Bigotry is simply being intolerant of someone different from you.
Imagine a world where everyone holds the same opinion about everything. Let’s take something dear to my heart — the humble hot dog. Nothing could be less dainty and more desirable than a one hundred percent beef hot dog with everything on it wrapped in a soft bun and a cute little foil pouch. I know hot dogs are traditionally considered food for dudes, but I am not afraid to say that every now and then I indulge in this delicious cultural icon of Americana. Great is the disdain a woman incurs when she admits to her fellow females that she loves a good hot dog. I don’t care that hot dogs are not a health food. I love them. You may not give a second thought to the hot dog eaters and their inner mental culture. That makes you normal. You may be intolerant of hot dogs and the people who eat them because you assume that hot dogs are unhealthy and the people who eat them are sub-par humans. Gentle reader, that makes you a bigot.
Just for fun, let’s take your hot dog bigotry to its fullest expression.
Let’s say that everyone but me and my fellow hot dog lovers agrees that hot dogs are unhealthy. Let’s say that nearly everyone but hot dog lovers believe that people who choose to eat hot dogs have deficient reasoning and cognitive abilities. Let’s say that because of this perceived deficiency, the ability of hot dog eaters to make generally rational decisions on a day-to-day basis is called into question. Let’s say that this belief is accepted by the majority and cataloged as fact upon which their decisions are made. Let’s say that hot dog eaters are deemed dangerous to the well-being of the human race and social order. Let’s say that the hyper-focus on this perceived threat is marketed so well that the general public is stirred up into a self-righteous froth of indignation toward those of us who eat hot dogs.
Those of us who “indulge” in this nefarious culinary crime of massive proportions must do so at the risk of persecution. The threat of harm by way of hot dogs is perceived to be so great, that laws are passed that require hot dog eaters to wear hot dog patches on our clothing that identify us as the outcasts that we are. The majority must protect their genetic legacies from the impurities of hot dog eaters.
Being the efficient high-level thinkers that they believe they are, the majority decides to save themselves the trouble of safeguarding their precious young and society as a whole. They decide that hot dogs and everyone that eats them need to be eliminated. Poof! Millions of hot dog-eating people cease to be protected citizens simply because we are different than the majority. We cease to have the right to exist. In the false pursuit of societal order, there goes morality, actual social order, and one of the best culinary aspects of a trip to New York City.
This parable of the hot dog may seem ridiculous, but when you understand that bigotry is simply being intolerant of someone different than you, then my assertion that most people are unwitting bigots might not offend.
The majority of people are bigoted and do not even know it.
Don’t agree with me? I would like to pose a simple question. When was the last time you thought to yourself that the world would be a better place if Conservatives or Liberals, Christians or Muslims, or particular people in your life ceased to exist?
When was the last time you decided to dislike someone because you didn’t like the way they talked or dressed? When was the last time you felt intolerant of someone’s ideas in a heated discussion or debate? When was the last time you ditched diplomacy for rancor in an argument? Anytime you exalted yourself above another person because you decided your perspective, race, religion, or ideas were superior, you engaged in bigotry.
My guess is that within the last few days or weeks you have exhibited bigotry.
For the past several years I have taken a focused interest in finding the bigotry in my own heart and mind. That search continues today. As I search for evidence of bigotry I run into clues in places I didn’t expect. I am intolerant of people who drive too slowly in the wrong lane. They threaten the social order of the roads. People who make homeless jokes really piss me off. They deserve instant karma. People who are intolerant of other people inflame my ire. Nevermind my intolerance of the intolerant. Those women in the playgroup several years ago who gossipped about a developmentally-delayed mother in the group still keep me up at night. I oughta meet them in a shopping aisle on a bad PMS day when my give-a-dang is busted. Oh, the things I would say.
My burdening you with the sordid details of my inner bigotry has a purpose. You are probably a really good person who does good things in the world. Despite your goodwill toward your fellow man, if you look inside with an honest heart, you will find bigotry in unexpected places.
I won’t psychoanalyze why we descend to bigotry. I already know. So do you. Lieutenant Cable sang in South Pacific, you have to be carefully taught. Normalization of intolerance toward others begins when we are young, and receives very little attention. In truth, it is encouraged through competition, comparison, and nationalism. Superiority is an emotional drug that influences our reasoning. We walk around in a daze, doped up by ill opinions toward others, never seeing clearly before us those whose paths we cross. This article will not unteach or reverse the effects of how you were raised or have chosen to live your life. I will simply ask two questions:
- In what ways do you engage in bigoted behavior?
- What will you do today to begin shedding yourself of this cocoon of limitations imposed on others and yourself?