Watching these women stand up for what they believed in made me proud to live in a country where people are willing to risk getting into a fight, or worse, to defend a stranger being bullied. The millions of viewers who tune in to watch What Would You Do? each week get a thrill from seeing everyday heroes like these women in action. And, as the anchor of the show, I get the same thrill.
The confrontation in Waco wouldn't be my last encounter with intolerance and bigotry.
A year later, at a delicatessen in New Jersey, I myself jumped into the fray. As customers looked on I pretended to be a Mexican daylaborer and, speaking in broken English, tried to order a sandwich. Again, the man behind the counter was an actor.
"Speak English or take your pesos down the road," he snapped.
"Por favor," I pleaded. "Café con un sandwich."
"We're building a wall to keep you people out," he shouted. "We don't serve illegals here."
Even though I knew it was all an act, the words cut through me like a knife. I asked the other customers for help. But each one turned away, giving me the cold shoulder.
"I don't speak Mexican," they said time and again. One customer not only agreed with our racist man behind the counter, but also told me if I didn't leave, he would throw me out of the deli himself or call the cops.
But then, just when I thought no one would step up against racism, the tide turned. All it took were the words of one compassionate customer "He's a human being just like you and me," she said.
Immediately, the crowd joined in, angrily berating the racist proprietor. "This is America! We're a melting pot. Maybe you're the one who should leave!"
Finally, people with the courage to face down bigotry. It was as though someone had pulled the knife out.
If you ask me, that's what heroism is all about. Most people think it involves dramatic events and near superhuman feats of courage. I have found that this is not the case at all. There are so many problems and challenges in the world today and, as a TV journalist, I see more than my share. But lately, I find myself seeking out everyday heroes, people looking to make the world a better place. I think we're all searching for them, in some way or another.
And I find them wherever I go.
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