So much has been said and speculated recently about the Isaiah Washington controversy. I was interviewed last week on a Los Angeles-based radio station to discuss Isaiah and the use of the “F-word” slur targeted towards the gay community.

Callers to the show were both for and against Isaiah Washington’s actions while some were just plain sick and tired of gays ranting and raving over what they perceived to be ‘nothing’.

But throughout the interview and throughout this entire situation my biggest concern has been what can we learn from it; how can we grow from it; and what do we understand from it?

I believe that although there has been a lot of pain, hurt, and conflict caused by the Isaiah Washington controversy, this potentially could be a situation used for good by opening up a vibrant and diverse dialogue around the issues of tolerance, intolerance and the conflict that often occurs between the two.

Thus far two camps have developed from this controversy. There are those who want to see Washington fired and those who think he should keep his job. Online petitions for both sides are virulently making their way across the internet.

We must be consistent…

However, the most important point in this situation is that we must have consistency in how we approach and deal with issues of intolerance. There are many blacks who feel that the use of the “F-word” wasn’t that significant a blow to the gay community and that the gay community should just grow up and move on.

But, if the situation were reversed and Isaiah Washington’s fellow white cast mates, TR Knight or Patrick Dempsey, were to have used the “N-word” and then repeatedly used the “N-word” a few months later at the Golden Globes; there would probably be vast numbers of black people – gay and straight – including myself who would call for some just penalty.

So why not have the same degree of response to the repeated use of the “F-word” towards gays or even the “B-word” towards women? In my opinion, one group of people that has been hurt by the words and actions of intolerance is no better or less in value than another group of people who’ve been similarly hurt by the words and actions of intolerance from others.

When a slur or an epithet is used – whether it’s towards an Asian, Latino, Jewish, black, female or gay person – the outcome is still the same. It causes pain, hurt, and potentially could stoke the flames of intolerance; to a greater degree if the action goes publicly unchecked.

Whether it’s the “F-word,” the “N-word” or the “B-word” we must be very firm and very even-handed in our actions and calls for a resolution and for greater tolerance. The black community can no longer say that the “N-word” is more powerful in its offence to the black community than the “F-word” is for the gay community.

Latinos cannot say that the words used to denigrate them as a people are more stinging than the words used to denigrate Jews or women. We cannot rank our oppression or our pain against one another.

As a society we must become intolerant of intolerance period. We must also be unafraid to come to each other’s defence in order to take a stand against intolerance and to promote a world that works for everyone by ending discrimination of all kinds for all people. This is the true lesson to learn from the Isaiah Washington controversy and one for all of us to live up to.

© Herndon Davis, All Rights Reserved

Herndon Davis is an author, lecturer and TV host. He can be reached at www.herndondavis.com.

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