Can’t just people watch, stand up to injustice

I people watch, and I do it religiously.

At my evening job, I have the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite activities. I walk and up down the halls with a broom in hand and headphones in, watching and listening to people.

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I have heard conversations about drunken nights in Old Town, relationship complications, midterms and once I even caught someone giving the run-down of everything they had eaten that day.

One of the most fascinating conversations I have heard thus far in my three years on the job would have to be one that I heard back in May.

It was during one of the graduation ceremonies and I happened to be walking, at a rather fast pace, behind a small group of middle-aged adults. There were three males and one female.

They were walking down the long hallway in the Lory Student Center and were all joking about one thing or another, nothing I haven’t heard before.

Once the group had approached the LGBT office one of the males stopped in his tracks and shouted to the rest of the group something along the lines of: “Hey guys, would ya look at this?”

The rest of the group had, by this point, stopped and turned around to see what caught their friend’s attention. It was at this point that all four members of the group began to laugh and point at the office.

Next, the elder male who had originally brought attention to the GLBT office, took out his camera phone and took multiple pictures of the office — the door, the signs, the posters. He was very thorough.

The group has not ceased in laughter when one of the other elder gentleman had said: “Get some good ones! We have got to show this to the folks back home in Texas. They aren’t going to believe this.”

Before turning and walking away, each one of the members had taken a glance at me standing there, with my mouth open and my eyebrows raised, before they did a quick 180 and glided in the opposite direction.

I stood there long after they had left. I stood there with a million thoughts moving through my head. I never said a word. I just stood there with my heart pounding and with knots in my throat.

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I was angry, to say the least, about the mockery of a group of individuals who have every right — just as anyone else does — to live the way they’d like to and are equally deserving of respect.

I was more upset with myself.

Before that moment, I had prided myself as someone who would say something or do something if I ever saw someone treating another unjustly.

But I didn’t. I stood there, with high emotions pulsing through me, I had let them walk away.

I can’t stop thinking about that moment. Of course, I didn’t think of anything good to say until they had already left. In fact, I didn’t think of something decent to say until nearly a week later, and the incident is still very fresh in my mind.

Since then, I have been thinking more consciously about my role in this narrative. And, particularly, I was inspired to write about my role because of all the conversation about how the election of Obama or Romney will impact the rights of the GLBTQ community.

On the one hand, I feel that government does play a significant role in how our society approaches issues concerning the GLBTQ community. But on the other hand, I feel like change, progression and equality need more than just government. Acceptance and equality happens on not only a government level, but at the level of the individual as well.

My role in this discussion is important because it starts with me speaking against attitudes that present people in an unjustly manner. I know that I will never know when I will come across people who act in such an offensive way towards the GLBTQ community, or any other demographic. I am aware that I can’t change the attitudes of everyone I come into contact with.

I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I had said something to the people who made a joke of the whole GLBTQ community. But what I do know is that no matter how caught off guard or stunned I am, I can’t just stand there. I can’t just people watch.

Nicole Frazier is a senior English and Spanish major. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.