Bigotry. The word has numerous synonyms: bias, discrimination, fanaticism, injustice, racism, sexism, unfairness, dogmatism, narrow-mindedness, partiality, and more. But I’ll stick with bigotry. It’s exhibited worldwide and has occurred since the beginning of civilization. Unfortunately today it is widespread in the “land of the free,” this United States, and it exists in numerous forms.
These days bigotry is often displayed by the leader of our federal government. Who hasn’t heard Trump call illegal Mexican immigrants “murderers,” “rapists,” “animals,” and whatever other insulting adjective he can think of. Some Americans, especially Trump idolaters, approve his bigoted comments. But, I wonder, why don’t more everyday citizens condemn Trump’s bigotry? No matter what their legal status, immigrants are people, not animals. And if they are murderers and rapists that has to be proven with solid evidence.
Another fairly recent example of bigotry occurred after a gathering of University students in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Students wanted to demonstrate support for the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army and brutal slave owner. Nazis, white supremacist, KKK members with torches arrived to oppose the students and defend the statue. And soon other people gathered to support both sides and a riot erupted. Days later Trump argued that both sides were at fault for violence at Charlottesville but also said that on both sides there were “very fine people.” Nazis and KKK murderers are fine people? PULEEZ!
Many pundits suggest that bigotry has trickled down from this “America First” administration. Others insist that bigoted, prejudicial, intolerant attitudes are common among “ordinary” U.S. citizens. It’s learned, they say, from families and their cultural milieu. Bigotry is sustained by passing it on from one generation to another and by categorizing people unlike themselves as inferior, unacceptable, stupid, or immoral (the latter applied especially to LGBTQ individuals). Every week, or sometimes daily, U.S. news media publish or broadcast stories about people who demonstrate their dislike or hatred for others whose views, cultures, or skin colors differ from theirs.
Some people display their bigotry in public incidents that are recorded on camera and shown on TV and social media. Like the white guy, a lawyer, in a New York restaurant, Fresh Kitchen on May 16, 2018. He was yelling and berating Honduran staff who were speaking Spanish. The lawyer threatened to call ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to have the Hondurans deported. He even threatened the restaurant manager, demanding that his employees speak English at all times.
Spanish-speaking people whatever their heritage are subjected to countless hate-filled, bigoted incidents: “go home” graffiti scrawled on their cars and trucks, “Make America White Again” signs paraded in their neighborhoods as well as in other communities of color.
That ranting New York lawyer is no exception to the bigotry displayed in the United States. African-American homes and churches are vandalized. So are Jewish homes and synagogues (such as the swastika and the Heil Trump graffiti on vehicles and buildings). Muslims are victims of the same treatment. In fact, since January 2017 when Donald Trump ordered a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States that “Muslim Ban” has been implemented in numerous ways such as when Muslims (or those thought to be Muslim) are hassled when trying to legally enter the U.S. That bigoted ban has also prompted outright public harangues against Muslims. Bigots get their kicks and exhibit their hatred by bullying and accusing Muslim children and adult men and women of being terrorists.
Of course there are individuals, groups, and organizations trying to counteract the bigotry. But I posit that personal attitudes and beliefs about those different from themselves have to change first. It is not easy. But I think it begins with young people, teenagers who have become activists working to make the USA (and the world) a better, diverse place. I wrote about many of those teens in Activism: the Ultimate Teen Guide. When I revisit those stories, I have hope again that teens in the book (now adults) will help sustain our land of the free, with the welcome E Pluribus Unum—“from Many, One” or “Out of Many, One”—displayed on the Great Seal of the United States and some U.S. coins.
In other words, we are all in this together and perhaps one day we can act like it.