My Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines prejudice as: n. 1. : DAMAGE; esp : detriment to one’s rights or claims 2 : an opinion made without adequate basis. The definition of bigot is just as hard to swallow : n : one intolerantly devoted to his or her own prejudices or opinions syn fanatic, enthusiast, zealot. Let those thoughts and images roll around in your mind for a moment.
I have held my tongue long enough. I wanted to put some time between this post and some of the events that have occurred recently. I speak of the shooting of humans in a church in North Carolina, of course, but I also speak of the outcry following the Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage. But these are not the only concerns I have. The examples of prejudice and bigotry are far too numerous to enumerate in one blog post.
Allow me to set the record straight from the start.
1. I am opposed to prejudice and bigotry, and the actions they spawn.
2. I believe that prejudice is not a natural, but a learned behavior. People are taught prejudice.
3. I acknowledge the fact that I have my own prejudices, but I try not to be a bigot.
I will not try to identify all the teachers of prejudice. You know who they are, and they know who they are. The problem with bigots is they don’t see themselves as the problem. Prejudice is taught through organized religions, political agendas, cultural mores, community standards, parental attitudes, the media, and school curricula, but we all have the right to choose whether or not to accept the lessons being taught.
My simplified understanding of prejudice, and resulting bigotry, is that it starts with lack of understanding. What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we hate. What we hate, must be eliminated. Prejudice makes us feel powerful, and superior to other people. It gives us a sense of control.
When prejudice causes a person to injure or kill another person, it is easy to say he or she was suffering from mental illness. Of course they were! However, that does not excuse their actions. They must be held accountable for the decisions they made.
One elected official made a statement following the Supreme Court decision indicating his belief that this was the “Darkest day in the history of the United States.” Wow! I thought the assassinations of presidents was right up there at the top of the list. Or how about the Civil War, where brother fought against brother? Maybe the events we refer to as 9 11 should be considered above the courts decision that gay people have the right to be married. In my opinion, there have been many events that are darker. Bigotry tends to take us to extremes.
I could go on and on, but you probably get my point. We should make sure that our own lives are filled with love, acceptance, compassion, and integrity before we start judging other people. As stated earlier in this post, I have my own prejudices, and one of my biggest ones is stupidity. As comedian Ron White says, “You just can’t fix stupid.” Amen!