Hillary Clinton recently posted a video on her Facebook page proposing a different way of looking at Trump supporters. The message was that those who do not support him should look deeper into what is causing the frustration and anger of so many Americans, and empathize, rather than return the anger, or dismiss their choice in a condescending way; which only leads to further division in the United States. The message was that we could still support our fellow Americans without agreeing with them were we only to look beyond the anger into the reason why. We could empathize, rather than ridicule, which leads to the question of what bigotry in America really looks like.
Bigotry and racism are too often used in an interchangeable way, when, in fact, they are not. Bigotry is an intolerance toward those whose opinions do not match your own. Racism is treating others from the viewpoint that race alone determines the superiority or inferiority of an individual person. Both divide and cause great harm, but they are clearly not the same.
So let’s talk about bigotry in relationship to the current presidential campaign. Some bigotry is easily identifiable. One would argue that Mr. Trump is clearly bigoted, as his comments about others express his lack of tolerance for those who would disagree with what he says. His body language when someone he disagrees with is speaking is a clear tell. Donald Trump’s lack of tolerance toward anyone whose opinion does not match his own is obvious.
Now let’s talk about the less obvious, but equally damaging, bigotry associated with the campaign. Many of the people who disagree with Mr. Trump and his followers demonstrate bigotry, as well. That’s right. When people feel justified in disparaging in return, it is often because they feel that they are right and the other person is wrong. The words they use in return fire also demonstrate bigotry. They are expressing their intolerance of the opinion of another.
Watch the the Rand Paul video with an open mind. Listen carefully to the words said by all, including the narrator. Look at the body language. Then take a moment to dip into the comment section. I believe you will find that bigotry is not exclusive to the Trump campaign, but deeply embedded in the relationships of Americans who disagree with each other.
So, what’s the solution?
Awareness is key. Are you a bigot? Are you intolerant of the opinions of either “side”?
Understanding that you can’t fight bigotry with bigotry any more than you can fight hate with hate opens the door for better options.
Realizing that we are all Americans and all in this together might trigger the empathy Secretary Clinton talked about in her video, and ease the division.
And as mentioned in a previous article, standing up for what you want, not against what you don’t want, is a spiritual principle that lifts us up out of the problem, and releases the energy needed to move toward a solution.
If the desire is unity, and part of the problem is bigotry, then a key part of the solution is to be aware of what bigotry actually is and that we aren’t bigots. If we want to see a country free of bigotry, we must model what we want.
*The author recommends the reading of “Go Set A Watchman, A Novel” by Harper Lee, as one of the profound messages in her book, speaks to the broader perspective of bigotry.