Finding Out Your Old High School Friends Are Bigots
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Politics and Activism

The 5 Stages Of Finding Out Your Old High School Friends Are Bigots

Truth is, you don't know them anymore.

The 5 Stages Of Finding Out Your Old High School Friends Are Bigots
Jeremiah Schultz / Flickr

Tonight, I write these lines in mourning.

I mourn for the high school friends and colleges I once had the greatest love and respect for. I try to remember them as they once were — in their prime, young and reasonably educated — instead of how they ended: diseased, ugly and ignorant. I pray for the salvation of their souls — or at least what is left of them. No, no don't misunderstand me. These old classmates are not dead. They're dead to me.

Perhaps "betrayal" is too strong a word, but there has to be a word to describe how you feel when someone you respect supports something that disrespects your entire person. There has to be a word to describe how you should feel when your best friend from ninth grade tweets #alllivesmatter when you're a black girl in Florida. There has to be a word to describe how you should feel when you learn your high school friends are fucking bigots — and let me tell you, "et tu, Brittany?" doesn't begin to describe how I feel when I scroll through my Facebook timeline.

I know I have a knack for hyperbole, but just for now, I need you to join me in my melodrama; it's the only thing keeping me sane (don't laugh), and it might just prevent you from attacking everyone at your high school reunion (cue laugh).

Instead of pretending to be tolerant of old classmates who disguise racism, sexism, xenophobia, and classism as valid, political "opinions," I advise you to do what I do: pretend they are dead.

It only makes sense to think they died in 1850 when it's clear that their views are from that time period. In fact, the process of finding out your high school friends are bigots is so trying that it's only natural to go through the five stages of grief.

1. Denial

Ah, yes. It is more than just a river in Egypt, after all.

This stage tends to be the longest phase – perhaps you are rowing down the waters. Do you make excuses for your classmate's racism because she was your study buddy in ninth grade Bio? Do you say things like, "She just has really strong ties to her heritage?" or "She doesn't know all the historical implications of the Confederate flag," even though you two had AP U.S. History together? It's hard not to make excuses. You want to see the best in your fellow high school alumni.

So you ignore when your ex-boyfriend's best friend says "If blacks just didn't resist they wouldn't need to get shot" and say it's probably because his uncle was a cop. You ignore it when your high school yearbook editor tweets that "Muslims are not really Americans." You deny, deny, deny that the boy who gave you your first kiss is a rampant sexist even after he reblogs an anti-Hillary Clinton meme that says "If She Can't Satisfy Her Husband In Bed, How Can She Run a Country?" But then, something will strike a chord, and suddenly you'll feel something build up like the pyramids.

2. Anger

Something inside you breaks – whether is was slandering your favorite candidate or citing a sketchy-ass article as a "legit" secondary source — and you can't even look at their profile pictures any longer. You can't believe you ate lunch with a person who believes Obama is the anti-christ.

The idea of you attending the same high school as a future Trump voter because "they share the same values" disgusts you. So instead of continuing to subtweet about them, you start commenting on their dumb Facebook status. You write paragraphs and angrily quote Politico pieces. Worse, you start deleting. You block. And you @ them. You subtweet no more. But you can only be angry for so long. And besides, if you block them you can't keep updated on the d r a m a.

3. Bargaining

Maybe if you just calmly explain that low-income families don't deserve "what they get" and are not merely "lazy," they will understand. After all, Laurel knows you grew up with a single mom and benefited from the "free lunch" program at school. Maybe if you just talk to her, her empathy and regard for you, will cause her to rethink. Maybe if you just let her continue to think that Trump is a good businessman, if she would just stop saying Mexicans are stealing her future jobs. Maybe you have to make some sentimental sacrifice to save her soul... then again... maybe not.

After a while of give and take, you realize you can't change a person. You just can't.

4. Depression

The shit show of 2016 (otherwise known as the upcoming presidential election), has revealed some ugly truths — not only about our former classmates, but about the world. If Timmy – the kid who bought you a candygram in tenth grade — could grow up to become a frightful homophobe, there is no hope in this world. What's to stop all your college friends — the ones you philosophize with about your hopes and dreams — from becoming bigots too. The battles you thought were won by the 2008 election are being fought once more, with way more casualties. No one is safe anymore, you despair. Nothing is sacred.

5. Acceptance

But then you realize something: people grow up, and sometimes it's in the wrong direction. Just like you aren't the same complacent black girl who doesn't give her loud opinion on racial topics in debate class anymore, they aren't the same polite, intelligent white boy who you voted for president in high school.

As you finish your grieving, it's good to always cherish the good times you had with your local bigot back in high school. The fact that their internalized racism wasn't exposed yet doesn't change the memories. After you accept that the past is the past, you can readily move on from your problematic old high school friends because truth is, you don't know them anymore.

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