Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Bigotry

This morning among my usual visits I encountered a post on the Friendly Atheist site concerning a couple of people who visited the anti-Homosexual "Americans for Truth Academy".

(See: Friendly Atheist The AFTAH Anti-Gay-Rights Academy: From the Perspective of Two Who Attended, Day 1 of 3

In it, one of the attendees, Maria Pahl, wrote the following:

Quite honestly, I found that many of these people were not “hateful” in the sense that they don’t actively wish LGBT people harm.

I wanted to point out that this is common among various forms of bigotry.

The racist does not mean harm to the blacks. He simply believes that the races are not meant to live together. If only the black people and white people lead totally segregated lives that both would be better off. They truly believe that if homosexuals would only live the lifestyle and hold the beliefs they themselves hold, those homosexuals would go on to live richer, more fulfilling lives.

The sexist does not wish harm to women. He simply believes that if women stayed in the home and took care of the children and their husbands then those women would lead better and more fulfilling lives.

In extreme situations, having to live one's life wearing a hijab, never leaving the house except in the company of a male family member, denied any opportunity to pursue an interest or a profession outside the home, is all done for the benefit of the women. They are protected and cared for. In fact, this is billed as being the only way to show proper respect and concern for women.

The slave owner wishes no harm to come to the black person. The slave should realize that, in exchange for their labor, they get to live under a master who will take care of them and remove the trials and tribulations of living a life in which they would have to make decisions themselves.

Bigots need to preserve some sense of their own self-worth. To do this, they need to repackage their bigotry - to give it a look and a feel that would be comfortable with the bigot's image that "I am a good person." And bigots are quite skilled at this. Where a substantial portion of the population has adopted some form of bigotry (enough people to pass and maintain bigoted legislation), you have to expect that a great many of them have repackaged their bigotry in ways that fit in with the fact that they are regular every-day people.

There are lots of ways to cover up racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry - to wrap it in a pretty package and cover it with perfume so that one does not notice the stench of what is inside.

They are still bigots.

Oh, and atheists who are bigots are going to prove to be just as skilled at wrapping their bigotry in pretty packages as any other kind of bigot. There is a great deal of moral hazard involved in embracing the idea that, "If what I advocate falls short of forcing 'them' into the gas chambers, then I am not a bigot." The bar here is set far too low to fight most forms of bigotry.

1 comment:

NobleCaboose said...

I've been having problems lately because I accused someone of bigotry. The person I accused, as well as someone who decided to play devil's advocate on my blog, both quoted the dictionary definition of bigotry at me, which of course, like most dictionary definitions, failed to encompass the common usage and connotations of the word. They used this unclear definition to play a little tu quoque with me.
I know their motivation for looking up the definition in the first place was, "Humph, I'm pretty sure I'm not a bigot, but maybe I'd better look it up to make sure," and when they found the definition lacked the hateful connotations they suspected they were accused of, they rejoiced. "Ha! Well, according to this definition, if I'm a bigot, then so is she for not tolerating my viewpoint!"
While this tactic was easily defeated with my reductio ad absurdum, it was also disingenuous. It implied that they were unaware of the word's connotation in the first place, but if they had not been, they would not have been insulted enough to look up the definition. What motivation would they have had to prove me wrong if they did not resent being labeled as a bigot?