Fighting bigotry

ArtPrize 9/11 Installation Hate Bigotry Intole...

(Photo credit: stevendepolo)

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.

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7 Responses to Fighting bigotry

  1. Jim says:

    Sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic like race, gender, or our genealogy. Sexual orientation is a physical activity and is therefore a conscious choice. I cannot help being black, white or brown. I can help who I allow into my bedroom. In the American vernacular bigotry is synonymous with racism. In reality, it is not. “Bigotry” is being intolerant of views unlike your own. It can be applied to profession, religion, or any number of characteristics that may or may not be immutable. “Racism” is lumping all members of a particular race into a single mold.
    Simply put, you will never rid the world of bigotry because there will always be at least two opinions on any given issue.

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    • Stephen Winham says:

      You have validated my major point in your last sentence.

      Most of your comments have to do with semantics. Debating the definitions of “bigotry” and “racism” might be an interesting exercise, but such a diversion has nothing to do with what I am trying to say.

      I do not agree that sexual orientation is simply a physical act or conscious choice for reasons many others have more eloquently given. I consider it as immutable as the other things on my list.

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  2. Jim says:

    As chair of a literary committee, I’m sure you understand the importance of words. I don’t disagree with the idea that we should not hate based on any of the characteristics you stated whether they are genetic or chosen. The problem is by your words you equate hate,bigotry and racism. By listing sexual orientation you are saying that if you are biased against someone based on their sexual orientation then you hate them. If I misunderstood your point please let me know.

    There is a big difference between hating someone for something they cannot help(racism) and refusing to accept or endorse a choice someone makes(bigotry). By definition, as long as there are two strong opinions on Earth there will be two bigots.

    As far as whether or not sexuality is a choice or not, there really is no legitimate debate. It is a conscious physical act. Any conscious physical act can be stopped or changed. It is therefore a choice. I may have certain preferences, but I can choose to be gay, straight, between, or non of the above.

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    • Stephen Winham says:

      Let’s just leave it there. You’ve a right to your opinion and to interpret my words as you choose. Neither debating my intent nor attempting to clarify it would be worthwhile and could actually dilute my purpose in writing this piece. Thanks for your comments and for expressing your views.

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  3. John says:

    Mr. Winham, you make some very valid points. You left out politics i.e. conservative/Republican vs. liberal/Democrat. I moved to NW Louisiana from Colorado in 2008. I have worked with and had numerous Senators and Congressman represent me, but Congressman John Fleming (R) District 4, is the most bigoted politician I have ever encountered. He is totally intolerant of anyone opposing his perspective as an extreme right-wing conservative and he is obsessed with opposing anything President Obama proposes or tries. He does not tolerate anyone providing an opposing view on his Facebook. If one posts an opposing perspective he bans them from commenting on his page. He is clearly a bigoted representative refusing to accept any opinion of his constituents other than those who support his extreme conservative view and he continuously posts bigoted information on many subjects. We don’t need Representatives who go to Washington to represent and accept only their own perspective. He needs to listen to all of his constituents and he does not allow that to happen.

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  4. Jim says:

    John, I wouldn’t be so quick to tag Fleming as a bigot. That would imply he has strong and immovable convictions. It seems to me politicians will slither to whatever position or constituency will get them elected. I firmly believe that Diane Feinstein would put a fully automatic rifle in the hands of every man,woman, and child and Fleming would be trying to legalize drugs if they thought it would get them re-elected. Frankly, I have more respect for someone who holds a position counter to mine than one who says what they think I want to hear to get a vote.

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  5. Jessica says:

    Funny how the gays hating Christians is considered a birthright instead of the actual bigotry that it is….

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