Friday, December 17, 2010

It Seems Mel Gibson Has Been An Anti-Semitic Homophobe For Awhile

I believe that it is well accepted in the public discourse that Gibson is a megadouche.  After the release of the infamous tapes, a number of celebrities came to his defense (I'm looking at you Whoopi and you Jody Foster).  According to the New York Post, Winona Ryder had a few choice words to say about Gibson.
"Black Swan" star Winona Ryder remembers Mel Gibson being "anti-Semitic and homophobic" long before his taped racist rants were broadcast across the world. "Fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk," Ryder tells the January issue of GQ. "I was with my friend, who's gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about 'oven dodgers,' but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before. It was just this weird, weird moment. I was like, 'He's anti-Semitic and he's homophobic.' No one believed me!" (source)
I found what Ryder had to say very interesting.  In a group of his peers, Gibson had plausible deniability.  The kinds of views that he has, rarely just develop suddenly and certainly are not repressed.  Men like Gibson often give many clues as to who they are, long before it becomes an issues socially, that is if it ever does.  Maya Angelou once famously said, "when people show you who they are, believe them the first time".We have a tendency to ignore a single comment or find an excuse for it, but in truth, such actions are indicative of  a central belief pattern. An inebriated person does not suddenly shout out a homophobic or Anti-Semitic rant, unless such beliefs are deep seated.

Many people don't want to be saddled with label homophobe or Anti-Semite, as though the label in and of itself is more horrific than what such bigoted beliefs does to a marginalized section of society. We have a tendency to avoid associating people with labels we believe to be harmful, thus giving them a pass on their behavior.  That this failure to label often benefits the dominant members of society  is routinely ignored.  

Isms exist because we continue to promote them both actively and passively.  Mel Gibson continued to have a successful career, in spite of his beliefs, because people remained silent. We do not see silence as an action, but it is just as supportive of a negative behavior, as openly championing it. This is why it is so important to speak out when someone says something we fundamentally disagree with, or feel is truly harmful to another human being.  It may mean being the unpopular voice of reason, but any discomfort we may feel, absolutely pales to the potential damage that is caused to marginalized bodies. 

It is my belief that the degree to which someone believes in equality and or social justice, can be gauged by what comments or activities they allow to occur without comment.  There is no such good thing as a good oppression, and no incident is to small to attack.  None of us is perfect, but we must begin to dismantle the idea that there is any safe space for bigotry. Hate and privilege will continue to fester and grow, unless we yank it out by its roots.  Calling someone out may not cause them to change their beliefs, but at the very least, it will make a space safer for marginalized people.