Bigotry is a Learned Behavior

By JeffG

Nobody is born racist. They are taught to hate. Bigotry is not inbred, it is a learned behavior, and is typically learned from prejudiced parents. Most bigots keep their opinions to themselves, and many try to raise their children to be open minded, at least to some extent, despite their own irrational fears and beliefs. Unfortunately, parents can’t pick and choose what habits their children learn from them. Typically, children are more apt to learn from what you do, not what you say.

Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine. This friend’s father “became” racist one day. Many years ago, he was assaulted by a group of black men. It wasn’t specifically targeted, he could have been anybody. They were just a bunch of thugs who decided to attack him because they could. After this event, the father targeted his anger at those men toward the entire black community. It wasn’t a group of hoodlums that attacked him. In his eyes, he was attacked by a group of black hoodlums.

The man chose to be a racist. Fortunately, my friend saw beyond this prejudice; I’m glad for this because if this friend was a racist, we wouldn’t be friends. Upon hearing the story I asked a question: “Do you really believe he just ‘became’ racist? Or was it perhaps just a validation for a prejudice he already held?”

See, no one simply “becomes” racist on the spot. This man was attacked by a group of black thugs, but had they been white thugs, would he hate all white people? Generally people don’t have an answer for that question. In my eyes, an isolated event like that is no excuse to condemn an entire group of people just because they share the same color of skin.

Let me tell you another story, this time it’s my own. As I’ve mentioned here in the past, I went to a culturally mixed school, though primarily black. Well, there were a group of four young men, who made my life a living hell my first year there. I got my first taste of racism when I was only eight years old.

These boys were all twice my height, they were a year or two older than me, and they beat the living shit out of me on a daily basis. When they weren’t busy beating me up, they were finding other ways to torment me. Due to this, I had a lot of anger and self esteem issues in my youth, many I didn’t overcome for many years, even into adulthood.

I knew then, and still know now that they picked on me because I was different. I was white, I didn’t fit in, and I was smaller than they were. This was enough reason in their eyes to send me crawling to the infirmary on a regular basis, to kick in the stall door on me in the bathroom, to take anything of mine they could get their hands on, and in general, to torment the fuck out of me.

I hated these boys for years, even years later, when we were older I refused to accept apologies from one of them who realized how much shit he and his cohorts had put me through. But I never saw any reason to hate them for being black. See, four pieces of shit do not equal all black people. I continued to go to that school through graduation, and many of my friends were black and of other races and cultures. Knowing people from different backgrounds and cultures opened my eyes to a wide variety of experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

My wife recently made a post about personal responsibility. That subject rings especially true in this case. Your open mindedness is your personal responsibility. If you are a racist, it is because you choose to be a racist. And because of this choice, you will be coloring the views of your children, either toward people of the culture you are biased against, or towards yourself once they open their eyes and see you for what you are.

As I’ve said, bigotry is a learned behavior. So is acceptance. You may not be in control of every situation you find yourself in, but you always choose what mindset and what feelings and knowledge you take with you from the experiences in your life. When you are a racist, you are only teaching your children to hate. Whether they hate you or they hate an entire race of people is their choice. All people come to their own feelings in time. But really, is either option a weight you’re willing to bear?

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