How It Feels To Be A Bigot
Years ago, I was a very different person. I had an upbringing with a lot of views that were not exactly... open-minded, and as a result those were the views I held. However, things started to change as I became exposed to more people and more points of view. However, I still remember vividly what living in that mindset was like. I've also noticed that people who haven't been in this kind of mindset simply cannot comprehend it: their perceptions of how bigots think is often off by miles, which only ends up making an even bigger mess of things when they get into arguments and debates. So I've decided to write out just what it really was like, to help people who have never been there to understand just what the types of people are thinking and feeling. Know your enemy and all that.
We fear the Other.
Even if we've deluded ourselves into thinking we don't. We worry that They will destroy our way of life. It's not that we're afraid necessarily afraid of change per se; it's that we believe that our way of life is the right way and anything else is wrong and will lead to destruction and misery. We worry that if we let Them have what They want, They'll take over completely and destroy everything we hold dear and consider good. We worry that They will mislead our friends and loved ones and lead them to perdition. We're afraid that if we're exposed to you for too long, we'll stop seeing anything wrong with it, and we worry that if one pillar of our ethical code collapses, the whole thing will eventually come crashing and we'll become horrible people doomed to destruction and ruin.
We often feel sorry for the Other.
If we're the "nice" kind of bigots, we may see Them as mislead, lost souls who have deluded themselves into or simply don't know any better than believing and acting the way They do. We may believe that repressive laws and policies are for Their (and definitely our) own protection. If we harass and harangue you, it may not be that we hate you - it may be that we genuinely feel you need to be saved from yourself and your "delusions."
Subconsciously or consciously, we often believe that the Other knows what They are doing is wrong or destructive, or have willfully deluded themselves and/or others.
Our way of thinking seems so right and so self-evident to us that we often cannot conceive how people could believe or see things differently. Sometimes (as in my case) it's because we're so sheltered from other points of view that we really have no idea what they're all about and what all they encompass. Some people have access to these points of view, but are so fearful and paranoid of them (but remember: we don't think we're afraid or paranoid; we think we're sensibly cautious) and/or are so convinced that their ideas or ways are the right ones and/or are so afraid of possibly getting converted to the other side that they won't allow themselves to properly process and digest the information.
And then, we go forth to say that They are closed-minded, and we believe it wholeheartedly, because we have no idea just how much we don't know.
We feel attacked by your very presence.
When we say that you're cramming your values down our throat just by making the fact you exist known, we mean it. What you're doing feels so wrong to us that simply being forced to acknowledge that it exists feels (to our minds) just as bad as being forced to do it ourselves. When we ask "how do we explain this to our children?" what we mean is, "how can we explain that there are people who do something so disgusting/wrong?"
Because we can't/won't learn about the Other properly, we come up with our own ideas about them. And they're wrong. But we believe them because we won't believe anyone else.
That whole thing about believing that the Other secretly knows that what They're doing is wrong is just one of many of the explanations we make up for ourselves. We tell ourselves that They are just spoiled little brats who want to do things their own way rather than the right way. We tell ourselves that They whine and complain just because They have (and probably refuse to seek) nothing more meaningful to fill their time with. We tell ourselves that They are all just a bunch of immature babies who can't face reality and facts and so instead make up their own "facts" to suit themselves. And when you take on an angry tone and start yelling at us, you only reinforce our belief that you're nothing more than whiny children throwing tantrums.
It's ironic, but there you have it.
Those of us that change don't change overnight.
No matter how well-written and well-presented your dissertations are, they're not going to win any of us over at first go. We're going to balk. We're going to feel affronted. We're going to retreat into what we know. We might even attack you. We'll try to refute you - and yes, we think those pseudoscientific articles we link you to are pretty convincing.
But it doesn't mean that nothing you've said hasn't stuck. Sometimes just one or two things will get past our defenses, get us thinking. Sometimes it can take awhile before you start noticing any change. Here's another thing to remember - many of us have had our bigotry instilled into us since birth. The older one's mental programming is, the harder it is to remove.
And some of us don't change at all, unfortunately. But fortunately, some of us do. Sometimes it just takes awhile.