Tonight at rehearsal a castmate I really like made a really ignorant remark. Not just "offensive" by Alice definitions, but legit offensive. He was talking about being approached by an angry black man and literally said, "Judging by the color of his skin, I knew he had a gun or knife."
My jaw dropped. I didn't know intelligent people still actually said that kind of thing. I jiggled between shutting up and speaking up. Of course, my voice won. I said, somewhat passive-aggresively, "Well, you can't assume that--" And I was even more shocked to hear him actively defend what he had just said. I walked outside. I felt some raindrops. I cursed man.
We are taught to speak up. To defend those who are not present. To explore the other and to love him. But sometimes it feels like our noble words get punted so far away. And, really, the metallic junk of stupidity will remain forever.
Break was over. I got into character and focused. How was I going to exchange dialogue--even in a pretend space--with this guy? I sent love vibrations to him. I made no eye contact. And, then, in a down moment an hour later, he came directly to me, apologized, and explained that he was wrong. He knows better, too. He was just mad and scared, and it was out of line. I explained I was just surprised that someone so smart and nice could say something so wrong. He asked, "You think I'm smart?" with a little grin. I nodded and I hugged him. He's no racist.
What if I hadn't spoken up? It's possible he wouldn't have considered his hurtful words, and perhaps he would have said and thought more of those poison thoughts for years. Maybe I made a difference to him and our society, but mainly, speaking up helped ME. I could leave the theatre with warm thoughts towards everyone. I can go to sleep without any nagging grudges. If I hadn't spoken up, I never would have given my castmate the opportunity to show me that I had only seen him at a low-point. I would have just nursed a small hatred until the run ended. This is much better.
Strangers are easy to like.
Thunder and lightening might strike.