Are You a Racist, Bigot, or Bully? Maybe… But Probably Not: Understanding Misused & Overused Terms in Society

RACIST. BIGOT. BULLY.

Let me start this post by saying that this might be a sensitive topic for most people.  I am sure at one time in your life you have been called one of these terms or dished out the term as an insult to another.  If you are easily offended by the use of these terms, you should probably stop reading this post. I’m serious… don’t read this. You will be even more offended by my outlook on these words and I don’t need any of your negativity ruining it. Still reading anyway? Prepare to be offended even more than you probably were by reading this post’s title.

You may have noticed the terms above – “racist,” “bigot,” and “bully” – are in “strike-out” form. This is because these terms in our society are misused and overused.  The terms are not even given their intended meaning anymore.  We loosely throw out these words on a daily basis and have no idea what they truly mean. I want to change this. I want to change the way you think about these terms. I want you to use them sparingly and when they make sense. I want to open these terms back up for usage.

In order to make you understand these terms better, I have to start with a background on each.  After giving a brief synopsis, I plan to give you the reasons our society makes us believe we embody these terms.  And, finally, I want to tell you how each of these reasons is either misused, overused, or both and how our generation can fix it (because I truly believe we have to be the change in this world now – our fathers and theirs cannot do it for us anymore).  Let’s start with my favorite – “racist.”

RACIST.

“The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”

The term “racism” started as a scientific study in the 1800’s to determine the racial classification of human existence. Most documents from this era claim that whites were good and blacks (or African Americans, if you prefer this terminology) were bad. If you don’t believe me, reference the book “The Outline of History and Mankind” by Christoph Meiners (who was, in my opinion, the definition of “racist”). If you have not read this book, this next sentence alone should have your blood boiling. This book not only classifies the difference between whites and blacks, but also considers the whites to be the superior race because their skin is more beautiful. I just don’t even know where to begin with this guy, so I will leave it at that.

Moving forward, racism was used to describe a number of historical events including The Trail of Tears and the Holocaust. The most notable form of racism during our country’s time is that of slavery – which resulted in the tearing apart of both the white and black races in one swift movement. Slavery led to segregation, and segregation led to the Civil Rights Movement. This is as much of a background on racism that I want to provide. I know there are other circumstances in which racism has impacted this country, but I want to focus more on the term “racist.”

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Racist.

As noted above, the term “racist” means “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” Nothing more, nothing less. I am going to list a couple of recent examples that show why people are called “racist” today. After the reason, I will list as to why I disagree with the reason. You might agree, you might disagree. That’s the point of this post. Have an opinion. Either way, you can find my examples below.

1. You disagree with Obamacare (or you disagree with Obama in general).  In December of 2013, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry stated that the term “Obamacare” itself is a racist word. According to Harris-Perry, “the word was conceived by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man — to render him inferior and unequal and diminish his accomplishments.” Continuing on, Harris-Perry dug herself into a deeper hole after admitting that President Obama himself had used the term – but only because “if you can’t beat them, you’ve got to join them.” If this is true, then I guess the “wealthy white men” that coined “Reaganomics” in the 1980s should be ashamed of themselves, too. The fact is that President Obama pushed for this socialist form of healthcare – therefore, his name is on the finished product (whatever that is.. like I said in one of my past posts, Nancy Pelosi is still reading it).  It would be no different if another President (white, black, or both in the President’s case) had pushed for this healthcare policy.

As far as merely disagreeing with the policy and being called a “racist,” that you are not. Anyone that disagrees with this policy is right to do so – it is bad policy. Do not let the media fill your head with junk either by pushing Obamacare on you or calling you a racist for resisting the policy. I do not want to go too far into Obamacare as it will be my topic of discussion over the next 4 weeks (you’re welcome…), but just know that because you disagree with a particular policy it does not make you a racist. You have not had a “belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”

2. You comment on Florida State University’s Quarterback’s Speech… and he happens to be an African American (cough.. A.J. McCarron’s mom.. cough). This was the major focus after FSU’s Jameis Winston gave his post-game interview with a newscast regarding his team’s BCS Championship win. During this post-game interview, a tweet surfaced from A.J. McCarron’s mom asking the following: “Am I listening to English?” The media had a field day with this twitter post and blasted A.J.’s mother for being a “racist.” What? That is illogical at best. Personally, I could barely understand the kid. Nothing against his race, and everything against his dialect. I could not believe that someone with poor speech was allowed to represent FSU in the media. I don’t care that he is the QB and played a “wonderful” game. I hope he is smarter in the classroom than his dialect shows on the football field.

As for A.J.’s mother, she apologized if she offended anyone in the process of expressing her opinion of the post-game interview speech.  As for me, I will do nothing of the sort.  FSU, as many other universities in the United States, should really focus on prepping members of sports teams for the press in order to avoid inevitable backlash.

Get it Right – “Racist” Means…

The above reasons are just an overview of what this country associates with the term “racist” today.  I actually had a larger list than just the two above.  However, I don’t have the time or the brain power to continue to move forward through all of them.  There are more pressing issue to get to, like the term “bigot” (which is next).  Just remember, “racist” means “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”  Let’s stop using the term to define situations that do not fit. If you are having a tough time trying to discern the difference, look back to history and find where the term actually does fit.  Use the word to your discretion – you might just realize the term disappears from your vocabulary altogether.  If you still cannot find similarities from events in history, the word probably doesn’t fit in your vocabulary.

