By Stephen Winham
No matter who you are, by sheer virtue of your existence, there are people who hate you. It has nothing to do with what you do or say, just your identity (or who the haters think you are).
In some countries, any number of traits can lock you into an existence from which there is seemingly no escape. Globally, the consequences of bigotry vary from hurt feelings to deadly wars and everything in between. We can take small comfort that we live in one of the more “enlightened” countries, but we are far from the ideal in tolerance.
You have no real control over any of these characteristics, yet there are people who hate you on the basis of one or more of them:
- Who your parents are/were
- When you were born
- Where you were born
- Your gender
- Your race and/or ethnicity
- Your sexual orientation
If you think “hate” is too strong a word, talk to anybody who has experienced it, particularly those on the receiving end. Haters may or may not admit they hate, but those who are hated know for sure that they are hated.
Like wars, there will always be bigotry. Expecting the vast majority of bigots to suddenly (or ever) come to their senses is unrealistic, no matter how compelling you believe your case to be. So what can we do about it?
The answer is significantly more complex than the question, and there are many things we can and should do, but the simplest, most important, and most effective thing we can do is refuse to let bigots control, or in any way limit, us.
There are many examples of individuals and groups succeeding against bigotry – Irish, Italian and Chinese immigrants to America immediately come to mind.
Among the most compelling are those found in Jewish history. From slavery through genocide to continuing prejudice today, Jews have not only prevailed, but excelled. They should be heroes to all who have experienced bigotry and hate, notwithstanding individual beliefs about Zionism.
Once you prove you cannot be held back by prejudice and bigotry, your battle is won. And, as individual battles are won, so are those of the larger groups to which you belong.
Mr. Winham, former State Budget Director, lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He presently does volunteer work for several non-profit corporations in West Feliciana parish, most prominently Arts for All where he is secretary and Vice-Chair of a committee responsible for mounting a large annual literary symposium.