I'm feeling very low and ashamed after being involved in an instance of bigotry today at my workplace. We have a new colleague, I'll call him "Mark," and I was introducing him to some friends of mine in another department. In the process of making nice chit-chat, "Mark" suddenly asked whether a local businessman was a member of a particular minority, indicating why he thought so by making an immature and rude slur about his impression when meeting the businessman earlier. It turns out that one of my friends being introduced is in fact a member of that minority, and we were all (silently) flabbergasted.
"Mark" doesn't know this and surely wouldn't have made the slur otherwise. I think he simply did it because the peer group he used to be among found such things witty; it's the kind of comment that could easily occur on a TV sitcom. However, I feel ashamed and even guilty for subjecting my friend to this comment. I know I couldn't control it - that's anxiety kicking in, saying I could have or should have - but I do feel very bad for having introduced my friend to someone who almost immediately insulted her for no reason.
I did not say anything to "Mark" afterwards about this appalling lack of tact (I barely know him, and my friend's personal life is none of his business, even to correct such a slip) but I did phone my friend and apologize for his comments. For what it's worth, "Mark" is from a very unsophisticated background and is about 15 years younger than the rest of us (probably, only in his late 20s is my guess).
My friend happens to teach a course on this minority group on occasion at the local university, so she took the whole episode as a reminder of the need for educating others further. I hope she'll suggest to me some good ideas for dealing with such situations - later. She shouldn't have had to turn a direct insult against her group into a "teachable moment," in my opinion, and I don't want her to have to, even with me. For now, can anyone suggest anything I could have done differently, other than continuing to beat myself up for creating the meeting that led to the hurtful comment?
Thanks for letting me vent at such length about something that's making me feel very anxious and sad.