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The Bigot Toolbox

by Sean Kosofsky

All Politics is Loco

Once upon a time, racial and political strife ran down the spine of this country as if it were a central nervous system on guard for behavior that was an affront to the social order. It continues to this day, but looks a lot different. We don't see repeats of George Wallace declaring "Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever."
Political or religious leaders could openly profess their hatred for minorities, but nowadays it is all far more discreet. But as recent hate crime statistics from Triangle Foundation show, hate never disappears – it ebbs and flows with the socio-economic climate. This means a kinder, gentler form of bigotry has descended on the United States. When people realize that flagrant bias is not an effective strategy, they resort to using the Bigot Toolbox. It contains many tools that purveyors of discrimination rely on to get the job done.
These tools are used as armor, to deflect the real reason they behave the way they do. The tools are used in a particular order against minority groups and the causes we care about. The first tool used is religion. People will refuse to admit their biases and instead hide behind sacred texts or their cleric. "I'm not racist, sexist or homophobic. My Bible tells me to hate your people," or better yet – "I have a First Amendment right to hate you and if I can't convert you or kill you, then I may go to hell." Individuals using this tactic often pretend to "love the sinner, but hate the sin," yet that love never translates into fighting for our dignity and equality.
But religion wears out its welcome because we have a separation of church and state, and prejudiced practitioners are dismissed as "holy rollers" or "Bible thumpers." The next desperate use of a tool is tradition. "I don't have a problem with 'you people' but we have always had blacks sitting at the back of the bus." "Gays have never been allowed to marry," or "Women have never been allowed to be ordained in our church." When Justice Byron White wrote the 1986 Supreme court opinion supporting sodomy laws, he declared that because prohibitions on sodomy had always existed they should continue. As if our historical bad deeds should be a moral compass for our future. Like religion, tradition's days are numbered.
Public opinion is also a popular choice. "I'm not against you, but look at the polls, it is political suicide to support marriage equality, abortion rights, affirmative action or sane immigration reform." Once again, our nation has an embarrassing history of allowing a tyranny of the majority. Usually money is a factor, too. "I'm with you, but if we allow gays to have domestic partner benefits, we won't meet our budget." Arguments abound for not paying women equally and we see efforts to block ramps for the disabled. Being inclusive is seen as being expensive, which is ironic because discrimination is really the costly course. A nasty rusty tool in the box, that is always dusted off is patriotism. Immigrants, gays and others have been accused of destroying America. As if there could be an America without us!
Then we see the most insidious tool yet – science. It appears bias-free, making it hard to refute. In Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve" he argued that blacks could not help their inferior place in society, because their brains were different. Hitler used science, anti-gay extremists try to use science and statistics. But remember, Mark Twain said there are three kinds of lies, "Lies, damned lies and statistics."
Next up is usually the law. You would not believe the gymnastics routine some "leaders" will resort to when asked to fix some social problems for minorities or women. The tax code is written to reward men working and women staying home. Marriage and sodomy bans are used to justify other barriers. The list goes on.
But you know you are getting very close to equality when bigoted folks use this next tactic. It is usually the final tactic. It is a sign of desperation and should give you hope you are close to your goals. Lie like hell. That's right. "Gays want special rights," "Affirmative action is a quota system," or "women who have had abortions are at risk for cancer." Lies are hard to fight, but you know when the oppressing group is scrambling blindly for something in the toolbox – they will likely cut themselves. Desperation is transparent, and that is why justice is inevitable.

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Topics: Opinions
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