Slur raises religious awareness

As the Mercyhurst College community launches Mercy Week 2011, a great opportunity presents itself: an invitation to remember and actively participate in the school’s living Mercy tradition.

The theme is powerful: We are reflectively aware. It is a core value meant to be all-inclusive, we should be aware not only of ourselves but also of the needs and feelings of others.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As seen throughout the world, ignorance and inconsideration are often major factors in people’s actions. Erie is no exception.

Recently, a Mercyhurst student, Ian Tasman, was with some friends ordering food at a local Wal-Mart.

An employee gave him a large portion of food and was told by a co-worker that the portion was too large. The employee asked in response if he should serve a “Jewish portion” instead.

“Being someone who is of the Jewish faith and has dealt with anti-Semitism before, I didn’t find that remark funny,” Tasman says. “To make the situation worse, the two employees laughed at the comments even though I was visually distraught.”

In response, Tasman called the store manager, who seemed “ticked off” at being called. Tasman was offered a $20 Wal-Mart gift card for his troubles.

“The fact that they were trying to buy me off was just as upsetting as the incident,” he says. “I would like to find a logical reason for someone to say something like that, but all I can think is that they are uneducated and ignorant to peoples’ beliefs, feelings, and tragic histories surrounding religious intolerance.

“I think about it each day and it’s something horrible that no one should have to have experienced.”

Many people have become complacent and immovable in their views, especially regarding matters of religion. An appropriate example of this would be the modern development of Islamophobia.

Tasman’s experience is undeniably visible on a global scale, and such unawareness presents a daunting but necessary challenge.

The core value and theme of Mercy Week, that we are reflectively aware, seeks to revitalize our understanding and commitment to accept this challenge. For it is only through our work and dedication that any such value may be realized.