Thinking Out Loud

October 30, 2011

I am a Bigot

But hopefully I am a bigot in recovery.

When I was 15 I got my first job at a discount department store in Toronto.  When I say, “discount department store,” it was actually a two-level enterprise with multiple locations across the city.  Because my job allowed me to roam the store somewhat freely, I got to meet people in different departments on different floors.

One of them was a girl I was trying to describe to another staff member who needed to contact her regarding some kind of inter-departmental business.  “She’s about 5’6″;” I said; “And skinny, and dark hair which is frizzy, and she usually wears round glasses with dark rims.”

He still couldn’t place her.

“She always works the cash registers by the north exit; or the ones at the mall exit;”  I continued.


Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, she’s black.”

I think I said “black.”  Or “African American.”  Or whatever the currently appropriate adjectives were needed.

Either way, I was somewhat proud of the fact that in describing her height, her hair, or her glasses; the nature of her race hadn’t quite occurred to me as significant.  Clearly, there was not a racist bone in my body.

Archie Bunker; but sometimes bigotry isn't so overt

But later in my teenage years, I discovered I had a strong aversion to people with red hair.  This was several generations before the animated-sitcom-inspired “Kick a Ginger” campaign; I had simply had a few run-ins with people of the carrot-top persuasion and had formed some generalizations.

Around the same time, I began to have issues with left-handed people.  There was nothing particular sinister about this — sorry, couldn’t resist — I had just had some conflicts with some left-handed people and had started to form some prejudices and biases.

The problem — as if there wasn’t a problem already — was that I actually knew a handful of people who were both red-haired and left-handed.  God help them.

However, I outgrew all this, and today I am glad to report that some of my best friends… well, you get the idea.

The problem is, I’m still a bigot.

For the past decade or so, my bigotry has been directed against people who drive black pickup trucks.  In the area where I live, they are legion, and it doesn’t help that many of them, for the same reason they wanted a black pickup truck in the first place, drive like idiots. Or people fleeing a crime scene. Or both.

To me, the mark of what makes a person, what writes their inner programming, what motivates their actions; the mark of these things is the way a person drives a motorized vehicle.  Forget having a resumé or a CV or a page on LinkedIn.  If I am the HR person considering hiring you, all I would need to do is spend 30 minutes as a passenger in your car, van or truck.  (Or whatever class of vehicle a Hummer is, though at this point, I can tell you that you’re not getting the job.)

A guy in our church had a black pickup truck.  That was a difficult one for me to wrap my brain around.  But he got rid of it, solving the problem.  I’m not sure if it changed my relationship with him; rather, I think he’s become a kinder, gentler person for not having it.  But I digress; plus, I think his wife reads this blog.

These people shouldn’t drive the way they do.  The epitomize the selfishness that is at the core of sin. They need deliverance.  And they need to sell the truck.  If it’s absolutely necessary to their work or hobbies, then they at least need to paint it beige, or green or light blue.

But of course, the problem is me.  I am pre-judging people before I’ve even met them; and while my generalizations have statistical backup, I’m not operating according to Rule of Love.

I have triumphed in many ways.  I never got into racial bias.  But I traded my feelings toward the redheads and the backhand-writers for feelings about people who have a thing for having a certain type of machine parked in their driveways.

So, what about you?  Are there some hidden biases and prejudices you find present over things strange or trivial?  Is this an area that you feel God would have you change?

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