Saturday, 21 February 2015

The New Bigotry

A guest post by a teacher based in Texas. Judi posts elsewhere under the pen name judiverse, and this article she wrote recently touched a cord with many of her regular readers.

"Jews, Kikes, Polocks, Chinks"--my father-in-law could go through a long list of derogatory terms in the course of one mealtime.  An ardent basketball fan, he loved the men's games but derided the women's teams.  He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law after serving in World War II, but his attitudes were typical of that era.

Since those Post World War II days, the nation has seen sit-in's, desegregation, affirmative action, hate crime laws, gay marriages, and numerous other societal changes.  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. made civil rights history; Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.  Illegal immigrants may be on their way to receiving the full benefits of citizenship.  Women have come a long way, and are now welcomed as CEO's, members of Congress, and presidental candidates.  Gay marriage has become the law in several states.

All that progress sounds like reason to celebrate, and in many ways, it is.  However, we are seeing a new form of bigotry, one that persecutes people for not being one of the now-favored groups.  For instance, Caucasian students are told to check their "white privilege" at the college classroom doors.  They have professors who tell them about the evils white men have perpetrated against people of color throughout the nation's history and lay a guilt trip on them for what happened centuries ago.  They learn to hate themselves.  Burdened with sins of the past, they will  overlook the root causes of black crime and unemployment and approve more and more taxpayer expenditures to assuage their white guilt. 

Gay marriage may well be on the way to becoming the law of the land.  Most people accept that fact and harbor no ill feelings towards gays.  But if a Miss California contestant expresses her personal opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman, her words may disqualify her.  If a company CEO says he doesn't approve of same-sex marriages,  protestors hold demonstrations and encourage others to boycott his restaurants.  It makes no difference that his establishments treat their customers and employees fairly, regardless of sexual orientation.  Political correctness demands that they must totally support gay marriages.

When the United States saw the influx of children pouring into the country from Central America, hearts went out to them and the cry arose to take them in.  To many, it is the country's duty to welcome illegal immigrants by giving them the whole package--tax credits, driver's licenses, welfare benefits.  Granting the perks of citizenship to those who entered illegally is a form of discrimination against those who worked hard, went through the proper channels, and waited for years to attain legal citizenship.  It also tips the scales against poor U.S. citizens who are looking for a job or a chance to obtain a college education.

Although we now see females as CEO's of large corporations and in the highest government positions, we have yet to elect a woman president.  When the 2016 elections come around, will voters choose a female candidate because she is the best qualified, or will they cast their ballot because it's time for a female president?  It will provide another feel-good moment, a time to celebrate yet another barrier being broken.

The new form of bigotry shows itself in attacks on the Christian faith.   Sales associates in some department stores dare not wish customers a "Merry Christmas."  Displays of crosses or the Ten Commandments are unwelcome in many communities.  At a recent prayer breakfast, President Obama attempted to put Christians in their proper place by making this comparison to the violence of Islamic extremism:  "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."  He neglected to mention that Christians aren't the ones who've been beheading people or telling people of another faith to convert or die.  His words were designed to make people feel guilty over events of several centuries ago.

People feel persecuted and diminished under the new bigotry if they express opinions different from the politically correct, "settled" ones.  Those who raise questions about climate change will be singled out for their unenlightened views.  People who drive the wrong kind of car will be judged for polluting the environment.  Vegetarians will condemn people who enjoy a steak dinner at a restaurant.  Hunters, obese people, families with more than the accepted number of children--the list of targets for the new bigots continues to grow.

Although the United States no longer sees lynch mobs or crosses burned in yards, the new bigots have their own ways of exacting retribution.   A student who disagrees with his or her professor's ideology could receive lower grades.  Employees who make politically incorrect remarks in private e-mails have suddenly found themselves out of a job.  Companies that fall into disfavor with a particular group have been the targets of demonstrations and boycotts.  If the dissenting voices become too big a threat, the federal government sometimes attempts to stifle them with measures such as tax audits. 

Those who practice the new bigotry must lie awake nights,  consumed with their hatred.  A man who writes frequent angry letters to our local newspaper is obsessed with the Koch brothers and how much they contribute to Republican campaigns.  He never acknowledges that the other side also has its billionaire donors.  I've seen TV guests virtually turn purple when questioned about the merits of green energy.  These individuals have their minds closed to any other opinions.

