Bigotry Expanded: In the last blog I reported how I learned tribal bigotry is divisive, hateful, even deadly. In my world of meaningful “coincidences” I was excited to note that my daily devotional on Saturday was written by a woman who was made parentless, homeless and penniless by genocide that killed 800,000 people in her homeland. This supports my notion that the evil of bigotry has many faces, and is not limited to race and gender
After the Thanksgiving dinner I described in my previous blog, I realized many situations meet the definition of bigotry. If one gang is intolerant of another gang, then gang differences meet the Merriam Webster definition of bigotry. I seriously doubt many gang members think of themselves as bigots, but in a clear sense—if they are intolerant and hateful enough to kill others, then they clearly meet the definition for bigotry.
I observe many examples of religious bigotry. If Sunni are intolerant or hate filled toward Shia or vice versa—they meet the definition of bigotry. If atheists are hateful toward believers or vice versa then they meet the definition of a bigot. Unfortunately, even within the Christian faith we have many examples of hate and intolerance toward other groups.
Slowly I began to realize that anything, even a very small matter, that breeds the “us vs. them” mentality, has the potential to develop into bigotry. If one group has self-righteous disdain for another group and it grows to intolerance and hatred then it meets the definition of bigotry.
I have one very personal example of my expanded view of bigotry.
Sweet Home Alabama: I never thought I would live over half of my life in Alabama. Yet, here I am, at age 76, and we have lived here for 38 years. Repeatedly over the time people, who would never consider themselves bigots, have repeatedly shown disdain, intolerance, even hatred for Alabama. In doing so, those same people who speak out against stereotyping, often portray Alabamians and others of the Deep South in stereotypes.
Before going further, let me be clear, if someone wants to criticize Alabama politics, past practices or other aspects of the state, I welcome those criticisms. I probably join them in many of the criticisms. But if the entire state is rejected or if someone from the state is treated in a stereotypical way, then in my opinion bigotry has occurred.
I do not have time to go into the numerous examples about which I have first-hand knowledge or experience, but I will mention a couple to try to make my point.
Stereotypes: First: If a movie depicted Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Muslim, or gays in demeaning, intolerant or hateful ways would there be an outcry? The answer is — of course!! The writers, producers and actors would be criticized for bigotry. Calls for change and demands for apologies would fly across the media.
However, if a movie stereotypes a southern person as a country bumpkin, is there an outcry?
Have you ever seen an internet joke demeaning Southerners?
When you see the silly pictures of Wal-Mart customers do you assume they are from Connecticut or Alabama?
Get my point?
Our pastor recently attended a retreat where the leader ranted against Alabama. He made claims like “Nothing good ever came out of Alabama.” He proudly proclaimed he would never set foot in Alabama.
In my opinion self-righteously looking down your nose at a region is bigotry. To anybody who looks down his or her nose at Alabama, I would point out they are looking down their noses at thousands of very good black Alabamians. Mobile is 50% black, and to look down your nose at Mobile is to deny the humanity, and worthwhile lives of many black people. Many very successful, very good people, black, white and brown, have deep roots in Alabama.
I repeat, if someone wants to criticize Alabama politics, past practices or other aspects of the state, I welcome those criticisms. I probably join them in most of their outcries. But if the entire state is rejected or someone, or people from the state is treated in a hateful or stereotypical way because they live or are from Alabama, then in my opinion bigotry has occurred. Sadly, in my opinion, the retreat leader who was bad mouthing Alabama for bigotry was engaging in bigotry.
International regional bigotry: Interestingly regional bigotry is not limited to America. I still have fun working with golfers on our university golf team. Our coach has recruited several excellent international players. My interest in regional bigotry has led me to ask each of them—does regional bigotry exist in your country?
The answer is always yes. Sometimes it is directional—for example– in Sweden the people of the North are often the butt of stereotypes. In several cases it is urban verses rural.
In America last week we saw a sad example of urban vs. rural bigotry.
Jackson Kenion, an instructor at the well-known bastion of liberal thought The University of California, Berkley, tweeted the following: “I unabashedly embrace the bashing of rural America. They, as a group, are bad people, who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city. It should be uncomfortable to live in rural America.”
Wow—I hope everyone sees the obvious lack of tolerance, the disdain, the approval of shaming (bullying), in other words the bigotry in his opinion.
Our homes: Before we throw too many stones, I am going to be even more personal. Let’s consider a very small region – our immediate living situations; the houses, apartment, trailers in which we live. Is it possible the small region in which we reside could be a face of bigotry?
In my opinion, the answer is yes. If a living situation, a particular house, a particular zip code, or a particular neighborhood causes someone to look with disdain or intolerance at others, then in my opinion bigotry is occurring.
Please note—I am not saying we shouldn’t have nice houses or neighborhoods—I am saying if you think it makes you better than others–the self-righteousness should be obvious. If you have any doubt about housing having the potential for bigotry, just ask children living in a trailer park if they think others look down on them because of where they live.
I hope I have given enough examples for you to begin to think of bigotry in broader terms.
Again, please remember, I am not attempting to diminish the importance of race or gender bias; I am trying to increase the awareness and importance of all forms of bigotry.
I know I said I would discuss how this broader vision of bigotry has helped me in my journey, but I also promised to keep these blogs brief—so my journey will have to wait until the next blog.
I will take next week off for Thanksgiving. I will return in December.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving—we have much for which to be thankful!