Bigot! Bigot! Bigot! I was a bigot and most of you probably still are. Every single one of us has been a bigot at some point in our life. When I use the term bigot, I am referring to a particular type of bigotry all of humanity is prone to commit. It is not racism, sexism, classism or any of the other types we commonly hear about. In fact, you could say this type of bigotry is the root from which all others spring. But we will get back to that in a moment.
First of all, you have probably heard about the Bill Cosby scandal taking media outlets by storm. And chances are that prior to the reemergence of women alleging Mr. Cosby drugged and raped them, you were familiar with him through many of his career highlights. As the scandal continues to develop and more women are emerging with stories of abuse, most people are landing in one of two places.
One group refuses to believe Bill Cosby could ever be capable of the actions for which he is being accused. He has always been known and portrayed as a family friendly comedian in an industry where raunchier acts typically sell much better. He is the silly, yet lovable father to the Huxtable clan. He is synonymous with all things Jell-O and a slew of other products he pitched to us. And he is a strong advocate for education who points to his own story of climbing from poverty to become a Hollywood legend and doctoral degree holder.
On the other hand, there are those who have no doubt the allegations are true. To them, the clean family and educator persona is merely a front to hide his true nature. This nature is one which feeds on asserting power and control over others by means of his wealth and influence. And even before these allegations resurfaced, he has drawn some hostility from some facets within the black community. This is mainly due to him seemingly talking down to poor blacks in ways which seem to blame them for 100% of their problems.
What I dare suppose is these two groups represent two sides of the same coin. Everyone in the first group is a bigot, and so are those in the second. They are bigots because they both exhibit a narrow-minded view of human nature. They both likely buy into the concept of there being people who are essentially good or irredeemably bad. And the truth is, far too many of us have bought into this as well.
I recall how many guys responded to the MLB steroid scandal which broke some years ago. Every time one hero went down, they would say, “but I know ______ never cheated.” Of course, it was only a matter of months or years before they too went down. But in any case, each guy was a bigot. There is a person who to this day believes Michael Jackson was incapable of having inappropriate contact with children, based solely on their love of his musical career. Bigot!
Somewhere is someone who looks at a gang banger and says there are no positive qualities they could possibly possess. That person is a bigot. Someone else sees a politician exposed as corrupt and concludes they never had any interest in helping their constituents. I just see a bigot.
What makes any of us a bigot is our desire for simplicity. We want to believe human beings are a lot simpler than we actually are. We do not like the idea of gray areas, especially when it comes to issues of justice and morality. In our minds, people are either saints or monsters. We have little tolerance for navigating the messy areas in the middle.
And as much as we hate it admit it, we spew this kind of bigotry all the time. Anytime we refer to an unruly child as “a bad kid” or an honor roll student as a “good” one, we expose our inner bigot. When we say someone came from a “good family,” bigotry is in the house. When someone we are familiar with is accused of something heinous and we immediately assume it is impossible, guess what? And when we look down on some people’s mistakes while saying someone else who did the same is still a “good person,” we display our bigotry.
The truth is, there is no such thing as good or bad people. Every single one of us is capable of producing both enormous good and terrible evil. We can do the wrong things for the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons. If any of us experienced the right set of circumstances at any point in our lives, we could be capable of partaking in the next human rights movement or ethnic cleansing tragedy. Is this to say circumstances excuse actions? No. But what I am saying is any of us can reach a place where a thought we never entertained, begins to seem logical.
I readily admit, this is uncomfortable territory for most of us. Our need to feel secure would seem to necessitate that we consider some people to be beyond reproach. Our nation’s current divide over whether or not law enforcement officers would abuse their power is a prime example. Despite how illogical it is, a good portion of our population needs to believe police officers are far less likely to engage in unethical or illegal behavior. The vision of the cop who tours schools to teach children about the dangers of drugs, cannot be reconciled with the idea of the same cop beating suspects to a pulp without good reason.
The image of the beloved coach who contributes so much to his community, does not easily mesh with the reality of him also preying on children. The portrait of a woman who passionately advocates for justice and rights, clashes with the rumors of her being vindictive and harassing when cameras are not present. However, at some point we all have to put our big people pants on and face reality.
The person we consider to be the vilest and most despicable monster we have ever known, may show more respect to their mother than we do to our own. Someone we admire because they selflessly devote themselves to good causes, may also engage in illicit relationships behind their spouse’s back. Every person we consider to be a monster, may still have admirable qualities we know nothing about. Meanwhile, every saint may have some dark skeletons in their closet.
So when it comes to Bill Cosby and the growing number of women speaking out, my point here is not to convince anyone of his guilt or innocence. That would be the work of a bigot. He will have to sort out what really happened out with the alleged victims and God. But what I am supposing is we not dig in our heels about which one is the real Bill. For all we know, he could wholeheartedly be both. And for that matter, how many of us would come out smelling like roses if some of our darkest secrets were broadcast across CNN and TMZ? While we cannot be certain of Mr. Cosby’s faults, we certainly know the things of which we ourselves are guilty. So the best way to shed the mindset of a bigot, is to acknowledge every human being has both monster and saint-like attributes residing in the same body.
By Corey Dorsey
Image by dh003i