My blog this morning about Chick-fil-A posts and gay rights had the consequences I expected—and feared. People liked it; people hated it. One former student—a wonderful person—was hurt that I’d presumed to infer her beliefs from her posting about her recent presence at one of those restaurants.
She may well be right.
But here’s what we all need to consider: Imagine a belief or social issue that is very dear to you. Imagine that the owner of some restaurant chain makes an announcement that is totally antithetical to your beliefs. Then imagine this: Within a day or two of that announcement, I post on FB that I’m there, eating--and that business is great. What would you infer, fairly or no?
You’re, of course, free to eat wherever you want. I really don't care about that. But if you very publicly announce that you’re patronizing a place whose policies deeply offend other people … ? What do you think will happen?
Remember when Denny’s got into trouble for racial discrimination? Well, maybe you love Denny’s. Maybe you’ve never had any unpleasant experiences there. Maybe there’s not a racist atom in your body. But if you declare on the Internet that you are going there—in the middle of the racial controversy—then what do you think people are going to infer, fairly or no, about you and your beliefs?
I guess I'm making a plea for more sensitivity--from all of us. Social media actually make understanding more difficult: We can't see one another; we can't indicate softness and affection with our eyes, our smiles, with our vocal inflections. We can't touch. Our tone of voice disappears into the stark black-and-white texture of printed words. And inferences soar out of those words, drawn out by the passions of the people who read them.
So ... I am sorry if I offended anyone unfairly--especially since virtually all of you are far more than mere FB friends to me. You compose the emotional fabric of my life.
However, if you do believe that it's acceptable to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, well, then you're talking about my family, my friends, my students, my colleagues, my teachers, my ... species. And maybe you need to be nudged into a more compassionate consideration for your fellow travelers to the grave.