Lets start with some terms. In the original post I pointed out:
…the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “prejudice” as:
1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one?s rights; especially : detriment to one?s legal rights or claims
2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics
Before I move on to the term ‘bigot’, indulge me on some further thought. I expounded on the nature of applying the term ‘prejudiced’ as follows (emphasis new):
I think you touched… (0.00 / 0)
… on one of the reasons I put this post on BMG in the first place.
This lead me to the question that, even if we didn’t bring up the word, is the word apt? I came to the conclusion that it is, by definition. I do think it is possible to be prejudiced and not be a homophobe, because the underlying premises of your beliefs could rise from flawed assumptions that have nothing to do with an irrational fear of homosexuality… so I wouldn’t use that term in a blanket sense. But prejudice does seem to apply.
I think it is important to recognize the reality of what is going on here. It is prejudice. Screaming it in someones face is probably not productive, but recognizing reality is.
In recognizing the reality that the term prejudice is particularly apt in this situation, it brought me to reflect on why the commenter was so defensive. They may (consciously or sub-concisely) not want to be labeled as prejudice because of its associated negative character. That is a good thing. People should feel bad about being prejudiced. The commenter just happen to feel so bad that they failed to see that the term was apt. They didn’t see it in themselves.
I have pointed to the function of shame in public discourse elsewhere as well:
Shaming is a harsh, but many times legitimate tactic for social change. It is used frequently by Churches, pundits, officials, and all manner of people.
OK… now to the main event… the term ‘bigot’. Raj chimed in and offered the distinction (anyone else in the ‘we miss Raj club’?):
It is possible to be prejudiced without being bigoted. The difference, as far as I can tell, is that a bigot is stubbornly unwilling to give up his prejudices even when being presented with new information.
I suspect that most people have preconceived notions, which might be analogous to prejudices. If someone can and is willing to overcome his preconceived notions, so much the better.
by: raj @ Mon Jun 18, 2007 at 16:59:17 PM EDT
I elaborated on the point:
Well lets see… (0.00 / 0)
big·ot:… …a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
I guess you could say that a bigot is a stubbornly prejudiced person. I guess it would follow that all bigots are prejudiced but not all prejudiced people are bigots.
I don’t think that it is the case that bigots understand their own prejudices but overcome their understanding with stubbornness. I think it would be more correct to say that the preconcieved notions that define a bigot’s particular prejudices are subbornly resistant to reason.
This idea of being ‘bigoted’ having something to do with information was touched on by lightiris:
Crossed the line. (6.00 / 3)
I think early on in this debate the YES supporters/voters could have appropriately been described as prejudiced, i.e., they had pre-judged the individuals and the issues based on their own limited and insular worldview. At this point, however, I no longer think “prejudiced” is the correct term. “Bigoted” is. Since the early stages of this debate, a tremendous amount of information has been made available, and we have first-hand evidence–the lives and stories of real people–that SSM is good, decent, and pro-family.
For example, my rep Lew Evangelidis had frequent contact with married couples and their children who live in his town. Lew even attended a fundraiser for The Bridge of Central Massachusetts’ Safe Homes, a program for GLBT youth who need support and a place to stay. Through all this, however, Lew willfully disregarded the humanity of these people and their stories in order to cling to his misguided and factually inaccurate mantra. Despite their pleas, he was apparently perfectly willing to impose his personal sensibilities on these people, some with their children begging him to change his mind, to preserve the dignity and standing of their family unit. No dice, though.
And he is not a stupid man; he is simply, at this point, a bigot.
I replied noting that ‘letting the people vote’ can function as a rationalization allowing legislators the freedom of not having to actually face a confrontation of any of their personal preconceived notions.
lightiris pointed out:
By actively bypassing any need (0.00 / 0)
to examine one’s underlying premises, one is actively and willfully protecting one’s point of view. The side-step is simply too cute by half. I’m afraid that behavior still qualifies as bigoted.
