I've been thinking about the terrible toll that bigotry takes on our society. Nowhere has this topic been more frustrating in this election year than when minority groups have been portrayed as "Takers." There are those who believe that one essential difference between Conservatives and Progressives is that Conservatives have an agenda that embraces racism, misogyny, the worship of wealth and the rejection of scientific fact and truth. To paraphrase an Internet joke, Republicans are not racist, but they are #1 with Racists. From this perspective, one needs to dig a bit deeper to tell the "Givers" from the "Takers." The 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney called "Takers," are citizens of this country, but apparently not considered full partners to many Conservatives. But how are "they" comprised? Perhaps the actual facts are less important than the perceptions.
To Progressives, the "Takers" are often seen as greedy elites, banksters and corporate CEO's who take annual salaries in the millions while not even wanting to pay minimum wage and basic benefits to their workers. Most people on welfare are non-Hispanic White, as are most people on Corporate Welfare. It is not clear whether most Conservatives are "Givers," not at all. Yet, there is a hidden current, a coded racism that seems to persist in the "Conservative" ideology. It implies that African Americans (and Hispanics) are generally on welfare and feeling "entitled" to live off of the efforts of others. While there is no factual basis for this suburban legend, this rural "truth," it still carries much weight in our conservative political realm.
Really! This is 2012 and President Obama is still black. The man dubbed the "Welfare President" is offended by that title, as all of us should be. Isn't Romney's 47% comment and the implicit bigotry towards African Americans really all about bullying? Most racists do not believe that they are racists. And closet racists really don't understand how threatened and traumatized minority people feel when treated as inferiors, let alone overtly threatened. Actually, some racists love to get a reaction of terror. This is sick, indeed. However, many racists believe themselves to be "normal" and wholesome. They may go so far as to castigate minorities, and other traumatized people, for acting like "victims" and not just pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Very often, they are the ones receiving government benefits, while they rail against minority "entitlement."
Veterans. Well, there is truth to the need for taking responsibility, but judging others is not very Christian. Do we really know those we are criticizing? Have we walked in their shoes, or are we spouting self-comforting, victim-blaming, ideological nonsense? War Veterans for decades have been returning home with PTSD and being told to "just get a grip." If they could get a grip, they would. For decades, many returning soldiers have committed suicide after being unable to overcome their emotional and neurological damage. When you lose hope, due to trauma, whether racial or service-connected (often both), you are walking down a road that the average majority person has little clue about.
The same is true of the millions of girls, women, boys and men who have been sexually abused. This is no easy journey, either. And also for those growing up not knowing where their next meal will come from, if it will come at all. Yes, some people flourish, but do not make the mistake of assuming that all can do that.
Most of us have no idea of the torment and distress behind many people's failure to get a good education, nor their herculean efforts to overcome the racial, gender, sexual preference discrimination and lack of opportunity in this country, and especially for the urban underprivileged living in hopeless neighborhoods due to social structures that have completely broken down. Yes, some people do succeed, but often they were already in the working class or middle class. For everyone that rises from poverty through legitimate means, there are many more who languish in prisons, are members of street gangs or otherwise caught between welfare and working poverty. Is it honest or neighborly to accuse these individuals of being "takers," without knowing their story, without seeing the conditions of their neighborhoods and their schools, their health care facilities and their supermarkets?
Obligations of the Majority. Some Christians don't realize (or care about) how intimidated people from other religions (or atheists) feel when Christianity is practiced in the public square and religious prayers are brought into public schools, etc. People who have been persecuted for their race or religion never entirely get over that, especially when the majority is always getting in their face in everyday life, challenging them as "takers" or as "lazy" or "inferior" or "gang-infested," untrustworthy and having a "criminal profile." Being seen as "outsiders" or "non-believers" or "heathens" doesn't add much to one's self-esteem, either. To some, the White Jesus often appears to be mocking Black Christians rather than reaching out to them. Yes, this may be a minority of white people. Most Christians, aware of Jesus teachings, tend to keep a low profile for their religious practices and do not try to convert others. They may even agree that the majority of African and African-American citizens are Christians. Of course, the belief that President Obama is Muslim is a deep affront and an abiding insult. The belief that Atheists are somehow amoral or "lost" is equally arrogant and prejudiced.
Racism still exists. Its very presence casts a shadow on the lives of people who are minorities. Minorities can be racist, too, and that is not justified. However, there have been real traumas and when people are lynched because of their race, or gassed because of their religion, or decimated because of their native heritage, the world suffers for many generations. So, when we look around and identify who the "Givers" are and who the "Takers" are, we need to notice that the perpetrators of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, the betrayal of our homeless veterans and other prejudices (even closeted bigots) are "Takers." They are betting on the annihilation of those they scorn, and when their victims are resilient and brilliant or wounded and dis-empowered, these "Takers" are creating a social and economic deficit when discrimination persists over time.
We are paying a huge price for racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. Yep, that's part of the social deficit that our nation is paying for today, the racism and bigotry of the past and the present, the misogyny and sexual orientation prejudice of past and present. Each new act of racism and religious oppression and sexual persecution clouds the future of humanity, leaving a debt for future generations to pay. The price of slavery in America has been incalculable for our entire country. The price of sexually abused children and teens, of women, of children in poverty and of mistrusted, disrespected minority groups will eventually be found to be a major part of our nation's financial deficit and a huge drag on our nation's productivity.
Bigotry must end because that is the only sane, rational path. It must end also because we are sick and tired of paying for their clean-ups, their psychic trauma and picking up the tab for all of the jackasses and opportunists who continue to victimize minority people and dis-empowered groups to create more trauma for us all to deal with. So, when someone who feels they are a "Giver," points their finger at a "Taker," be sure to hold on to your wallet. Until we all confront bigotry and bigots, we'll be paying big time to pick up the pieces of people's lives, and their broken dreams, after they were harmed by jackals who claim to be "Givers."