BIGOT.

“One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”

There is not much history to cover when it comes to the term “bigot.” The word was first associated with the religious word “hypocrite.” The term has since evolved to encompass intolerance based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.  So, if we are keeping score with the last term, all racists are bigots but not all bigots are racists.  Good, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s move forward to an example seen in today’s society of how this term defines people and their actions.

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Bigot.

For this word, I have one recent event that shows why a person might be called a “bigot” today.  There are many others (including the recent Meryl Streep speech designating Walt Disney as a “gender bigot” – read it if you haven’t), but I am going to save the time and space in this blog to address the most obvious event. Agree, disagree, stay indifferent – I don’t care. Just make your own educated opinion.

1. You are an opponent of same-sex marriage (a.k.a. the “Phil Robertson”). Everyone has heard of the Duck Dynasty controversy (or, if not, you could read one of my past posts on the subject) and Phil Robertson’s statements regarding same-sex marriage.  As far as I am concerned, after reading the GQ article I can confidently state that Phil is not a bigot. How is he not a bigot you ask? He seems to be extremely partial to his religion (Christianity) and intolerant of those that commit the sin (according to the Bible) of homosexuality. If everyone stopped reading at this point in his interview, we would all believe that Phil is a bigot – which is what all of the media sources wanted you to believe.  If you continue on with the article though, Phil claims the following: “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.” This does not seem to be the hatred or intolerance that we would see in an actual bigot. If you want to see a bigot, look to those vile creatures at Westboro Baptist Church and then look at what Phil said. Nothing can compare.

Not all opponents of same-sex marriage are bigots. Furthermore, characterizing such opponents as “bigots” might not be the right terminology to use when trying to win people over on the same-sex marriage issue.

Get it Right: “Bigot” means…

Just remember that “bigot” doesn’t always mean someone who is intolerant of someone else’s beliefs. This term also associates someone who has an unconditional hatred or intolerance of someone else’s beliefs – someone who has no respect for that other party due to that hatred and intolerance. Learn this and learn how to use the term properly. If you cannot use it properly, do not use it at all.

BULLY.

“A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.”

Last but not least, I want to talk about the most abused word in the English language – “bully.” The word itself was coined in the 1500’s to mean “sweetheart,” but changed in the 1700’s to a negative connotation. There are many circumstances in which this term is used including cyberbullying, gay bullying (or “gay bashing”), school bullying, etc.  Bullying results from an act of repeated, aggressive behavior on the bullied, or the victim, in order to gain power over such victim. The reasons for such behavior stem from differences in class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, size, strength, etc. So, if we are keeping score with the last two terms, all habitual racism and habitual bigotry is bullying but not all bullying is racism and bigotry. Let’s move on.

Possible Reasons You Are Called a Bully.

For this section, I have three short examples of recent complaints of “bullying” within this society. Agree, disagree, stay indifferent – I don’t care. Just make up your own mind.

1. You disagree with someone about something (a.k.a. Real Housewives of Some City Syndrome). Most people call these “opinions.” Disagreeing with someone is not bullying. Being told something you do not want to hear is not bullying. Being criticized by your friends for dating a loser is not bullying. I could go on and on and on and on – but I won’t for your sake. If someone disagrees with you, this is simple social interaction. Learn to stand up for yourself. Stop calling this situation bullying when it obviously is not deserving of such a word.

2. You choose not to invite someone to an event that occurs in your life (i.e., wedding, bar mitzvah, baby shower). A nonverbal action that does not result in an intended gain of power of another person is not bullying. End of story.

3. You punch someone once in the hallway of your school, at a bar, or walking down the road. Like I said before, bullying is a habitual pattern of activity. One punch is not going to result in bullying. However, just because it isn’t bullying doesn’t mean it cannot be labeled something else (ahem, assault and battery for one).

Get it Right: “Bully” means…

Just remember the words habitual, pattern, aggressive, and intentional when it comes to defining “bully.” With all of the wolves crying out “bully” it is no surprise that so many people that are actually being bullied have been overlooked.

FINAL THOUGHTS.

Even if you do not agree with a word I just said, I can at least hope that you learned something about each of these three terms – “racist,” “bigot,” and “bully” – that you did not know before you read this article. I believe that our generation must be the change we see in the world. A minor change can have major results.

I will be doing a 4-part segment on Obamacare starting next Sunday. If you have any questions you would like for me to try and answer about Obamacare within my posts let me know. If you have any comments about this post, leave me a message below. I promise I won’t construe your disagreements with bullying.

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2 thoughts on “Are You a Racist, Bigot, or Bully? Maybe… But Probably Not: Understanding Misused & Overused Terms in Society

  1. This needs to be required reading for 99% of people on Facebook today. I just love it. I wrote something similar on my own blog (much less in depth) after I was called one of those nasty things via social media, but you say all if the things I cohldnt–and so eloquently! Lastly, I’m sure it’s just a typo, but Phil’s last name is Robertson. Hit it out of the park again this week. Can’t wait to read the Obama care series!!

    • It must have been a typo from transferring from draft to final – it is in my notes as Robertson, so my brain must have been elsewhere. Thank you for pointing it out! I appreciate it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I cannot wait to share what I have in store for Obamacare… it is going to be a few fun articles to write. Haha. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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