Tolerance of Intolerance is Cowardice

James Ryan


“Tolerance of Intolerance is Cowardice” – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I remember many years back, I was on a ski trip with a large group of co-workers. We had all crossed the border into New York State and travelled to a resort that had a shuttle bus service which brought skiers back and fourth between the lodge and the tubing hill. Sitting happy and relaxed amongst my friends, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to hear.

The driver, after looking around the bus, decided (I guess) that because we were all “white-skinned,” it would be okay to start telling “nigger” jokes. As if somehow, by virtue of our skin colour, we were all racist by nature. The worst part? My colleagues were all laughing loudly, and when they noticed that I wasn’t, most of them stopped immediately, but one of them actually had the gall to say to me: “Lighten up, James. They’re just jokes.”

Looking straight at him, I said nothing. I would deal with him later. And I did.

In that particular moment, my attention was solely fixated on the bus driver – the joke teller – a young American lad who I would say was somewhere in his early 20′s. I sat there in surrounded silence until we finally arrived at our drop-off point. As everyone filed off as quickly as possible, I purposely stayed behind with the intention of being the last person to exit.

I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.

As I approached the bus driver from behind, I knelt down and spoke closely into his right ear and asked, “Oh, you like jokes? Well here’s a joke for you. What’s more ignorant than a racist?”

With both hands gripping the wheel tightly, the driver was indeed frozen. We wouldn’t even turn his head to look at me. He just kept staring straight ahead, never letting go of the wheel.

“I don’t know,” he responded rather sheepishly, no doubt curious as to my true intentions.

“A person who sits in the face of racism and does absolutely nothing about it,” I said. “And unlucky for you, I’m not that person.”

Just then I could see a couple of families with very small children trying to board the bus. I gave them a “not yet” look and the parents held their kids at the bottom of the step, sensing that it wasn’t a particularly good time for them to enter.

“You’re fucking lucky there are kids coming on this bus right now,” I whispered softly. “Or I’d drag you off by your fucking ears and beat the living fuck outta you, you ignorant, racist piece of shit.”

His response was non-existent. Frozen with fear and cowardice, he couldn’t say one single thing in his own defense.

Maybe it was the calmness of my voice punctuated by the seriousness of my message. Whatever it was, I know I scared the shit out of this guy, and by that, I did him a huge favour. Maybe the next time he’s gonna go shooting his stupid, ignorant mouth off in public again, he’ll think twice.

My skin might be white, but don’t let the colour fool you, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that I somehow belong to your very exclusive “white club” of dumb shits.

I never have and I never will.


James Ryan
James Ryan

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