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“Does Bigotry Exist?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 23, 2007


My Friend Knate wrote the below:

“What about bigotry? Is bigotry all in our minds?

If symbols can’t have a collective meaning – because their meaning is consciously chosen by each individual viewer – then is bigotry only a mental aberration? Does bigotry exist only because people are “duped” into thinking we can be discriminated against?

If a person refuses to accept they can be bigoted against, does it mean then, that bigotry can never take place?

We control what we want to see and what we want to believe, some say.

Can we eliminate bigotry (and racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc) just by refusing to “buy into” the concepts?

Or does bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia and other hates exist outside our personal perception? Is hate real? Is bigotry real, and harmful, no matter what we think? Who is in control? Our own minds, deciding we’ve been discriminated against or not? Or uncontrollable outside people, who force their bigotry upon us?

Does bigotry only exist because we “accept” it exists? Or does bigotry exist, regardless of what we think?” (From this Discussion)

My initial response:

“Can we really separate the thought from the act? Is it possible to harbor a bigot mind-set and not be a bigot? I don’t think so. I think reducing bigotry to a mind-set is just another convenient way of avoiding responsibility. It’s like the reasoning some Xians employ around GLBT people – “love the sinner and hate the sin”. It is extremely difficult to prove a mind-set – to do that one need acts to go by. I also think that we have establish that acts are not just what one does with his or her hands, but also what one speaks.

It is true that there is no such thing as “thought-crime” (except in the world of George Orwell), but it takes a lot of self-discipline to not let thought turn into words or actions – and I dare say that very few bigots have that self-discipline.”

Someone added to the discussion:

…what I have also noticed is that often times the way the word it is used and thrown around (misused) takes away from true forms of bigotry, I’ve had that word used against me for my stance against affirmative action in modern times, or because I believe in strong secured boarders, my spiritual beliefs…”

It is true that the words “bigot” and “bigotry”can be and are used as some sort of “I am shutting you up, because I can’t deal with what you are saying and that frustrates me…” it’s like the Reductio ad Hitlerum argument – on the other hand, how probable is it that we see the depth of our own flawed reasoning? Especially when it comes to religious beliefs or our patriotism? (Yes, I am bigoted against Xianism, I think it’s by definition bigoted, and quite honestly I have found nothing in it’s teachings that will dissuade me of that opinion.)

The thing with bigotry, is that we all have it, we all express it, and to claim we don’t is just a trip up the River of Denial.

big·ot
noun

  1. One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
  2. a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

big·ot·ry:

  1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
  2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

On the other hand a dictionary definition like the one above indicates that there has to be a strong feeling behind a negative opinion for it to be bigotry. We rarely display or hold such strong feelings, so not all negative opinions about something are bigotry. I think we would have to add another element to a negative thought-pattern for something to be bigotry – irrationality. That takes us into the realm of -phobic. Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Judeophobic, Liberalphobic, Repubiphobic, Yeah, yeah, I created those two last ones, but I know places and people that are just that.

My point with bringing in the -phobic is that it puts what we some times label as bigotry into perspective. It gives us reason to question whether what we accuse others of is truly bigotry, but hopefully it also tells us that a lot of what we see in ourselves and in others is indeed bigotry.

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