Friday, February 29, 2008

Are you a bigot?

Well, think about it -- are you a bigot?

What does the term bring to mind?

Archie Bunker?

Actually, bigotry doesn't seem to be a very exclusive categorization, these days. Everyone can get in on the act. Apparently, anyone who doesn't like your thinking can call you a bigot.

Look at the short list of entries in Wickipedia:

Forms of Bigotry

* Ableism
* Adultism
* Ageism
* Anti-Americanism
* Anti-Atheism
* Anti-Catholicism
* Anti-Mormonism
* Anti-Polish sentiment
* Anti-Protestantism
* Anti-Semitism
* Biphobia
* Chauvinism
* Chronocentrism
* Classism
* Discrimination
* Hate group
* Heterophobia
* Homophobia
* Islamophobia
* Misandry
* Misogyny
* Narcissism
* Nazism
* Racism
* Religious persecution
* Religious intolerance
* Reverse Discrimination
* Sectarianism
* Sexism
* Stereotype
* Supremacism
* Transphobia
* Xenophobia

What an imposing list of pitfalls we must steer clear of, to avoid bigotry.

It would seem that bigotry is not a new manifestation.

The philosophers of ancient Greece wrote about it:
τήν τε οἴησιν ἱερὰν νόσον ἔλεγε καὶ τὴν ὅρασιν ψεύδεσθαι. (Original: Greek)
o Translation: Bigotry is the sacred disease, and self-conceit tells lies.
o Heraclitus, The fragments of Heraclitus, no. 47, c. 500 B.C.

κύνες γὰρ καὶ βαΰζουσιν ὃν, ἂν µὴ γινώσκωσι. (Original: Greek)
o Translation: Dogs bark at every one they do not know.
o Heraclitus, The fragments of Heraclitus, no. 97,c. 500 B.C.

Alexander Pope wrote poetry about it:
All seems Infected that th' Infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the Jaundic'd Eye.
o Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1711), Part II, line 358.

George Washington extolled the virtues of freedom from bigotry and persecution:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
o George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790).

Thomas Jefferson apparently had cause to deplore it:
Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.
o Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (August 1, 1816).

Abraham Lincoln argued against it:
You enquire where I now stand. That is a disputed point. I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist. When I was at Washington I voted for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times, and I never heard of any one attempting to unwhig me for that. I now do more than oppose the extension of slavery.
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].
o Abraham Lincoln, letter to longtime friend and slave-holder Joshua F. Speed, Esq., August 24, 1855.

Even George Bush gets in a lick against it:
Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less–-the soft bigotry of low expectations.
o George W. Bush, 2000, campaign speech before the NAACP.

Of course, the question is only rhetorical. You may rest in assurance that you are not a bigot, because we all know that term only has utility when it applies to others.


Anonymous said...

I myself am a bigot and proud of it. I am probably bigotted against more people than any other kind of bigot because I am bigoted against idiots. And that seems to include most of the human race at one time or another. To my dismay, I find myself fitting neatly into that category on occasion. Can a man be bigoted against himself?

Jim Cobabe said...

John, you gotta take things like this in the proper spirit. Properly speaking, bigotry is something we only diagnose in other people.

Of course, being disgusted with yourself is probably a healthy thing to indulge in, from time to time, considering the kinds of messes we commonly get ourselves into.

Just don't be too hard on yourself.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the bigotry I find in myself is often the worst kind, and I can almost always justify it.

I am neither proud nor repulsed by it. It is simply a fact of life.

I observe life as it passes me by, and my pitiful brain cannot seem to help but cast dispersion upon the passers by. How can one observe life without passing judgment upon that which one observes. And in so observing, our frail minds naturally turn toward judgment of the moment and all within it.

I don't think it is possible to exist without bigotry in one form or another.

Yet, I am certainly no authority on the matter and have no such mind as the brilliant men you have quoted. I suppose I must defer to their greater knowledge.

Jim Cobabe said...

Well, as I peruse the short list of categorizations from the Wiki pages, it comes to me that "bigotry" is not a very objective quality. The most useful thing to find, in introspection, is ways in which we would like to improve ourselves. As an internal condemnation or self-critique, it can engender feelings of guilt and depression that are harmful and self-destructive.

If your self-evaluation motivates you to do better, then I conclude that it is a good thing and a benefit to you. If it just leads you to feel guilty, it isn't worth the indulgence.

Skip the guilt and have another scoop of ice cream.