Welcome Back, fellow travelers!
So, as was pointed out yesterday, the making of generalizations is, at the logical level, morally neutral.
If that is that case with purchasing chainsaw and eggs, why is it not with racism, bigotry, and prejudice?
Before we proceed, let me define these three terms:
- Racism= believing that there are natural and intrinsic differences between one race and another and the difference is one that is (or results in) a moral/goodness difference . Note 1: by this definition, it is not racist to say that Asians have different eyes than non-asians (see my previous post). This is merely a physical difference that has no moral/goodness dimension. I am using the term race as a group of people with certain inherited distinguishable features of which there are 3: Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid. I am not, however, limiting the use of racism to be only claiming differences between these three. Much of racism is between sub-races, not just races. It is also used to describe a similar belief in differences between sub-races, nationalities, and etc.
- Prejudice= holding a negative belief about an entity before having any firsthand knowledge of the thing and not allowing new positive information to inform and change the belief. Note: prejudice can be against many, many things, not just race.
- Bigotry= an individual’s intolerance of another’s beliefs or belief systems that differ from that individual.
Note: these are my specific definitions. You are free to use others – I am not claiming that mine are better than yours – they are the ones used herein.
Using these definitions, I hope you can see the first two seem to involve generalizations. One cannot know every individual person within a race, and therefore, making a judgment that includes a moral/goodness dimension about all individuals within a race must, by definition, be racism. All racism is making generalizations.
Let us move onto the generalizing done with prejudice. Again, prejudice, in its simplest form, is simply holding to a belief before we have first-hand information; however, in its typical use, includes continuing to hold to the same belief even after gaining first-hand information that is contrary. Suppose I believe that deer meat tastes bad even though I have never tasted it. My belief comes from having tasted elk meat and I didn’t like it. I generalized that ALL wild mammal meat tastes bad. Plus, I have a friend who tasted it and she didn’t like it either. In this situation, I would have a prejudice against deer meat. Now, suppose I go to a family get-together and someone offers me some deer. I decline saying that I don’t like deer meat. This is prejudice again deer meat. It might, however be reasonable since I have had other wild meat and I didn’t like it and my friend didn’t like it either. Get this? I would call that reasonable prejudice. I have tasted a similar meat and didn’t like it and the notion that it tastes bad is confirmed by my friend’s experience. I am being reasonable. Suppose now that my brother brings me some grilled sausage and says that it is pork and I eat it….and like it. Later on, however, my brother lets me know that he was mistaken – that it was actually deer sausage. I respond negatively and get nauseous. My prejudice against deer meat has produced in me a visceral response. I am literally feeling sick to my stomach. Now, it would be illogical to say that I am prejudiced because I have tasted it and am no longer pre-judging it. It would be preferable to not label it as prejudice. It would be preferable to call it unreasonable rejection. I had a reasonable prejudice that became unreasonable rejection because I actually enjoyed it. What has happened is that I am unreasonably holding onto the previous belief with no real logical reason to do so. Now, I am being stubborn; my belief, with a strong emotional component, is unreasonably and illogically held. I may very well live for a long time refusing to change my belief and even refusing to allow any argument or evidence to the contrary. I have a unreasonable prejudice and my stubborness may keep me thus for a long, long time.
Many people have reasonable prejudices. Is it, however, possible to have a reasonable prejudice when it comes to race, sub-race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation? That is a real and important question when it comes to generalizations. We will get to that soon.
Bigotry, however is different. Bigotry involves a negative judgment about a different belief rather than about a person. Of course, this often accompanies bigotry – people disagree with someone and subsequently have a negative view of the person holding the different belief. Bigotry is not truly generalization unless it also involves having negative beliefs about people that one has never met based solely on the fact that they hold the belief. If I believe that the earth is shaped like a globe, I am not a bigot if I refuse to agree with someone who believes that it is shaped like a cube. I am not manifesting bigotry if I am not tolerating those beliefs. I simply disagree. Having firmly held beliefs is a fine and laudable thing. I remember years ago my mother telling me that I was the most stubborn person she ever knew. This bothered the heck out of me because I consider it a negative term. I sat down and tried to self-analyze and understand the concept and came to the conclusion that stubbornness, at its heart, is perseverance – which in and of itself is not negative, and often considered a positive character habit. So how does perseverance become stubbornness? When someone is persevering along a path that we consider good and noble, we refer to it as perseverance. When someone is persevering along a path that we consider bad and corrupt, we refer to it as stubbornness. The same thing can be said about Bigotry. If someone is firmly holding onto a belief or belief system that we agree with or at least see as positive, we don’t call it bigotry – we do so only if we disagree with that they are holding. Does this make sense? So if you hear someone call someone else a bigot, they are merely expressing that they disagree with them… and calling them names.
So when and why is racism and prejudice unreasonable ?
The answer will come tomorrow in Part III.