One day, in a high school class, I said outloud that I hate bigots. I don't really remember the response, but it seemed to make some classmates uncomfortable. The teacher dismissed it as me being funny. But I was not trying to be. Apparently my brain was already a well tuned irony generator, but humor was not the effect I was expecting.
Of course, the joke there is that bigots are people who hate some class of people. At least that's how we normally translate the word in America. Sometimes we mean it as a person that hates people not like them, a xenophobe. Sometimes we mean it as a person who is extremely racist. We just sort of plug whatever definition we need into it as we go. But there is a definite theme.
Etymological research into the word did not return what I thought it would. I assumed the "bi" in bigot came from a root entailing "two" or "split", much like bisexual or biweekly. I was sure it was sort of an "us and them" style mentality. Apparently it stems from a French root meaning "big mustache". The idea was that people who were stubborn and, I suppose, close minded would wear those big stereotypical facial hair adornments. A similar train of thought as our belief that people with long, white beards are wise and oft magical.
The original idea behind the word was someone that stuck to a belief pattern no matter what. We have narrowed the definition, notice. We would not call a person who stubbornly thinks that education is the most important thing in the world a bigot. We might call them a romantic, showing that we do not discriminate against any words where linguistic drift and softening are concerned.
I am going to propose something of an "average" meaning, that will suffice. A bigot is a person who discriminates against a class of people. I think we can be comfortable with this definition, at least for now.
And, just to be clear, I mean stubbornly discriminates against an entire class (though exemptions are acceptable). Hating five African-American neighbors for loud music and unclean living is not racism. Even hating the way that French people smell is not nationalism. I am talking about those people that hate all African-Americans and use those neighbors as justification. Or the bigot that hates the French (or Europeans in general) and cites their smell as reason for it. These people might say that this or that person is a good person or a friend, but these people will help to only widen the gap to the average person of the discriminated class.
I picture the bigot's hatred being something like a baseball field. At its core is the diamond, centered around the axis of the pitching mound and the home plate. Those things that seriously justify the discrimination fit here. Behind homeplate is the catcher's area. this is where all those axiomatic pieces of hatred go, that general viscera that has no name and never has had a point. Those things that only kind of back it up are scattered throughout the field where they have less of an impact on the diamond, but they are still part of the game. Things that somewhat disagree are placed behind the foul lines. Exceptions. Mistakes. The rest of the facts, are shoved up into the stands. They are not part of the game. They do not fit into the world view as presented and so will not be properly acknowledged. Things that seriously disagree go here, as well, being mistakes as they were.
Growing up in the South, I have seen quite a bit of bigotry. Not between Southerners and black people but by people whose genetic memory, I suppose, still despises the Southern states for the Civil War. And yes, Southerners sometimes hate African-Americans. Not as much as you think, though, and probably not any higher than a national average. Make note that the movie Crash was not set in the South. Hell, unless you come from Alabama (Mississippi, Lousiana, Georgia) or come from a large, black family; I probably know a LOT more black people than you do. No, that idea that all of us Southerners are racist white people rotates around that same baseball field above. The half of us that have nothing against blacks are up in the stands or behind the foul line, while the half of non-Southerners that hate blacks are sitting up there with us. I imagine its the most awkward afternoon, ever.
Even though the KKK was founded down here, keep in mind that it was the same basic mindset as when everyone freaked out about the Dubai company owning American ports. Yes, you, when you got queazy over the idea. No, you didn't have a real reason, but I bet you think you did. Right there by third base was some hijacking incident you only barely paid attention to when it happened. On the pitchers mound sits 9/11. I bet there is something about some cartoons somewhere in the mix. Oh, and you think you heard something bad about Dubai, maybe. Was it an e-mail?
Before you ever make a decision about the KKK ever again, you might want to ask yourself what stupid things we do when we are scared. And yes, I think that the KKK is stupid, because I think it long stopped having a point, at all, and that's initial point was kind of dumb.
I cannot end this article without first taking a look at what seems to be some rules of bigotry. Through discussion with my various friends (liberal and conservative) and the internet, I have compiled the following list. (warning...smart ass alert)
It IS NOT acceptable to hate someone for skin color. It is much better to realize that African-Americans are noble, that Asian-Americans are dedicated, and that all others are just part of the American dream. Except for European-Americans. They are greedy little WASPs.
It IS acceptable to hate someone for their country or region of origin. How else are we going to keep Mexicans from our beautiful country and Arabs from blowing up our cities? How else are we going to demonize the French effectively? How else are west Tennesseans going to hate East Tennesseans properly?
It IS NOT acceptable to hate someone for their cosmological belief system. Cosmologism (discrimination based on cosmology) is a bad thing, unless the person is Christian, Scientologist or Mormon. If the person is from one of these groups, then go ahead and induce facts on their beliefs based on the actions of a small percentage.
It IS acceptable to hate someone from their job. Lawyers. Politicians. Garbage men. Astronauts.
It IS NOT acceptable to hate someone for their time period. If anything, pity them. They were not racist. They were merely trying to fit in.
It IS acceptable to hate someone for their political belief systems. It is damn near required.
Do I still hate bigots? Yeah, I suppose. I find that I hate them more for the way they distort information than anything. Its it the cardinal sin of the bigot, their calling card.
I will leave you with a reference to the electro-pop star Moby. In one of his blog posts, he notes that they were cutting homeland security funding for New York City and raising it for other cities like Atlanta and Jackson. He quotes no numbers, besides the several thousand "national treasures" that New York has. He doesn't elaborate, for instance, on how much money is spent on NYC currently, or on the other cities. He does, however, make baseless and idiotic comments on the South and how there is nothing but "peanut fields" down here. The only intelligent thing he says in the whole post is that it is possibly politically minded, a pat on the back for some of the "red states" (not all, mind you, not all). He also whines for protection, though I am sure that I am adding that flavor to his text.
What I am saying is that Moby is a bigot, but the kind of bigot that tries to pretend that he is not. Its the problem with "open minded" people. They often think of their hatred as being based in fact. Just like the KKK does.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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