I found a statement on a blog which was such a perfect representation of bigotry that I couldn’t help but write a commentary on it. I won’t post any link to it, although you can find it easily by searching on Google. Here is the statement:
Those people aren’t like me and mine. They’re different. You can never tell what they’re up to, you have no idea what they’re thinking, what the world is like to them and what they think of you and your own. It doesn’t matter what they say, you can never tell when those people are telling the truth. So often it happens to be the case that one of them acts all nice in public, but then he turns around and blows something up. You just can’t trust them. When it comes to my own, I know what they’re thinking, because I’m one of them; I know what it’s like. When one of mine acts up, I know it’s just because he’s a bad person – but with those other people, you can never tell. Why are they so violent?
You can clearly tell it’s about Muslims, because of the “blows something up” part. But if you take that expression out and replace it with something more generic, say, “but then they turn around and do something that’s just plain wrong,” then you’d have a completely universal statement.
It’s easy to dismiss the spirit of this statement as pure ignorance or mindless hatred, but I think there’s a lot more to talk about here. It’s an eloquent demonstration of the things you need to do in order to incite hatred against people.
1. People we hate are unpredictable and inscrutable.
Dehumanization is a big part of bigotry, but dehumanizing people is not that easy. One way of doing this is to say that those people don’t think like humans do (i.e. like you do), that they can’t be understood, that they are so different that you just can’t trust them. They can’t be “good people” because “good people” are predictable: they’ll always do the right thing. But those people can’t be counted on to do the right thing.
So when he writes “You can never tell what they’re up to, you have no idea what they’re thinking, what the world is like to them and what they think of you and your own,” the intent there is to dehumanize. They don’t think like us at all, you can never have an idea what they think, because they’re not human. You can no more understand what their thoughts are like than you can know what being a bat or a cow is like. Women are “crazy” and “irrational,” POCs are “bestial,” children are “wild,” and all could explode in either verbal or physical violence without any justification.
2. People we hate are all the same.
As the writer explains, when a person on their side “acts up,” it’s because they’re a “bad person.” It’s their fault, not the fault of the group they belong to. This dovetails easily into the “bad apples” rhetoric: when people on our side “act up,” it’s because of a few “bad apples,” and all we need to do is cull those “bad apples” from the bunch, because we’re “good people.”
Women, POCs, and children, on the other hand, are said to be representative of their group. When they “act up,” it’s not because they’re a “bad person.” it’s because they are part of a subhuman group. Unlike us, they have no individuality: they are all inherently violent and none of them can be trusted. We know how people blame all women for the perceived shortcomings of one woman, all POCs for the perceived shortcomings of one POC, all children for the perceived shortcomings of one child. This is only an extension of that concept.
3. People we hate are innately violent.
Because there is no possible explanation or justification for their actions, because they do not think like us and are inscrutable, and they are all equally untrustworthy, the only conclusion one can come to is that they must be innately violent or immoral. It is rather hard to be a constructionist and maintain hatred against any group of people, because constructionism and the belief in some innate violence or immorality in an entire group of people simply do not mesh. Anyone who wants to propagate hate must therefore argue against constructionism and for a specifically racial, sexist or ageist view of human nature. It is not a coincidence that racists, sexists and childists either vigorously attack constructionist positions or substitute their own (such as what I’ve called the “no-subconscious model”).
So usually the question “why are they so violent” is answered with “because that’s how those people are.” Understanding of their thoughts (which is posited as impossible) is replaced by the position that they are thoughtless and moved by some biological imperative. Women are biologically made to be radically different from men because of their differing role in procreation and child-raising, and they are made to be caring, emotional, and irrational. POCs were thought to have different lines of descent from whites, and therefore impossible to understand from a “white” standpoint. Children are thought to be born evil, wild animals, who need to be pacified (like natives).