If I weren’t dumbstruck, I’d say ‘Wow’

From a reader: “A while back, I was a vendor at a craft fair and was chatting away with other vendors. One couple, who had been perfectly lovely and who I had enjoyed talking to earlier, made a couple of the most outrageously vile racist comments I’ve ever heard. They weren’t afraid of offending me, I suppose, as I’m about the most pale redhead you could imagine and this was an overwhelmingly white, very rural area. I was so stunned at first I wasn’t sure I had actually heard them say what I thought they had. And then, I had absolutely no idea what to say. And I still don’t. I can’t even bring myself to repeat what they said. I feel like even writing it out is hurtful.

“I just drifted away and didn’t talk to them anymore, and struggled all day with what I could possibly have said.

“And yet, it sickens me that I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know where to begin. I think that something should be said. Something that might make some kind of difference or at least point out in a non-aggressive way that their views are not shared by me. I feel like I let my family down. I feel like I let down scores of other people I love. I certainly feel like I let myself down. It’s been 10 months and I have yet to come up with the right thing to say should that situation come up again. And craft fair season is coming up quick. I thought you and/or your readers might be able to come up with something useful that I or anyone else could say when confronted with such powerfully hateful speech.”

This seems like one of the rare situations where it’s useful to have a scripted response handy. Do you agree and, if so, what would you plan say?

 
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