I love almost everything about X.  X is wonderful.  Reminds me of the dreams when I started out in life.  X is just the culmination of all that is good.  But I just can’t overlook the fact that X is Y.  That is unacceptable.

Does that statement alarm you?  Seems innocuous enough.  We’re unable to overlook something that is blatant.  Happens all the time.  Kid is smart, but also a smart aleck.  She’s a nice girl, but she’s also my best friend’s girl friend.  It sounded like a great investment, but the risk was just too much to stomach.  That is one swell car, but I just cannot afford it (I realize this last example is inherently un-American and may not resonate, but it’s where I live).

I heard a similar statement today in a professional setting.  Just changed a few nouns and adjectives.  It went something like this (again not verbatim):

I hate her.  She’s a witch.  She’s mean.  She’s devious.  She’s a fraud.  She’s evil to the core.  But hey, she’s a woman, and I want women to succeed, so I can’t call her on it.”  I was shocked by the smugness of the person who said it.  “So, if she were a he, you’d do something differently and be adamant and vocal about it?” 

Absolutely,” was the response.

That, my friends, is bigotry.  And it’s alive and well — unfortunately — in urban, educated, middle class, inclusive, diverse, professional, proper America.  It’s — appropriately — called out when the bigotee (is that a word — is now) is oppressed, a minority, unlucky, or an idiot.  But this was a politically correct, nonchalant, “educated” statement.  The person was trying so hard to be open-minded and progressive.  And the more I think about it, the more it shows me that it’s a simple substitution from statements that are often accepted.

I wonder what similar statements I’ve made and felt justified in making.  And been wrong. 

True open-mindedness would allow us to see people and situations for what they are.  Advocates for women’s rights should not say that a woman is more qualified than a man because she’s a woman.  Racial equality is not about making sure that all races are represented equally.  Economic diversity is not about making all incomes have equal power.  It’s about making sure that gender, race, income, or whatever is NOT an issue.  At all.

Some rhetorical questions to cause you to think:

  • If Barrack Obama were white, would his election be in doubt? 
  • If Sarah Palin were male, would she have as much attention as she does? 
  • If John McCain were 20 years younger and Barrack Obama 20 years older, what would the election look like?
  • If the quarterback of your biggest rival school played for YOUR team, would you admire his skills?
  • If someone else had what you have, would you be happy for them (or jealous o them)?

It’s not easy stuff.  Life isn’t that simple.  But if we can think critically in this way, we can get to the issues that drive us, and that defines who we are.  Would that we all could be defined as bigot-free.  Sadly, we’re likely a long way from it.

Strive to think critically and beware of templates that would give away our bigotry if things were reversed.

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