Bigotry, today’s GOP, cruelty, and lies.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=politics&ctt=1#ai:MC900301302|mt:0|Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates recently posited racism as cruelty — from jokey emails suggesting that the President’s dead mother indulged in bestiality to the cruelty inherent in “sneer[ing] at the unguarded thoughts of dead children,” and so much else besides. He takes the idea further:

[T]his embrace of cruelty is arguably the dominant feature of the present conservative movement. It has been repeatedly expressed in alleged “humor.” The assertion of a right of judgement over the First Lady’s physical person, for instance. Or watermelon patches on the front lawn. Or Obama waffles.  There is little distance from that kind of cruelty to aspirin between one’s legs and from aspirin between one’s legs to transvaginal probes.

I find Ta-Nehisi’s point particularly powerful. Let’s call conservative social attitudes, policies and legislative efforts what they are: Mean. Mean-spirited. Cruel. When you reduce living, breathing human beings to your worst ideas about them, and act on that reduction, you’re acting with genuine cruelty. Plain and simple.

But here’s another thing that I can’t stop thinking about: When you do these things, you’re also lying.

Bigotry is lies.

It doesn’t matter if the bigot actually believes what he or she is saying. When you tell me that black Americans should “demand paychecks instead of food stamps” — you’re spreading lies. When you tell me that “if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage” — you’re spreading lies. When you tell me that Islam and Muslims are “pure, unadulterated evil” — you’re spreading lies.

Spanish is the “language of living in the ghetto“? Women frequently and regularly lie about having been raped? Recipients of unemployment insurance need to “get off their backsides and get a job… [and] stop stealing from their neighbors“? Lies, lies, and more lies.

Cruel lies, at that.

These are not differences of opinion, or legitimate perspectives on the world. These are lies told and perpetuated in order to allow those who tell them to have power over certain classes of human, or, at the very least, to feel superior to said humans. And I’m done pretending otherwise.

I can accept that your religion teaches you that men should control women, and that birth control and abortion are wrong. But when you insist that you have a right to impose that belief on me in this country, a secular nation by definition and design — you’re lying. You can believe in your heart of hearts that homosexuality is disgusting. But when you insist that you have a right to deny LGBTQ Americans their civil rights as a result — you’re lying. On and on and bloody on.

At a certain point, willed and willful ignorance becomes willed and willful deceit, of the self and of others. If you honestly believe that certain people deserve to be denied some measure of human dignity because of how the Good Lord/Mother Nature created them? Then you, sir or madam, are full of it.

And if you’re an elected representative of one of this nation’s two political parties (like every single one of the people to whom I link following the words “bigotry is lies”), I have an even greater duty to call you on it.

Great expectations (Or: Odd, unsettling expectations).

One carries around, deep within one’s bosom, a series of expectations, assumptions, and Known Truths, a random and rambly bunch of ephemera, stuff one didn’t even know one had collected and internalized, beliefs one didn’t even know that one was applying to the world.

Because they’re Known Truths — like, you know: Grass, green. Sky, blue. Who needs to apply that shit? It.just.is.

Right?

Oh ho ho! The sheer humor in watching my Known Truths be blown to bits over the course of my life!

Like just the other day. I was watching a video of the floods in Queensland, listening to the combined horror and oddly quippy chit-chat of the videotaping guy and a couple of women, and I realized: I think he’s gay.

No, wait. It went like this: “Australian Gay Guy is being funny — it’s so funny that Australian Gay Guy is being funny in these circumstances! [time passes] Wait. He’s gay? I don’t know that. Why do I think I know that?” And it came to me that I knew he was gay because his voice and accent are so similar to that of the one male Australian friend I have. Who is gay.

So, like, maybe he is gay, but if all men who sound like my friend are gay? There are a lot of lonely straight women in Australia.

Or like that time I was about to sit down with a struggling third grader at my kids’ school to work on his reading, and another kid asked to join us.

I tried to tell Kid B that we could read together later, because I knew Kid A would be embarrassed to read in front of Kid B, since Kid B’s reading was really good. And then Kid B started to read out loud. And oh my good nightshirt, he was as bad as Kid A!

And why, you ask, did I know him to be a good reader when in fact he was not? Because he was wearing a button down shirt and glasses. That’s right — I thought a kid had above average intelligence because he was wearing specs.

I mean to say.

I think about this sort of thing when I consider my unsuspected bits and bobs of random bigotry. The sort of bigotry that you didn’t even know that you had in your head until it comes out.

Like when I learned that the man I referred to yesterday as my “fave rave” (’cause he is), Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a gamer. The thought process, much as I cringe to reveal it, went something like: “Hold on. There are… black… nerds? I thought all black people were cool?”

Or like back in October 2008, when I found myself chatting with a young employee at Hancock Fabrics — and was mortified to realize that her detailed knowledge of the Presidential campaign had surprised me. She was a young, single mother, holding down two minimum-wage jobs — so I figured she didn’t read the paper. I guess.

And there was that other time I was asked to help out a different third grader, this time with math. I had to have the girl pointed out to me twice — because she was Asian. And didn’t you know? Asians are really good at math!

My brain sputter surrounding the notion of black geeks is comical, and easily overcome — analogous, I think, to the story told by the self-same Ta-Nehisi Coates about his early, only semi-joking sense that surely white women didn’t go to the hairdressers, because their hair was already straight. My observed reality had yet to include a black gamer, so, I just hadn’t noticed that I had an assumption. Ok — fixt nao.

The moment with the young fabric store employee, on the other hand, was genuinely troubling (seriously, what’s wrong with my elitist ass?), but the one that bothered me most was the moment with the little Asian girl. She needed help, and — even if for only a minute — I couldn’t see past the model minority stereotype that suggested she should be getting As.

That shit is damaging.

I don’t think I’m a genuine bigot — to my mind, genuine bigots are those who order their world based on bigoted assumptions (racial or otherwise), and either refuse to see the fact, or actively embrace it. I think I’m a person of good will who has unknowingly absorbed some bigoted assumptions (some funny, some not so much), who struggles to be honest and to root those assumptions out.

But it’s certainly nothing to be proud of.

Though it does give me some small measure of comfort to consider the full extent of the absurdity (glasses? Really?), because maybe I’m not so much a potential bigot, as a moron.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.