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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.