Miriam Webster defines a bigot as a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
Bigotry is not limited to one political party or religious group, it is not limited to one gender, one race, one color or one nationality. It is also not limited to race relations. People who are intolerant of other people’s ideas and/or beliefs are bigots.
Bigots are arrogant. Bigots assume they are right, that their point of view is the only view to take and that everyone should believe as they believe. Bigots are so assured of their own rightness, they do not see their intolerance of another’s point of view. They have an inability to see good in those who disagree with them, and are unable to forgive or even see the need for forgiveness. These traits are common of bigots. When a bigot is confronted with someone who refuses to agree with them they resort to anger and name calling. There is nothing joyful or beautiful about the rants of a bigot.
Bigots don’t see themselves as bigots. Like the TV personality, Archie Bunker, they are oblivious to their own prejudices although they see the biases of others very clearly.
Bigots use emotionally charged negative labels to condemn certain people or groups. Current popular labels are “Racist and Nazi.” This, apparently, relieves the bigot of the burden of doing anything to correct unwanted behavior or to explain – rationally – why they have applied that label to that person or group. For the bigot, the label is enough. Then they attack the label.
The news and entertainment industries thrive on bigotry. Entertainers depend on exposing and deriding prejudices, especially in comedy. Comedians constantly rely on bigotry for source material.
We all are susceptible to being bigots. The trick is to realize that our prejudices and biases are getting in the way of rational thought. Everyone and anyone can be a bigot. It takes very little effort to be a bigot. Calling people or groups names or giving them negative labels is a choice. It allows bigots to feel vindicated in their prejudices. A verbal lashing out may vent anger but the result is to incite anger and intolerance. Bigotry spews hate, divisiveness, anger and violence. It is destructive. It is easy to say and difficult to take back. It empowers evil.
The only antidote to bigotry is rationality (as opposed to emotionalism), a willingness to hear the other side of an issue, forgiveness and acceptance. It takes an act of will to decide not to act on prejudices and judge-mentalism. It takes a strong person to avoid natural tendencies to strike out against opposing views. Anyone can avoid acting on prejudices. It takes a mature person to avoid bigotry.
Using my own definition, I am a bigot. I have very rigid views about my passions and I will argue my point of view until my listener is either exhausted, starts personal attacks or we agree to disagree and avoid that topic in future. Having been trained in the sciences and philosophy, I am dedicated to logical reasoning. I am suspicious of emotional thinking and have no idea how to respond. When the discussant goes off point (bringing in the kitchen sink) to try to prove a point, this is a sure sign of an emotional thinker. If they can’t argue/discuss rationally, they resort to emotion.
I am convinced of, and totally dedicated to, my faith, which I find eminently logical. I find it difficult to follow the logic of different faiths. I have trouble with those who believe it is OK to pick and choose which faith teaching they will accept. When someone attacks the Pope, for example, expecting him to tell the world in one tweet or less what they are to believe as Catholics, I see someone who is ignorant about Catholicism and the Pope. So, I try to educate them. They are not grateful.
I find it difficult to accept that two people can see the same set of facts and arrive at different conclusions about those facts. If two cardiologists looked at lab tests and X-rays and came up with competing diagnosis, I would assume they do not use the same frame of reference. If two anatomists or forensic anthropologists looked at the same skeleton and interpreted their findings differently, I would look for some bias influencing or directing their decision-making. We expect two people trained in the same area to see the data similarly.
I have little patience with deliberate ignorance (as opposed to mental deficiency); people who make no effort to educate themselves about the things they protest. This includes ignorance of history (especially the history of their own country) and basic science (such as biology), both subjects taught in elementary and high school.
I find myself shifting into my teacher mode when faced with an example of obvious ignorance of things I know about. I have friends who have tried to explain their DNA results to me. From the things they say, they have not heard of genetics and know little about its principles. Genetics is an advanced science, taught in colleges, so I can’t really blame their ignorance. But when they try to teach me the rationale behind DNA and demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about genetics, I get impatient.
Many people don’t really want information, especially if it affects their argument. I, however, persist in trying to cram some facts into their consciousness. This stubborn persistence of mine is bigotry.
I know I should be more accepting of ignorance, and I do let many things go by, but sometimes I just can’t resist teaching. When people advocate eliminating colleges and universities, I feel the need to tell them what would happen if there were no colleges or universities. They have not thought through the fact that all the professions (medicine, law, nursing, pharmacy) are taught in universities. Engineering, space technology, archaeology, forensic sciences, would be gone. When I am told advanced education should be free, I try to point out some of the budget line items of universities and colleges. If tuition is eliminated, these expenses still need to be covered for universities to continue to exist. I try to tell them the difference between required courses, electives and fluff. Those with an emotional attachment to their slogans do not listen to anything I say. I try to provide information, but I do eventually quit trying.
I am not alone in being intolerant and impatient with ignorance. Frequently, I am chastised on Facebook when I am not familiar with popular TV or U-Tube programs. I am not quite sure why I am being treated with such contempt for my ignorance of these programs, but they are obviously as important to my critic as theories, colleges and universities are to me. We come from different generations, different walks of life, different life experiences and different expectations of others. We are both bigots.
One of my pet peeves is the widespread misuse of the word “theory.” In science, a theory is an explanation of known facts and how they interact. In common usage ‘theory’ means either ‘speculation,’ ‘hypothesis,’ ‘guess,’ or ‘hunch.’ So, when people say, “But it’s only a theory,” my hackles rise and I immediately shift into teacher mode. They obviously do not know what a theory is. Attacks on the theory of evolution gets my attention quickly, especially when the attacker doesn’t seem to have any idea what the word ‘evidence’ means that gave rise to the theory. They want it all explained in a Tweet. They remain convinced that a theory is just a guess. (Chesterton does not believe in evolution and takes pages and pages to explain why. In the end, I do not find him convincing and so retain my support for evolution.) Others, have different pet peeves that irritate them as much as misusing the word ‘theory’ irritates me. But descending into a morass of name calling or belittling the other is not the answer. If we could just stick to the idea without resorting to attacking the person, we would be better off.
Although I am a confessed bigot, I try to avoid personal attacks and calling people derogatory names. I try to convince by reasoning rather than emotional attacks. Where I fail miserably is when I try to point out how another person’s argument is illogical or that they are thinking emotionally rather than rationally. My deep-seated need to educate/teach causes me to pursue a topic to exhaustion. This is where I need to keep my mouth shut and let others believe what they want to believe. This is when I need to be accepting and tolerant. I may still be a bigot, but I try not to demand that others agree with me – or else!