Open Secret Bigotry

Let me begin with saying that you are not a bigot.

We like to imagine we have humanitarian values and value all life equally. And perhaps that is our intent too. We would like to do it. Bigotry has no space amid such lofty ideals. We believe that is for the best. Yet, inbred prejudice as a society influences our thinking to see some people as more people than others. We don’t realize it. We are angry if accused of thinking women, children, minorities, low castes as less. We are furious at any implication that we do not consider them the same respect that we do for say, for example – high caste men of an earning age.

Here are some prejudices I see playing out all the time. Children are inferior to adults. Elderly are inferior to middle aged people. Low caste people are inferior to high caste people. Minority religions are inferior to the majority religion. Men are superior to women or anyone with a “non-heterosexual male” gender identity. Fair people are superior to dark people. People from white skinned, “developed”, Western Countries are superior to those not. And so on. Rich people are superior to poor people.

We also solidly deny that these inferior people have to face any additional suffering at all that requires them to get any special considerations for ensuring their safety specifically.

A quick observation today. There was a news item that two students fired at another student and are now absconding. A case has been filed against them, their intended victim escaped safely while three others who got minor injuries are being treated in hospital. This follows the recent news of a child stabbing and killing his teacher over some unfavorable assessment. After that incident, after today’s incident, there were considerable comments along the lines of school campuses not being safe places anymore.

Now, consider that there are people absolutely routinely killed over college romances gone wrong. There are women raped or otherwise attacked in and around colleges to the extent that many colleges have created committees to look into their safety. A couple of months ago, two Afghan students were killed in Delhi. Child abuse including serious injury and death is a routine matter in schools. Every so often you have news of teachers beating kids to death, raping students, etc. These news incidents have been escalating for a while now. I don’t remember anyone thinking that these rising incidents meant that school campuses were unsafe places.

So what about these two incidents created such shock? The only real differences I see is that the traditional abusers were now victims and that was so shocking that we call it educational institutions not being safe. Many people I know who haven’t written on school teachers beating kids to death wrote about this one child who murdered the teacher. Outrageous. Many diagnoses were offered along the lines of what caused that child to do such a thing. Few looked at an overall picture that this was a miniscule part of the violence and we noticed it only because the winner was someone other than the one we are used to seeing.

At that time, I had commented that this was like Maoism among kids, where given lack of legitimate ways to ensure their well being, most suffered, but a few took the law in their own hands. The result was, of course extra-legal – there is absolutely no way within the system to win over the “superior” person.

In other words, there is a constant background refrain of violence that we are used to tuning out as normal. When that pattern breaks, we are surprised by the presence of violence at all. Till then, the victims were “regrettable” but not something we should trouble ourselves with. There are vague laws to handle such things. This, on the other hand, is a catastrophe, because if it continues, we’ll have many potential killers targetting “people like us”.

Some also call this bigotry, but you wouldn’t be a bigot, of course. That is another thing we KNOW to deny about ourselves.