Another Excuse for Bigotry

Over the past couple years, I’ve been doing my best to hold my tongue and tolerate people who use social networking sites to post rude and mean-spirited comments about specific groups of people. But this week, I finally snapped.

I’m calling out these people for what they are: bigots.

According to the dictionary, a bigot is someone who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially in regards to members of a group.

As America grows more and more diverse, such attitudes against people of different colors or nationalities has become less and less acceptable.

But bigots are haters and, as my kids tell me on a regular basis, haters hate.

So, the haters have set their sights on poor people, particularly those who have had to depend on government assistance when they face tough times.

I’m not the only person whose been noticing this trend.

This week, a colleague stepped into my office, and during a casual conversation, broke into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just so angry. I had a relative post the meanest thing on Facebook.”

The post she was referring to was a meme that compared people on welfare to a dog: lazy, unemployed, with no known father.

“I wanted to give her the facts,” she said, “but I know that won’t matter. She just won’t listen.”

I know how she feels.  For years, I’ve been trying to share the facts with those who demonize people “on welfare.”

In July 2011, I tried to educate them: my rant about people who rant about welfare.  People continued to make judgmental comments.

Last Thanksgiving, when people bragged that they never asked for handouts and didn’t want their tax dollars going to those who aren’t willing to help themselves, I tried to explain that very few people succeed on their own: I’m thankful for the handouts I’ve received. The people who should have read that blog obviously didn’t.

Over time, I’ve come to believe that efforts to educate people who wrap themselves in indignation and self-righteousness are simply ineffective.

And yet I still try.

So, for all those people who continue to point fingers and won’t listen to facts, at least listen to this:

When you are making judgmental comments about any group, you are actually referring to individuals who comprise that group. Unlike skin color and despite your preconceived notions about how people on welfare look, you don’t always know who is part of that group.  Some of your friends and acquaintances may have, at some point in their life, depended on social services.

These individuals have feelings. When you laugh at people on welfare, you are doing absolutely nothing to encourage them. When you blame them for taking your hard-earned money, you are doing nothing to help them succeed.  And when you call them lazy, you are questioning their integrity and intentions.  You are simply making them feel worse than they probably already do.

I am under no illusion that people will change their political opinions or their values based on what I write. But what I am asking is for more kindness and understanding. I’m also making a final plea that people get the facts before they make comments about anyone.

I know there’s a platitude that ignorance is bliss, but given the ignorance I’ve observed recently, I disagree. Instead, I think ignorance is just another excuse for bigotry. And that’s just not acceptable.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on November 17, 2012, in current affairs, perspective, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Trina – you did a great job with this – just wish the folks who need to hear this would take a moment and read it!!!

  2. Wonderful post, Trina! I feel exactly the same way! I know lazy people who are poor, lazy people in the middle class, and lazy people who are rich (Kardashians, anyone?). I try very hard to not use sweeping generalizations about other people, knowing that I can’t begin to understand anyone else’s life.
    You are fighting the good fight! Never give up; its so important to name bigotry and ignorance for what they are.

    • I almost didn’t write this because I know so many people who will think I am attacking them… but when I was faced with someone crying with frustration and anger… I just had to say something!

  3. Great post, Trina. Well said.

    I remember watching the Daily Show a few weeks ago and it ended with a quick clip of Craig T Nelson saying something like “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare and no one helped me out.” Ignorance is so ingrained in some people it’s sad.

    • I LOVE the Daily Show! When I was in graduate school, I remember a professor sharing a study that showed people who are raised in a highly dogmatic religion are more likely to have mental health issues because of the conflict between what they are told to believe and their own desires and behaviors. I think people who are highly dogmatic about politics probably suffer from that disconnect between their beliefs and reality.

  4. Excellent post Trina. I always say Facebook is the devil. There are no boundaries, it’s anonymous, and the written word lasts. Thanks for your sensitive insights.

  5. Thank you Trina. I see a surge in this type of thought and it is very disconcerting.

  6. Kathie Campbell

    Great post Trina. Just thought I would share a quote I have saved. Unfortunately I do not know who said it:
    Beneath all the likes and dislikes is a basic compulsion to pass judgment on everything.
    When this compulsion is rigid it is rigid everywhere–with food, with philosophies and
    especially with other people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: