Editorial: Overcoming the fear of speaking up


In the midst of the beaming bright lights, the focused eyes of thousands of viewers and the television camera staring back at him, Donald Trump was on the spot. Being in the spotlight is nothing new for the business mogul, but at a recent campaign rally in New Hampshire, he made an error that cannot be blamed on being under pressure.

According to Mic.com, a supporter at the rally asked Trump a question that began with a slur against Muslims, referred to President Barack Obama as a Muslim and then concluded with a remark regarding homegrown terrorism. In response to these comments, including the incorrect claim about Obama’s religious beliefs, Trump said, “A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

Nowhere in his response did he correct the supporter’s inaccurate claims. The backlash was astounding and came from Republicans and Democrats alike. Many cited Senator John McCain’s correction of a woman in 2008 when she claimed Obama was “an Arab.” The comparison brought forward the question of Trump’s responsibility to correct the man for his erroneous remark.

Because Trump is a public figure, his voice is heard by many. For him to not correct the man for making such an obviously false statement speaks toward Trump’s character. Though he may not share the same political beliefs as Obama, he had a duty to correct the man. People elected into power are chosen because the public believes in their truthful ideals. By Trump failing to make a correction, it affects the perception of his responsibility.

Although this example is high profile, its not exclusive to people who are renowned or well known. Many times, we encounter others making untrue comments about individuals or groups of people. And many times, nothing is said to correct them. It could be for a multitude of reasons, such as the fear of being one person in a group with a dissenting opinion. The concept of group mentality explains why speaking out against a group can be difficult, especially if you’re the person being insulted. Often it’s easier to defend things we’re not directly part of or emotionally connected to. We risk being called defensive, or lacking humor, unless we’re judged to be far enough removed from a situation to speak objectively on it.

Regardless, being a bystander has just as much negative impact as being the person who misspoke. Even at Lehigh, we hear false generalizations about individuals, demographics, organizations and more. Failing to correct stereotypes about entire groups of people only perpetuates them.

Beyond the Lehigh community, we should hold this true to our every day conversations. Even though the average person is hardly ever in the spotlight as often as Trump, our words are still impactful. It can be awkward to tell somebody what they said is wrong, but in doing so, the truth is being revealed.

For those who can’t stand up for themselves because they are absent or unable, we must do it for them. Broadcast on live television like in Trump’s case, or in our off-campus homes in Bethlehem, small instances count in their own way. Instead of staying quiet and biting our tongue, we should let others know when they misspeak.

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