Think you know what a bigot looks like? Well, maybe you do … and maybe you don’t.
Bigots are not always wild-eyed raving lunatics spouting slurs. Sometimes they’re people you know and like. People with pretty (or handsome) faces, and pleasant dispositions. Intelligent, often well-educated and well-respected. People you work with or socialize with. The last people, in fact, that you’d ever suspect of being bigoted.
It’s often a shock when you find out, although at other times when it finally comes out you think “How did I miss the signs?”
Usually it starts with a casual remark that doesn’t seem quite right. You think about it, and then you ask them to clarify it. They might try to dismiss it, they might say they’re being misunderstood. Sometimes they’ll thank you for pointing out the issue and say “Let me look into it and get back to you.”
By “look into it” they mean that they talk it over with like-minded friends who assure them that their viewpoints are not only perfectly normal but because a lot of people share them they must be right. And then they do get back to you.
First they tell you that because it’s a matter of opinion, let’s forget it, and can’t we still be friends? If that doesn’t work, they get defensive, dismissing any facts you might offer as being opinions while expecting you to accept their opinions as fact. Finally, they go on the offense and accuse you of being the one with the problem for jeopardizing the friendship, and they try to belittle you. Occasionally they’ll take it a step further and spread rumours about you.
Kind of like scratching the surface of a gold-plated ring and finding out that there’s rusty base metal underneath: Not very pretty. But bigotry rarely is.
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