Ignorance and Knowledge

What Is Bigotry?

Bigotry Definition

Time and time again in group discussion (mostly online, thankfully) I get accused of being a bigot, or engaging in bigotry. Of course, this label would upset anybody. But those of us in the same position as me, quite possibly even more so.

We are those who are accused of bigotry, not because we hate people such as POC, homosexual people, or Transgender/Gender Fluid people. No, we are accused of bigotry for calling out those people who do.

Dozens, if not hundreds of times, I have been called a bigot for ‘hating’ those that hate others, and this is precisely why I feel that it is vitally important for us to make a distinction between what counts as bigotry, and what does not.

In this article, I want to go further than the standard dictionary definition, and try to get to the root of the nature of the word. Obviously this can be seen as fallacious, and I am the first to call people out on an Arbitrary Redefinition Fallacy. But words evolve as society does. Our society, in general, is becoming more and more inclusive. Most of the progressive among us are now fully accepting of all the groups of humans, but that does not mean that we have to accept all groups of people.

And this is exactly where I feel it is necessary for us to make a real distinction between what makes someone a person, and what makes them a human.

Obviously these are already defined words, so you’ll have to allow me to run with this, for the sake of making a point which needs to be made, and I’m always open to suggestions of how to refine my ideas, and the wording of them, so as to make them as good as they can be.


What Makes Us Human?


The things that make us human, in this context, is not being used in the sense of what defines us as a species. The context here is in the things that define out individual humanity. It’s not in the choices we make, but the innate things in each of us which make us each an individual human. It’s the things about who we are in which we have no choice.

We have choices about many things in our lives (until we get into a much deeper debate about Free Will Vs. Determinism. But for the sake of discussion, I think the distinction is still obvious and valid.) But there are many things in which we have no choice at all.

We are not able to choose things like:

  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Height
  • Race
  • Colour
  • Original Nationality
  • Disability
  • Cultural Background

While we are free to make the personal choice to not let these things define us, they are still a part of us which does go some way to define the whole of our individual humanity.

It is THESE things which it is bigoted to judge someone for.


What Makes Us A Person?


Contrary to what makes us a human, the things which make us a person are the things which we build on top of what makes up our individual humanity. These are the choices we make, the decisions and options we follow. These are what give as a personality, a character, on top of those things which build our base humanity.

We can look at it in this way. Our humanity is the foundation that we build our personality upon.

While there are a certain number of things which we have no choice over (and the above list is in no way comprehensive) the number of things which we can choose is higher by an order of magnitude (or at least figuratively)

We are presented with choices every day. We can choose to be one way, or we can choose to be another, in a multitude of different areas, at many times.

We have a choice about:

  • Religion
  • Level Of Education
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Xenophobia
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Ableism
  • Ignorance
  • Career
  • Political Leanings

And these are the things which really do define us. These are the choices we make, the way in which we decide to present ourselves and our opinions to the outside world. The way in which we decide to view the outside world, and the other people that reside within it.

It is THESE things in which we are justified in judging others.


The Paradox Of Tolerance.


Well known philosopher Karl Popper, in his 1945 work The Open Society And Its Enemies Vol 1 described something known as The Paradox Of Tolerance.

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

He concludes

“We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”


Is It Possible To Be Bigoted Against Bigotry?

In conclusion, no.

Bigotry MUST be narrowed down. We have to start making the distinction that bigotry is not just disliking somebody over a difference in opinion, but that it is disliking somebody due to the very foundations of their individual humanity.

Am I a bigot for disliking somebody because their religious views mean they deny rights to gay people? Am I a bigot for disliking somebody because their political leanings mean that they think people who are too disabled to work should also be forced to pay for their medical bills?

I would argue ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Would I be a bigot for disliking somebody because they are attracted to the same sex? Would I be a bigot for believing that my race is superior to all others, and that mine should be given more privilege?

Damn right I would!

And I hope that you’d all be comfortable in calling me out on it.