There are few people more pathetic than a bigot
As we witness what appears to be another attempt to exterminate Jews, one has to ask: “What makes Jews so hated?” The answer, probably, is that many people, especially those with a poor self-image, are inclined to find a scapegoat in their lives. Therefore, when things go wrong for them, they don’t look to their own inadequacies; they look for someone to blame. You didn’t get the job you felt qualified for? The reason must be that the black guy, the Jewish guy, the Hispanic guy who was selected got the job because of his race, religion, nationality, etc. The dejected job applicant never stops to consider how many times those reasons were used not to hire the applicant.
It’s not easy to accept the fact that life is unfair. Instead, in order to justify one’s bitterness, bigotry replaces rational thought. When a person of low self-image is rejected for a job, a promotion, a date, etc., his hidden inadequacies emerge, and the blame game is in full operation. “I lost that job to a Jew because the company is probably owned by Jews, and you know how those people stick together,” says the guy with a high school education who lost out to a college graduate. The fact that the job called for a college graduate is lost on the embittered applicant, because to admit it would not soothe his vitriolic resentment. Moreover, to admit it would mean dealing with his own failings.
But how did the guy get the idea that the company must be owned by Jews? That notion probably has its origin in the stereotypical classification we attribute to various categories of people. Are Jews more successful in business than other nationalities or races? Are they more cliquish than Italians, Irish, Mexicans, African-Americans, or Asians? It’s been my experience that many people feel more secure in the company of those they identify with. That might be a race, a nationality, or a sex. Many women will admit that they enjoy the company of other women because they identify with them. Men often feel the same way about spending time with other guys. That doesn’t make them bigots!
It’s prejudging people, based on an assumption one has about their membership in a particular group, that defines a bigot. When someone has a neck injury as a result of an accident and wears one of those firm supports to brace his head and neck, it’s often viewed as the precursor to a lawsuit. I’ve heard it referred to as a “Jewish collar,” insinuating that Jews will exaggerate an injury as an excuse to sue someone in order to be awarded monetary damages. That comment may seem humorous and innocuous to non-Jews because they’ve heard it before and may even agree with it.
Once a stereotype is deeply embedded within the social order and the wider culture, any evidence to the contrary is dismissed as the exception to the rule. In other words, if you encountered the next ten people wearing a neck brace, and none of them is a Jew, you’d probably consider them anomalies, notwithstanding the obvious inconsistency in your logic. Insecure people feel confident if they can put races and nationalities into easily identifiable categories. They can only elevate themselves by degrading others. They’re willing to put some people lower on the ladder in order to think of themselves as higher.
There’s not much we can do about other people’s low esteem, except to be unwilling to join them in their desperate pursuit of an impaired identity. Most people have some sense of humor and will laugh at innocuous jokes about group characteristics. But we must be mature enough and decent enough to determine if malice is threaded through such satire. Moreover, we must be principled enough to speak out against those who would make us accomplices to their bigotry. Whether it’s about Jews, blacks, Asians, or any other identifiable group, those who attempt to vilify entire classifications of people expose themselves as pathetically weak and unprincipled.
Image via Picryl.