Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: I find it hard to be forgiving

My cousin, about 15 years older than me, who grew up under the real throngs of apartheid South Africa, the rails of which were lubricated by ideology similar to what you know of the American South, was really surprised that I came out to him so late in my life. He genuinely was concerned that he had left me with some impression that he didn’t like gay people, and he turned out to not really give a shit; he has been nothing but lovely to me and my husband, whom I have been with for over seven years.

He isn’t gay and didn’t really hang around gay people. He doesn’t seem to have many LGBT friends from what I can ascertain, and he grew up in a small farming town in a rural province, and then a small conservative city.

People like him make me quite unsympathetic to the argument that “people don’t know any better.” I really just struggle to buy at all that people have not considered the wants and needs of the people they are discriminating against through both the law and their own actions.

Apartheid South Africa (and to be fair, free South Africa), are very conservative places, yet my cousin didn’t fall for the bigotry you’re expected to show toward LGBT people in a society run by white supremacist Christian fundamentalists. He thought about it and realized it was wrong to deliberately try to mess with the daily lives of people who are different, but do absolutely nothing to you. How can there be any excuse for those who decided to jump on board with bigotry?

Similar to contemporary America, I refuse to buy into the fact that people hold these ridiculous points of view about African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, LGBT people, women, people who have AIDS, the disabled, people who live in trailer parks and whoever else, because “they don’t know better.” In this day and age, there is so much information at our fingertips that if you don’t know better, it is because you have chosen to not know better.

If you think that Christianity and LGBT people are incompatible, a simple Google search will offer you thousands of results of LGBT Christians and churches. That African-Americans don’t value work? This information doesn’t exist outside those who really wish to think it. That Hispanic people are stealing your jobs? Google their unemployment rate.

We should stop apologizing for them, and rather view these people as those who want to hold these disgusting points of view that aim to get gays thrown out of jobs, blacks out of the neighborhood, Hispanics equated with illegality, trans people out of public life and who see women as something to kick around. Those who toe the line of these popular stances in many parts of our state don’t get to pretend they have never heard an alternative. They own these ideas and we should stop excusing them by saying they are “sheltered” – it is on them that they are sheltered. If they wanted to know what they were talking about they would go and find out.

But they don’t. They want to keep on hating us. And we let them get away with it by pretending they are incapable of anything else.