In Recognizing Bigotry, vjack compares a hyopthetical statement:
I would not vote for a man who is black.
I would not vote for a man who is atheist.
Put aside for a moment the obvious question of whether she might vote for a woman who is atheist (unlikely), or for a person who is ungendered and atheist (even less likely). vjack wants to make the argument that since the first statement is obviously bigoted, and the second statement looks a lot like the first statement, the second statement must be bigoted as well.
Unfortunately, that’s a specious argument. Consider the following statement:
I would not vote for a man who is socialist.
Is that bigotry? If it is, it’s certainly less obviously so.
Remember what bigotry means. Bigotry means intolerant prejudice; it doesn’t just mean “I don’t like”. I don’t like psychics, but that doesn’t mean I am bigoted against them; I have a perfectly rational, non-prejudicial reason for disliking them: I have studied their claims and their methods, and found them to be charlatans preying on people. The hypothetical person making the first statement apparently doesn’t like black people, Anne Graham Hotz apparently doesn’t like atheists, and whoever might make the last statement apparently doesn’t like socialists. But which of these, if any, involve intolerant prejudice? To know the answers, we would need to consider why the speakers would not vote for the people described. Obviously, not being mind-readers (particularly of hypothetical people), we can’t know precisely what was going through these people’s minds, but we can apply reason to figure out the most likely possibilities – and in some cases, the only possible ones.
- In the first case, there is simply no rational connection that can be made between a person’s race, and their behaviour in office, should they be elected. If any such connection exists, I would challenge someone to offer it, but I won’t hold my breath. Thus there is no rational reason to not vote for any black person (or black man specifically), so any reason given must be bigoted.
- In the last case, there are many very rational reasons not to vote for any socialist (whether you agree with them or not, they’re rational). The nature of being socialist relates directly to the kind of behaviour one could expect once they get in office. So if your leaning is libertarian, not voting for a socialist is not only not bigoted, it’s perfectly rational. That is not to say that all reasons to not vote for a socialist are rational. If the only reason you refuse to vote for a socialist is because Glenn Beck told you that Nazis were socialists…then that is not a rational reason for refusing to vote for a socialist, and you’re a fucking idiot.
- So what about refusing to vote for an atheist? Well, that’s a tricky one. Being atheist doesn’t directly imply any particular prediction of behaviour in office; there are socialist and libertarian atheists, and atheists of all political stripes. However, being atheist em does strongly suggest certain likely behaviours when you consider the context of the current political climate. While there are religious atheists, it is far more likely that an atheist running for office as an atheist (rather than as a Jainist, or a member of some other atheist religion) is a secularist. So if Anne Graham Hotz wants more God in government, refusing to vote for an atheist is a perfectly rational, and non-bigoted, position. (Which says nothing about the rationality of wanting more God in government, of course.)
So simply calling Anne Graham Hotz names is childish, and disingenuous. We can’t make that judgement without more information about why why she doesn’t want to vote for an atheist. We can’t simply compare her statement to a superficially similar bigoted statement, and then use the similarity to hurl accusations at her. Sure, she’s probably a bigot. But until we have real evidence of that, and not just suppositions, we shouldn’t leap to accusations. It only makes us look reactionary and prejudicial. The right thing to do is get her to clarify her reasoning for not wanting to vote atheist.
Now, you’re probably thinking: “Okay, Indi, fine, it’s technically true that we shouldn’t call Anne Graham Hotz a bigot without getting more information about her motives for making that statement. The problem is: you’re ignoring the bigger picture. Asking someone like her for more information is just going to give her a soapbox from which to puke up more of her ignorance and bigotry.”
Well, you’re right that we’d be giving her a soapbox to barf hate from… but you’re wrong that I missed that in the bigger picture (obviously, since I wrote that you would say that). In fact, I’m looking at an even bigger picture. For an explanation of that, stay tuned for the follow-up post.