Seeing Humanity Through Jaundiced Eyes

I grew up in a family of many prejudices.  Name a minority that was viewed with disfavor in the 70s and 80s and my family probably disliked them.  The rather daunting thing about their various prejudices was that they always had a convenient rationalization to justify their dislike.  During the course of validating their hatred, they’d point out rates of unemployment, levels of achievement in education, family size, reliance upon public assistance, and so on. They’d focus upon whatever negative qualities they could dredge up in relation to the groups of people they disliked.  They were quite efficient at portraying these disfavored groups as the foulest of people, for their observations were sewn in a field fertile with animosity.

The thing is, you can do this with virtually any group of people.  It’s not hard to do.  We are all human and as such, we manifest a variety of imperfections. If you want to find flaws in various communities and demographic groups, you will invariably succeed.

Name one group of people who is free of negative behaviors.  I dare you.  The dead do not count.

One can even amass studies and statistics to support one’s views.  The internet can serve as a powerful instrument in one’s search for the “seamy underside” of one’s despised brethren. You can always find a basis for hating a group of people if you look hard enough.  The foundation of a hateful worldview is only a few keystrokes away.

What if I turned the world upon its head?  What if I decided to focus my prejudices upon the dominant groups in society?  I suppose that I could dismiss straight people as immoral for having so many unwanted children and dumping them into the adoption system. After all, how many same sex couples have unplanned pregnancies together?  I could condemn heterosexuals for overburdening the world with their offspring and thus sentencing their own children to a world of pollution and shrinking natural resources, could I not?  Global warming, catastrophic oil spills, endless cityscapes, suburban sprawl, and rapidly disappearing natural spaces: would this be happening to such a degree if far fewer people populated the planet?  Perhaps homosexuality should become a sacrament?  I could also portray men as the violent sex, bent on destructive aggression. After all,  men wind up incarcerated for violent crimes at rates far disproportionate to the 49% of humanity that they represent.  Men rape women quite regularly, but how often do you hear of women doing the same? I could also condemn men as the sex who has traditionally started wars and has visited destruction upon countless innocents in the process.  And of course, as a queer woman who is an atheist, I could find a whole host of very personal reasons to hate Christians… and in the past, I have done so.

So yes, if I choose to hate a group of people, I could find plenty of reasons to condemn them. I would have little difficulty in justifying my ill feelings.  I can employ commonly held beliefs:  we all know that few gay people have a desire to become parents and that men are naturally more violent than women, right?  Alternatively, I can use personal experience: the sense of guilt and self-loathing generated by my childhood religion, or perhaps, my sister’s rejection of my queerness because of an intolerant theology.  I can even use statistics, as it isn’t all that hard to find studies that support the notion of men being far more prone to violence than women.

What if I used all of this as justification in denying certain people’s civil rights?  How would that be perceived by the various targets of my animosity?  Would the privileged majority call me unfair?  Would they dismiss me as an angry bigot?

The irony is, when we perceive a group of people as demonstrably flawed, it becomes incredibly easy to deny our hatred for the group in question and simultaneously, we call for civic action in order to keep the more unsavory corners of humanity in check.  All we need to do is state that we are “telling it like it is.”  Observation is not hatred.  It is an act of relaying factual information.  We say that we are speaking the truth of the world and nothing more.  One must act upon factual claims.  One must protect the clean, the desirable, and the pure from the encroachment of the unworthy.  If we repeat this enough times to ourselves and others, we come to believe our claims of innocence.  When we stare into the mirror, we can confidently look ourselves in the eye and assure ourselves that we are unassailable in our jaundiced convictions and our tainted actions.

Even so, the pattern of our words betray us. The solidity of action gives shape and form to our animosities…

What will it take to brush aside our “facts”, our “experiences”, and our “statistics” in order to recognize our common humanity?  Love is a variable that is so often excluded from the calculus of a jaundiced stare.

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~ by timberwraith on July 2, 2010.

4 Responses to “Seeing Humanity Through Jaundiced Eyes”

  1. Nicely written, beautifully thought. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, Sabio. I wrote this after a hurtful discussion with someone who is very homophobic, but in complete denial of their prejudices. The conversation was quite jarring and so, it’s nice to see a positive reaction from another person evolve out of such a negative experience.

  3. It can be pretty hard to shove aside personal experiences, though. It takes a lot of work to remember that the cLG(b) isn’t all bad- just a loud…. Percentage of some number. I’m not sure, really. But not everyone!

    I think the biggest thing that gets me about other peoples’ hatred, though, is that even if I do just stop trying and let the wounds fester and hatred grow- I still wouldn’t deny them rights. Even if a cLGB person actually physically assaulted me over transphobia while others watched, if someone told me that deciding how that group would be treated was up to me (while a vengeful part of me would want to let them fry) I’d still do my best to ensure they get the equality, respect, and everything else that all humans deserve. Even with a person that I’ve loathed- who HAD made personal attacks against me, my gender, my partner (a transphobic trans woman I had the misfortune of knowing, I still hate her and I think the feeling is mutual)- if someone else tried to attack her unfairly I’d still tell that person off for it.

    I just cannot grasp the train of thought of saying “I don’t like you for [reason] so you don’t deserve to be treated like a human being”.

  4. I was raised with most of the same prejudice as you. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started asking myself why I hated different groups. Hate was taught to me in the home via my parents and in the Baptist Church. I overcame the hate we have raised our kids church free and taught them that people are allowed to live the lifestyle they choose. Great piece.

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