This segment is dealing with bigotry, racism, and cultural prejudice. All of those feelings generally emanate from a dislike, or fear of the “other”, although as shown later there is also the element of simply crossing the norm and appearing “out of place”. Unfortunately, I have heard a few radio voices or read opinion pieces that state only the majority could be called racist, because they are in a position of power. Apparently if you are not part of the perceived power base you do not have opinions?
From Avenue Q, a musical, not necessarily a comedy —
You were telling a black joke!
Well, sure, Gary, but lots of people tell black jokes.
Well, of course you don’t – you’re black!
But I bet you tell Polack jokes, right?
Well, sure I do. Those stupid Polacks!
Now, don’t you think that’s a little racist?
Well, damn, I guess you’re right.
To quote Gary, “It’s sad but true! Everyone’s a little bit racist…Bigotry has never been exclusively white”. Nor is bigotry exclusively aimed at race.
My personal opinion is that one can have an adverse reaction to various people without being racist. I will freely admit to a slight degree of bigotry, but it has nothing to do with skin color, culture, or religion…so long as that culture does not injure other people and that religion does not try to impose it’s belief system on my life. No, I have antipathy toward female broadcast journalists who, as mature women, sound like a preteen child. Having worked on radio as a young girl, competed in speech contests as a teen and taken classes in broadcasting and speech
as a college student, I really look for maturity and fluidity in radio voices. I also have a distaste for lady journalists and news anchors who wear sleeveless, low necked tops and short skirts on camera while their male counterparts are doomed to wear suits and ties under the same hot lights. Believe me, I don’t give a fig what color her skin is, only the unfairness to the male co-anchor.
We have become a reactive society in recent years, hackles up at the merest hint of criticism, or using words that seem to offend, for no real reason. For instance, I grew up understanding “a spade is a spade” referred to a card suit, and was well aware that the Ace of spades was known as the “Death Card”! Awareness of any other meaning was non-existent in my mind, other than sometimes thinking of garden spades. I once used the phrase (like forty years ago) “it’s a Mexican standoff” to a cop, because the protagonists were immovable. The policeman was appalled, and yet I saw nothing negative about the phrase, because I saw nothing negative about a mutual disagreement. It just takes negotiating to find a conclusion.
The definition of bigotry is prejudice and the state of being intolerant. An example of bigotry is disliking people because of their culture. I have lived in another culture and found nothing but enjoyment in the experience and kindness from the people around me. If entities move into my area with a culture that impinges on my rights or the common good, however, I would then take umbrage. For instance, some decades back one of the immigrant enclaves in San Francisco was trapping and eating the ornamental duck population from a pond in the nearby park. This violation of the norm, injuring a treasured flock, understandably caused outrage in the citizenry. In this instance the answer should simply be to educate rather than to be angry and hate. On the other hand, in our country, a cultural execution of ones daughter for hurting the family image needs to be treated as the violent, criminal act it is.
Racism, however, seems to be a special, especially egregious out take on bigotry.
A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.
This feeling is found throughout cultures and ethnicities. It disembarked from the first ships to unload settlers on the North American continent and flowed through our founding fathers. It was rampant following the Civil War, muted to some extent in the late twentieth century and, with the help of our present Administration, greatly amped up in the last four years.
There is a song from another musical “comedy” tha goes “You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late, before you are 6, or 7 or 8, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught.” There is truth in that line, but for people raising young children who want to teach acceptance and the joy in diversity it can also work the opposite way! My daughter spent a year of her baby to toddler life in Okinawa. She was passed from hand to hand in stores, interacted on the beaches
with groups of beach-goers, and was spoiled by my Okinawan students. She grew up seeing no difference in people of varying skin shades. The things that matter most to her are personality traits such as empathy, kindness and caring, not only for other humans, but for the animals that enrich our lives. She obviously cannot remember her life in Okinawa, but to this day, when questioned, she credits those early times of being close to people who’s “eyes are oddly made” with prepping her to accept all people as part of our diverse humanity.
Human beings have a natural averse reaction to changes that are imposed on their lives by others. There is no question that hierarchical changes are disturbing to those who believe it lowers their own status, even though that perception may be faulty. Bringing someone up to your level, with the same benefits and rights, does not make you less worthy or important. It simply raises that persons quality of life to be equivalent to your own. Is that really so terrible?
And as for the superiority question, that is supremely silly. Take race out of it, there are some “good old boys” who have a better understanding of life and survival than some Professors. There are many very poor citizens who have great empathy and willingly step in to help someone in distress. Some young people who did not, or could not, continue their education worked hard, had good ideas, and became millionaires. Superior in what? I have known cowboys who had a better take on reality then some of my highly educated friends. I cannot build a house, yet I have an MA from a good University. Believe me, I am not superior to those lovely people who built our wall, or fixed my toilet, or assisted us in repairing our barn, no matter what ethnicity they happened to be. People should be valued by what they contribute to the common good, and believe me, the blue collar workers contribute far more than the billionaire oligarchs!
Prejudice seems to be a human condition. What you are prejudiced against can depend on where you are, what religion you adhere to, your gender, your color, your antecedents, your upbringing. It causes everything from casual dislike to genocide, depending on the location, circumstances and crowd mentality. Criticism of unprofessional conduct, talking in the middle of a movie, jumping a line, or other similar actions should be acceptable and, if noted, should be communicated in a polite manner. On the other hand, if your prejudices include color, ethnicity, religion or other personal issues that were imposed by birth or accident, take a look in the mirror and keep it to yourself. In fact, you might try to listen, hear the individuals story, and realize they have the same feelings, desires and hope for the future that resides in you.
In Avenue Q Christmas Eve answers her husbands suggestion that she is “a little bit racist too”:
Yes, I know.
The Jews have all
And the whites have all
And I’m always in taxi-cab
With driver who no shower!
Note that the final line does not specify a race, only a personal ambience she dislikes. Although you could interpret that as a stereotype for a specific race, it could apply to anyone who has been working for hours without access to bathing. In other words, one must make an attempt to separate dislikes of personality, habits or actions from hatred of a specific race. Most of all, we must all learn to accept people as they are, so long as who they are does not include injuring any other life force, human or animal. That being said, we, every one of us, need to grow a thick enough skin that a certain amount of verbal criticism does not cause a world war in our heads. That does not mean free rein should be given to bullying anyone. All criticism or complaint should be stated politely and respectfully and never be linked to race or religion, but productive criticism should not be discarded because feelings might be hurt, or the comment misinterpreted.
Whatever you feel about any other being, remember the following:
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that … The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1, Wm. Shakespeare
We may all be “a little bit racist”, but some overcome the tendency better than others. Try to understand, try to be a good neighbor for the sake of our Global Neighborhood, because that is where we live now that technology rules.