Another example: tennis player Serena Williams recently came under massive on- and offline fire after an interview with Rolling Stone in which she was asked (for some reason) about a rape case involving a drunk 16-year-old girl. She said:
I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you—don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
I’m no fan of Serena’s. She’s a great tennis player, but a lousy sport with a big mouth. And she certainly didn’t express herself very cleverly here. But come on, we know what she meant. Rape is evil, but a girl getting drunk around a lot of drunk guys is foolish. That doesn’t make rape any less evil, but the evil of rape doesn’t make getting drunk like that any less foolish either.
And if you disagree — so the hell what? So a southern chef in her mid-sixties has issues with race. So an athlete speaks inelegantly about a heinous crime. It’s not that we shouldn’t react or disagree or respond. But do we have to play the villagers in the last reel of Frankenstein whenever anyone steps two inches south of some imaginary line? All it is is a way of making ourselves feel righteous, of displaying our righteousness to others: “You can see what a good person I am by just how hard I kick Paula Deen when she says something wrong.”
Let people talk — let them talk without fear. They’re interesting. They’re, well, diverse. They say things we disagree with. They say things they shouldn’t. They use bad words. They make mistakes. It doesn’t kill us. It doesn’t even hurt us, if we have our heads on straight. We can just chalk it up to — oh, I don’t know — being alive with other people.
And by the way, you’re not that righteous and we all know it. You’re not fooling anyone.