A member of the studio audience posited the question
The question in my mind at that point was, is all generalization bigotry? . . . Saying that the sky is blue is a generalization. That is not bigotry.
It is not the case that all generalization is bigotry.
"All bachelors are unmarried"
Take the claim, "All atheists believe that the proposition, 'At least one God exists' is certainly or almost certainly false."
Both of these are generalizations, but they are not the type of generalization that would count as bigotry. They are not even the count of generalization that will count as false.
Or, let us take the claim, "All swans are white"
It is a generalization. It also happens to be false. However, a person who believes this is not a bigot. She is not even bigoted against swans. She just happens to believe something about swans that happens not to be true.
Even false generalizations about people - men have one fewer rib than women - if believed, would not count as bigotry.
So, what does count as bigotry?
The fact that bigotry is a legitimate object of moral condemnation means that bigotry has something to do with desires. Specifically, the bigot demonstrates by his actions that he has desires a good person would not have, or lacks desires that a good person would have. Furthermore, these desires tend to thwart the desires of others.
Ultimately, bigots aim to sacrifice the desires of the target group for their own benefit. They seek to create a society in which whites rules over blacks, men rule over women, where only heterosexual relationships are given social recognition, or where only theists can get elected to public office. They do so by making unjust and unjustified claims about the target group that aim to justify this attempt to divide society into classes, a superior class of "us" and an inferior class of "them". Of course, the bigot's group is always the superior "us" group.
Bigotry involves denigrating people - devaluing them, making them an object of contempt or ridicule - based on general claims that are false or sometimes false. It involves an unfounded and reasonable claim that "they" are not as good as "we". The bigot may claim that the target group shares some characteristic good people have reason to condemn (e.g., they are responsible for the Holocaust). Or it may be that the target group has some deficiency of some sort that they are not to be blamed for, but still makes them less capable (they lack intelligence).
It is not bigotry when these statements are true. All murderers unjustly take an innocent life. It is a true statement, and it is a statement that identifies the target group (murderers) as people who are to be looked down upon. In this case, they share a moral failing.
Liars are parasites who feed off of the will of others for the fulfillment of their own desires. This is another generalization that happens to be true and, thus, do not count as bigotry.
Young children lack the capacity of reason and, thus, are incapable of making decisions for themselves. Those decisions instead should be trusted to a competent adult who shall act in the best interests of the child. Again, this is a generalization about a deficiency that happens to be true. It is not bigotry. It is not bigotry even though we may find a few instances in which it is false. This is because we have good reason to make this generalization - that this is a generalization that even a person with good desires (a desire to protect children) would make.
In all cases of bigotry, the generalization is unfounded. It does not represent a conclusion based on an objective, fair, and impartial view of the evidence. It is a generalization grounded on the generalizer's own desire to see himself as superior.
This topic came up in this blog because of my condemnation of the anti-theist bigot. It is an attitude that I hold to be too common among vocal atheists that "we" are the superior group and "they" are the inferior group, where "their" inferiority is justified by means of arguments that are invalid (and the conclusion is unjustified). It is an attempt to hold all people who believe in a God morally responsible for the 9/11 attacks or the Fort Hood massacre because it feeds this desire to view "us" as morally superior to "them".
It has also come up recently in the actions of several branches of the Catholic Church promoting anti-gay bigotry. And we can see bigotry written into the National Motto (“We who trust in God are superior to those who do not”) and the Pledge of Allegiance (all good Americans promote “one nation under God”).
If a generalization can be defended as true, or at least well motivated – or if it is a generalization that has nothing to do with denigrating a group of individual and casting them as inferior – then it is not bigotry.