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!
Another well written post! We come into this world without hate in our hearts. It is learned and is so detrimental. If only there was an answer…
I think the answer lies in how each one of us individually behaves. I hate to use cliches, but one that is so true says, “Be the change you want to see.” Thanks for the comment.
One might think I have no opinion of my own which differs from yours as I consistantly agree with your position. This blog, however, is the hammer blow that squarely hits the nail. The real problem of prejudice and bigotry is that it is institutionalized. Religion is one of the best examples. Dogma sets “truth” in stone. To accept the possibility that another viewpoint has validity is to shake the foundation upon which dogma sits. To doubt is to fear, one of man’s worst nightmares. To avoid facing the scary possibility of one’s entire belief being challenged and eliminate the possibility of experiencing fear, following dogma seems to be the safest course. And it’s so sociably acceptable. But their is a terrible price to pay. You must surrender your free will, become mentally lazy, and sacrifice your sense of curiosity; slavishly following a medieval mentality of superstition, ignorance, and tolerance. History tells us we are mostly sheep clinging tour particular prejudices and bigotry, and teaching it to our children.
It is unfortunate that those who are mesmerized by the teachings of bigots cannot, or will not break those ties. It is very scary to think of relinquishing beliefs that have been etched in your brain for years. I know this to be true from a personal point of view. My father and grandfather were both Baptist preachers. I call myself a recovering Baptist. Their beliefs and sermons tend to haunt me from time to time.
Thank you, Troy, for a post that openly addresses your concerns and your positions and speaks for so many. I personally have watched young children in kindergarten and first grade who mingle and share without question, change so that by middle school a few are bullies and mini-bigots spouting what they’ve heard at home. I fear for our society.
It is shameful that parents and some teachers feel the need to inflict their own prejudices on the innocent. I also fear for our society, and especially for our children. Thanks for visiting and commenting.