Bigotry is a Symptom/How to Handle a Bigot
Bigotry is the projection of specific emotional issues onto other people. Bigotry uses a select demographic of people as a scapegoat to avoid unresolved trauma + emotions that are overwhelming for the bigot. Many bigots truly do not know or believe this. They don't know that they are aggressively avoiding painful emotions like powerlessness. They assume that their anger exists because the scapegoated group is truly evil + causing the problem, period. Bigotry is a rampant MENTAL HEALTH problem - not simply a "evil person" problem like many would like to believe. Many anti-racism/sexism/homophobia/etc activists will likely hate this article because it seems to frame bigots as victims. This article does not condone bigotry, but it is in fact a wake up call: Bigots ARE victims, & the longer we avoid this reality, the longer bigotry will continue. A problem cannot be solved without any understanding the truth underneath it.
*It is also important to distinguish between genuine bigots and those with whom you disagree. Many people make this mistake when they are heavily triggered and upset by a person's words or actions. They'll confuse that (valid) upset with the other person being bigoted when that is not exactly what's happening.
Right now, the majority of people on this planet would rather win an argument + feel validated than actually solve the problem of bigotry.
We assume that "freeing" those who are treated unfairly + yelling at/oppressing bigots will solve this global problem. It absolutely will not. Bigotry can and will reappear anywhere. It's like weeding a garden but not pulling up the roots themselves. If you attempt to fight bigotry and squash it out of existence, it will simply dig its roots in deeper or crop up somewhere else.
This article is a call for conscious activism. If we want to see this problem solved more than we want to 'win the fight,' only then will we see progress on this issue.
Getting bigots to understand that it is safe to examine themselves and their beliefs & work with their anger/fear, is everything.
You may be thinking: That will never happen! The bigot will never examine him or herself, it's hopeless! Why even bother with this argument? Well, we need to bother with it because the way we handle bigots is precisely what ensures their existence. It fuels the cycle and keeps it going. It ensures that unfairness in the world continues. Those who oppress others deeply resist examining themselves, and those that angrily pressure them to do so make it certain that they won't.
Bigots are traumatized, and in extreme cases, they are deeply emotionally under-developed. What does this mean? It means you are dealing with the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum. Literally. This is not an insult. It is a factual representation of their psyche. Now, we have a lot of tough love parents in this society that "won't tolerate" tantrums, the same as we "won't tolerate" bigotry. It's understandable to not want to tolerate bigotry until you truly recognize that the emotional healing of a bigot is fundamental to resolving their biases. What happens when we yell at a child that we "won't tolerate!" their behavior? They scream louder, they cry more, they root themselves stubbornly in being heard in all of their pain - no matter how offensive it is to others.
The problem with bigots is that, paradoxically, they are never heard. Yes, we hear the rhetoric they spew about the groups they hate. But does anyone hear their pain or understand where it comes from? No. They are terrified to express that and don't know how. They just want to feel safe and secure, but don't have the verbal capacity to express it ---> The child throwing a tantrum is in the same exact dilemma. They do not understand why they have this rage in them. Because bigots often fail to develop much emotionally, they are in the same predicament as the child with minimal capacity to express their needs and feelings.
Bigotry is yet another result of the rampant emotional suppression that has not been dealt with on any level in our society.
So how do you speak to a bigot? How can you have the best possible chance of changing their belief system?
You speak to the hurt child, NOT the angry adult (the anger is ALWAYS a cover for feelings of powerlessness). You stand absolutely firm in this - You do not react, you do not get roped into a fight. You do not waver from your center. Speak to that child throwing a tantrum - continuously. This does not mean coddle the bigot and let them get away with the way they treat people. But if you can't engage without getting angry, then do not engage at all. If you have been personally hurt by the person's actions or words, you are likely not the person who should do this work with them.
Affirm that you understand their concerns + worries when it comes to the bigot's targeted group (just play along, even if you don't understand). Literally say ' I understand that you're concerned." In almost every case, their genuine concerns are masked as concerns about the targeted group. They themselves don't even know what the real issue under the surface is - Keep this in mind.
A bigot who is not suppressing emotion too adamantly may respond to your calm, open-minded, and rational sentiment. They may even get into a calm discussion with you. A bigot who has a ton of anger and a ton of suppressed emotion within them will write you off, and in worse cases, become angry or even violent. There may not be anything you can do for the most severe cases because it is an individual's decision to grow and learn. If they cannot handle the vulnerability of exploring their pain around the group they hate, understanding why it exists, and moving beyond it, there is nothing for you to do besides directing the bigot toward growth, learning, and yes, even self care without mentioning said group. The thing is, bigotry is a natural byproduct of ignorance and separation consciousness. In other words, if a bigot learns to trust themselves, truly enjoy their life, and grow through their pain, then their bigotry will naturally begin to shrink away. This is always the case. A healthy, functioning individual with strong mental health does not waste time on bigotry because it is toxic for them - sometimes even moreso than for the group they are targeting, who can simply choose not to put up with them and create a firm boundary.
Ultimately, our treatment of others is always a mirror in some way. It can be incredibly helpful for your understanding if you can identify the hated aspect within the bigot that reminds them of the targeted group they "hate." They are likely treating those aspects of themselves identical to how they treat the targeted group. On its deepest level, bigotry is an external acting out of self-rejection.