I went to WVU for undergrad AND law school, lived in Morgantown for 14 years, am a die hard Steelers fan, and come from Czech and German heritage. One might say I was born ready. On top of that, I spent countless hours honing my craft. My list of drinking achievements is long, if not entirely distinguished. Tolerance is not my problem here.
Unless, of course, you want to talk about intolerance. Because that
Some of this speech was outright, some of it couched in euphemisms and double-talk, all of it hateful and disturbing. In high school, I used to leave the classroom when the teachers refused to shut down my classmates' slurs and my loud assertions to do so caused a commotion. There was a couch outside the office, and I would just go sit there until class ended. Quiet. Angry. And alone.
Because, I guess, it seemed easier to remove me from the equation rather than the hateful rhetoric? It got to the point where I would just stand up and say, "I'm going to the couch now" and leave without any real acknowledgment from anyone. This did not happen daily. But it happened more than once. And that is too many times.
Since then, I may have tempered my outbursts (at times) to blend in. I bit my tongue so often in so many situations to keep the status quo. But, I heard and remembered and made mental notes of how others talked. Of how many off-handed racist comments I heard. And from whom. When I did choose my battles, I kept a tally of how often I was shut down, condescended to, waved off. And by whom.
As a typical young person, filled to the brim with righteous idealism, I assumed that as the years passed and I became a "real grown-up" this would all shift into balance. The cream would rise to the top, the bigotry would fall to the wayside where it belonged, the smart people would win, and everyone would understand how hurtful and stupid and wrong it is to hate.
Years have passed, I don't know what a "real grown-up" is or how to become one, and the balance certainly has shifted. Just not exactly the way I pictured it would. In some moments, I feel a little like I did on that old couch. Quiet. Angry. And alone.
But most days, I am that loud-mouthed teenager causing a ruckus. Only now, I will not be forced to leave the room. There has to be a time when it is not me who is shushed for speaking up against the hate. There has to be a time when bigotry is simply not tolerated. Ever. When no excuse is tolerated as a reason to discriminate against legions of human beings. When no matter what, we find our voices and we stand up and we demand that it be stopped. For once and for all.
No matter how prepared I felt, I still have work to do. My high tolerance does indeed have its limits, at tailgates and in real life. But I'm not on the couch anymore. I'm still angry. But I know damn well that I'm not alone.
And you know damn well that I am. Not. Quiet.