“Keep it simple, Stupid.”
We’ve all heard those words. They seem to be the universal model for everything:
— Don’t clutter a PowerPoint presentation with too many slides.
— Don’t ruin a perfectly good song with overly complicated riffs and vocal pyrotechnics.
— Overdone special effects in a movie look ridiculous.
You get where I’m going with this.
Unfortunately, sexism, racism, any sort of “ism” does not operate this way. There is no “simple” when you’re talking about bigotry. And I say this looking at everyone on all sides of these kinds of issues. Bigotry just ain’t that simple.
For starters, in order to even so much as define what bigotry is you have to identify the behavior and biases that can lead to someone being called a bigot, and even then, you have to consider the history that’s impacted such behavior and bias, as well as how society’s perception of bigotry as a whole has evolved over time.
But not even history is simple. There’s literal history (that which has objectively and verifiably happened to us and our ancestors over the course of time), and then there’s emotional history (that which the objectifiable and verifiable have left behind — far more difficult to measure, but we pass sentiments attached to our biases down generationally, it just happens).
Both are complicated. Just look at the word: HIS story. Inherently, a single person’s perspective is implied. Typically, the “victor” in any situation is the one who gets to make history. Because the loser is dead (or otherwise silenced).
There’s always a side we’re not being told, which naturally is to result some concern on the part of the individuals being silenced. This concern may manifest itself in healthy or unhealthy ways, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make.
The point is that bigotry is complicated. That fact is a core element that has to be understood and agreed upon before one can even begin to talk about the more delicate details of the impact that bigoted behavior can have on in individual, let alone society at large.
So, when a young man films himself ranting about how women have never seen him for the nice guy he is and says he’s going to make them all pay right before going on a killing spree in California, no way would that problem have been solved if some girl had just agreed to go out with him the day before.
And when one black man (or even two or three) looks sincerely at a camera and says, “act respectable, follow the rules, and you won’t get hurt,” in no way does that mean Walter Scott deserved to be shot in the back while running away from police after being stopped for a traffic violation. And in no way does “I didn’t run, so I didn’t die” mean racism is over. Not even close.
Because bigotry is not that simple. And those of us who have been dealing with bigots and their behavior all our lives are smart enough to know it’s going to take more than a few viral videos to change the world.