably would have tried to excuse Hilton’s behavior (which he did), and the cab driver probably would have been silent as well as anxious for them to get out of his cab. Then I would imagine that everyone would continue living their lives while not addressing what was problematic about her statements. Sigh. But this is the world we live in: a world where friends and bystanders don’t speak up about what is wrong when a friend makes an incredibly offensive comment.
Now, some of you reading this may be thinking, “Slam, you can’t speculate on what could have happened!” But that is where you’re absolutely wrong. I can indeed speculate on what could have happened in that taxi ride and I will tell you exactly why. It is because we live in a time where as peers, we often remain quiet when our friends say outlandish and offensive comments for fear of getting into a heated argument with a treasured and trusted friend. It’s a real thing that everyone struggles with; in particular, Swatties. But we shouldn’t! If something is homophobic, racist, or sexist, call it out and never be afraid of confrontation. At some point, some responsibility has to be on the friends of whoever is offensive because how can we progress as a society if we allow people we claim to love to make reckless and disrespectful comments?
I call this lack of action the “bystander phenomenon.” As bystanders to ignorant comments, we sometimes feel it is not our place to interfere with. The taxi driver probably didn’t feel comfortable butting into the conversation, but he should have! He should have let Hilton know that the comments were unacceptable to all gays and gay allies. However, for fear of confrontation, I’m sure he refrained and put the recording device on in hopes that whoever watched it would see how crazy Hilton is. Although it is agreed that many people do not agree with her, I also do not cannot excuse the friend’s decision to let Hilton’s comment slide. He cosigned and simply said “no thank you” after Hilton says “you’ll, like, die of AIDS.” Had I been the cab driver, I would have pulled over right then and there and told her to not trip on the way out. Then I would have tried to find a puddle of water on the side of the road so that I could drive through it and splash her entire outfit.
Moreover, don’t wait for the moment when the person who is being offended is sitting a few feet away from the offender at the lunch or dinner table. Tell your friend what is wrong about what they are saying when no guards are up and you two are just hanging out. It starts there. If they are truly a friend, then they will hear and appreciate everything that you are saying.
If not, then they can exit stage left, because someone who doesn’t listen to what you have to say is not someone who you want to keep around in your life. Likewise, if you feel offended by a friend, let them know. If they dismiss how you feel, feel free to dismiss them from your life. There is no use in keeping someone like that around. There is never a reason strong enough to keep someone in your life who adds nothing but constant bigotry and ignorance. Not to mention, your friends will always be reflections on you, so unless you want people associating you with that mindless jerk of a friend who doesn’t even understand how disrespectful he or she is, I would suggest you find yourself some new ones.