So does the term apply in Ms. California’s case? She’s certainly prejudiced. I’m not sure how informed she is. Also, if she is uninformed, I’m not sure about how ‘willful’ she is in being uninformed. I suspect it’s willful. She clearly understands that ‘equal rights’ are important, but she doesn’t go on to make the jump that marriage is (or should be) a right. Put another way, she doesn’t see or willfully disregards that denying that right to gays violates any sense of fairness to their legal, relationship, and life aspirations. There certainly is enough opportunity for a pageant queen and model to have absorbed enough context to have seen this by now. Recognizing fairness while simultaneously refusing to see the unfairness of her position seems at least a little willful to me.
So I think the term ‘bigot’ probably applies.
Normally as indicated above, I’m fully in support of shaming her for it,… not for her sake but for the sake of establishing that it is shameful. On the other hand, there is a glimmer of hope (or was… that she felt the need – possibly not without cause – to become defensive about it, she may be too deeply invested in her position now) in that she does recognize some sort of fairness is the issue. She just thinks that ‘separate but equal’ should be fine and that only her own (probably religious) understanding of the term marriage should apply to everyone. (She probably doesn’t see the unfairness in religious desire to ‘own’ the term).
As such, I wouldn’t have actually
called her a bigot, even if the term is applicable… because
there are practical considerations to using the term ‘bigot’
You should really be careful of throwing around the term biggot in that it is a declaration that the person in question is immune to conversation. By declaring that, you give up hope their ever changing their minds.
Sabutai went further:
I’m talking about giving people a way out. People who weren’t on our side a year ago, and may not even be on it today — because as Ryan has pointed out, this was one battle in a longer campaign. People are drifting to our camp steadily, but saying that anyone in the process of changing their mind is a bigot for most of their lives certainly won’t help. People want to adopt more pro-equality stances, and we shouldn’t make it harder for them to do so.
Any group that calls someone a “bigot”, is ceding all attempts to have their opinions be relevant to that person.
Of course, as Laurel pointed out later, there are limits:
sure (0.00 / 0)
i’m not infinitely patient, especially when the bigot is making sweeping legal or policy decisions.
I don’t think ‘prejudice’ is exclusionary… (5.00 / 1)
… however I think ‘bigot’ is. Calling someone a ‘bigot’ is to preemptively accuse them of being immune to conversation. It is a conversation stopper.
‘Prejudice’ on the other hand is something we have all dealt with. We have first hand experience of overcoming prejudice. We can see first hand the progress toward overcoming some of our society’s overall prejudices.
Maybe some of this is navel-gazing, but I do think that the first step toward change is recognition of a problem. The problem of ‘prejudice’ is something we can make serious progress toward overcoming, but it should be called what it is.
Similarly, throwing out terms like Bigot in the absence of any evidence of such (and perhaps even if there is evidence of such) is probably unproductive.
I don’t do this out of pride. I do this because I want to understand the reality so I can navigate through it better.
She’s a bigot, but we may have lost an opportunity. The public shame happening now has it’s own utility in the fight, not in our efforts for her but for society.
Even today, John Aravosis of Americablog notes that Focus on the Family has pointed out that they would have no problem with a gay SC nominee:
In a move that will surprise gay activists and liberals, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, a top religious right groups, tells me that his organization has no problem with GOP Senator Jeff Sessions’ claim today that he’s open to a Supreme Court nominee with “gay tendencies.”
The spokesperson confirms the group won’t oppose a gay SCOTUS nominee over sexual orientation.
This is a huge sign of the times, when the lead religious right group – this is James Dobson’s group – is afraid to be openly homophobic. And earlier today, I noted how Tony Perkins over at the Family Research Council left gays out of his demand that the “new” GOP focus on social issues. The religious right may actually be – at least publicly – backing away from its over hostility to gays.
Now, do they still hate us in their heart of hearts? Absolutely. Will they do everything in their power to hurt us, and take away our civil rights? You betcha. But now they’re afraid to say it.
Ok,… that was long and I apologize, but my previous thread, I think, illustrates that there are many nuances of the applicability of the terms ‘bigot’ and ‘prejudiced’ and the considerations one should keep in mind in using them. I wanted to point out all these things in the previous thread, but I lacked the time earlier and, as you can see, there was a lot to cover.
Hopefully my gathering these earlier comments in this way contributes in a helpful way.