Over a Teacup — Serving up a little sanity

June 1, 2012

A meditation on bigotry

Filed under: bigotry,racism,Uncategorized — by acupofsanity @ 7:37 pm

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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February 16, 2011

The world’s oldest hatred gets a new face(book)

Filed under: anti-Semitism,bigotry,Facebook,Jewish,racism,Religion — by acupofsanity @ 7:08 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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“Words have meaning that reflect reality.” – Star Parker

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It’s not like I didn’t know about the dark, ugly cesspool of online racism and bigotry when I set up my personal Facebook account. And of course I’ve crossed paths with anti-Semites — Jew-haters — since long before Al Gore invented the Internet. Whether on- or off-line, most of the time these people make me feel anger, disgust, and pity. But sometimes my judgment isn’t as good as I think it is and I get blindsided by someone I trusted. When that happens, I also feel sad.

I recently stepped a little too close to a couple of denizens of one of these online cesspools, so close that the stink of them is just now fading. The remaining bit of sadness and disappointment in one of them is just about gone too.

Essentially what happened is that a “friend” of a Facebook “friend” did not like a particular politician, and instead of giving specifics about the politician’s actions and condemning those actions, he simply attacked the politician personally with a couple of religious slurs. He even claimed that the words were not his, that he was quoting another source. When I asked my “friend” — who has previously claimed to support Israeli and Jewish issues, and proclaimed on one occasion that “I love Israelis!” — why she hadn’t removed the offensive posting, to my surprise she responded with an angry screed at me, and defended the person who wrote the slurs. (Needless to say that we are no longer “friends.”)

Shortly after this, a group of us in a different venue — representing Jewish, Christian, and a couple of Eastern religions — were discussing online bigotry and anti-Semitism, and I mentioned the incident. Several members of the group suggested appropriate responses. They were all clear, succinct, and accurate, so I have reprinted them below.

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People choose the words that best express their thoughts — for example, using a racial/ethnic slur, or in some other way denigrating an entire ethnic/racial population, betrays their true thoughts and feelings towards that entire racial/ethnic group. People who tolerate, and especially those who defend, racial/ethnic slurs do so for one simple reason: they share those same thoughts and feelings.

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“What individuals choose in private, and for which they bear personal responsibility, is separate from what we sanction publicly for which we all must bear responsibility.” – Star Parker.

What a person thinks is of course their own private business. What a person expresses publicly — yes, including on a Facebook wall — is the business of everyone who hears or reads it. Anyone who abides ugly, hateful words (including on their Facebook page) without challenge is as guilty as the original speaker/writer. Or, as Edmund Burke wrote more than two centuries ago: “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

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It doesn’t matter who you’re quoting: If a statement is offensive, it only becomes more offensive in the repetition. Saying “So-and-so said it, I’m just quoting them” doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. If you didn’t share the offensive thoughts, you would not be quoting the offensive words.

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When you use a racial/ethnic slur to disagree with someone’s politics, then clearly you’re not really objecting to the person’s political actions but to the person himself. If you disagree with someone’s politics, with their ideas and actions — things that are not only separate and apart from, but often inimical to, the laws of one’s religion — limit your comments to those politics, ideas, and actions that you object to. People resort to name-calling for one of two reasons: either because they have no cogent argument, or because they hate the person for other reasons.

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When you slur one person in an ethnic, racial, or religious group, you slur every member of that group. You can’t slur only the individuals you don’t like, the ones you perceive as “bad.” Any racial, ethnic, or religious slur encompasses everyone in that group. You cannot claim that you meant your slur for only “that” person. If you want to speak about one person, speak about the things that person does. Once you lump them into a group, anything you say about the individual is in fact being said about the entire group.

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You say the word you chose is not an anti-Semitic slur. Then replace the word with a similar word about some other group: Italians, Chinese, Hispanics, blacks, whatever, and see what your Italian, Chinese, Hispanic, black, or whatever “friends” think about it.

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It’s easy to say “I love Israelis” — it makes you feel virtuous while costing you nothing and committing you to nothing. “I love Israelis” and “I hate Israelis” are the two sides of the Jew-hating coin: neither expression requires acknowledging Israelis as real people. It is easy to “love” a monolithic, abstract group; it is far more difficult, but far more G-dly, to *respect* the vast array of real individuals who comprise that group.

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Christians believe that G-d sent His only son, Jesus, to Earth. What some Christians seem to forget is that G-d created Jesus as a Jewish man, born of Jewish parents. All three were born Jewish, lived as Jews, and died Jewish. When Christians pray to Jesus, Mary, or Joseph, they are in fact praying to Jews. Some people seem to think that any Jew — which in fact means every Jew — can properly be called “k*ke” or “scum.” Which of those names do self-proclaimed “good Christians” consider proper when addressing their prayers to Jesus, Mary, or Joseph? (This response, and the next one, were suggested by a Catholic man.)

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“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you …” (Genesis 12:3). Anti-Semitism — Jew-hatred — does not always appear as a conflagration, but can be a mere spark. Someday — perhaps not in this world, perhaps in the next — you will have to explain to G-d and his *Jewish* son Jesus why you chose to defend a Jew-hating bigot by attacking the one person who had the courage to call out the ugly bigotry.

Feel free to use any of these responses if you happen to find yourself in a similarly ugly situation.

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