The words of the poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron,  speak across the centuries to these new bigots:  "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."


  1. In discussing social trends and the concept of what is accepted as “normal” or acceptable behaviour in social situations, it is often important to ensure that the broadest possible view is taken to ensure that in pointing out what is overbearing or lacking in one part of society we are not simply compounding the problem by being blind to other behaviours, that in themselves are, were or are becoming either more or less “normal” or acceptable.

    I was reminded of this today (February 21st 2015.) when I switched on my radio, tuned to BBC Radio 4 Extra to hear an episode of “Many a Slip”, first broadcast in 1965. First of all, I was transported back to my childhood simply by the names of the contestants; Lady Isobel Barnet, (as she was always referred to, technically, it should be Isobel, Lady Barnet, however, even the Beeb thought that a little pretentious by 1965.) Eleanor Summerfield, Lance Percival and Richard Murdoch, famous as “Stinker” Murdoch in “Much Binding in the Marsh” a comedy series about an airfield that was my place of employment for over 20 years and the trials and tribulations of the 1939-45 war against Hitler, in which, of course, for several years, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy were the only way that Britain could attack Nazi Germany after the evacuation from Dunkirk.

    So, we are firmly centred in a “post war” Britain, the contenders all had wartime experience, most of the listeners would also have these memories and “the Sixties” in the sense of social revolution had not yet begun. The popular beat combination named the Beatles had formed, but performed wearing collar, tie and jacket on stage. So what was the point of “Many a Slip”? Well, it probably encouraged me as a youngster to become what is now popularly referred to as a “Grammar Nazi”, the presenter would begin to tell a tale and the teams “buzzed” in to correct the inaccuracies. I got a bonus point when the story was about the Battle of Trafalgar, as Ian Messiter told us that “Nelson was aboard the Royal Sovereign...” all of the contenders buzzed and cried “Victory”, whereas I exclaimed “Did Collingwood know he was on board?” Admiral Lord Collingwood being a son of my home town and commemorated not only in the Cathedral but in the naming of the very road passing it. Technically, of course, as you will be correcting me silently, it was my home City, however, Lord Collingwood would not have thought of it as such, it was not a City until 1882 before which time St Nicholas had been the largest Parish Church in England, having been handed that honour when the Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George became Manchester Cathedral in 1847. Further errors pointed out were the “balmy spring breeze” when the battle took place in October and the mention of Cape Finisterre rather than Cape Trafalgar and also the arrival of the German fleet rather than the combined French and Spanish fleets.

    The Monk would have been in his element with that one! However, to correct even small children today is regarded as an unforgivable insult, bad mannered, pretentious, almost to the point of having insulted a person's human rights by correcting them in a factual matter. How times have changed.

    So, is part of the “New Bigotry” a collective expression of what fifty years ago was an interpersonal thing? Has accepting poor use of language, factual inaccuracy and “freedom of speech” been a causative factor in decrying generic behaviours rather than individual quirks? Sadly we will not know for some generations yet when these days are part of history and the behaviours that we display have passed into memory.

  2. Part 2

    Last evening I played a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama” which was written, in my opinion, to support the Canadian songwriter Neil Young in his two songs decrying the abuse, and in Birmingham, Alabama, the murder of four young girls as described in Paul Simon's song “A Church is Burning.” This is evidenced by mentioning the infamous racist Governor Wallace in the context of Birmingham, rather than Montgomery. However, the song still splits people in the USA to this day as some white supremacists adopted the song as an anthem. In 1975, (Ballinger, Lee. (2002 ©1999). Lynyrd Skynyrd: An Oral History. Los Angeles, California: XT377 Publishing.ISBN 0-9720446-3-9 ) the following quote was made; "The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn't notice the words 'Boo! Boo! Boo!' after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor." and in reference to the line “Now Watergate does not bother me” in (Shmoop Staff (2010). Sweet Home Alabama: Shmoop Music Guide. Shmoop University. ) "attack against the liberals who were so outraged at Nixon's conduct".

    So who was right?

    How can we answer that question? We can only view the racism of that time through the eyes of history. Being fanatically anti-racism, anti gay-liberation and so on is as bad today as being racist and anti-gay was fifty years ago. What we need, is reason, and that is unfortunately in short supply in society at large today.