Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

New Colors

CAROLYN HAX on

Dear Carolyn:

Two friends have recently expressed bigoted views, and I have been left devastated and confused. These people have been truly great and supportive friends, and we’ve been through a lot when it comes to raising our kids.

But their newly stated views go against my core values. At the very center of who I am is a rejection of the type of divisive, negative stereotypes they clearly believe in. I expressed my own views to them and we had a spirited, difficult discussion. They’re OK with the result, but I’m left feeling like a hypocrite: If I agree to disagree and continue the same level of friendship, I’m being friendly with people whose opinions hurt so many and go against the core of who I am and want to be.

But if I cool the friendship, am I being just as intolerant, because I’m setting aside all the good they do and have done? How do I decide whether to stay or walk away?

-- New Colors

It’s not “new colors,” it’s “true colors.”

And let’s get this out of the way upfront: Tolerance is about accepting as valid views that differ from yours. Bigotry is not valid. We do not have the moral luxury of practicing it, defending it, condoning it, normalizing it, or treating it as the aw-gee-bummer downside of a friend who is otherwise! so! great!

That has always been true; some of us merely got busted recently for our complacency in thinking this was a near-universal value, so thank you for bringing your issue up now.

And because I’m seeing your letter today as opposed to, say, a year ago, here is my answer: Still torn? Then engage. Do not drop these friends.

If anyone drops anyone, let them drop you for being their loving, gracious, kind, calm, patient, relentless and absolutely fierce reminder that treating one variety of person as better or worse than others by accident of birth is morally indefensible.

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