Am I a Bigot?

Kathy and I took our grandsons to a pirate exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science here in Denver. Although there was plenty of swashbuckling, this particular pirate ship had its origins in Africa. It was particularly active in the slave trade.
The exhibit was graphic and quite frankly captivating for all the wrong reasons. It showed a variety of shackles and no less elements of torture to keep these poor souls under control. What was most striking was a floor plan not of furniture but to figure out how to get as many bodies in the hold as possible. They were stacked like cords of wood.

For the moment let’s suspend any political overtones. I was beyond surprised how many black tribal lords were complicit. This was pure and simple the result of a lucrative trade in human flesh. Men, women, babies were all for sale to the highest bidder.

Men harnessed in metal cuffs jumped overboard rather than meeting the fate that lay ahead. The crossings without any sort of sanitation took from several weeks to several months depending on the port. One could not imagine the horror and the filth in that little section of hell. People died and no one cared.

I was trying to imagine what it would be like if in Denver, Scottsdale, the Hamptons, Vero or Palm Beach, someone just came in and started snatching our children and our wives. Some were educated. Some were religious. It didn’t matter. They were just whisked away and sometimes sat in pens for months waiting for the ship of doom.

I ask if I am a bigot because I guess deep down I have not looked down on blacks but past them. Their sale into slavery was just a footnote in my history book. When I look at a Hispanic who does not speak English. Or an Asian or Arab I feel they are different from me. Not lesser so much as different. I don’t truly understand them and they me. That is human nature but I still don‘t quite get it..

We have this ongoing dialogue in our country right now about Hispanics, Muslims, Arabs. You name it. Look at France’s edict today on burkhas. I go to Hawaii and I am a Howlie,,,,non Hawaiian. If I am in the South, I am a yankee. And they are rednecks in the North. In New York I am now from a cowtown. And it goes on. We can only see life through our glasses. And the lenses are so myopic.

The other night we had drinks at our good friends and neighbors next door. They had invited another couple. It was Richard and Vito. We had been to their house for New Year’s Eve. They are openly gay. They spoke to it in a very matter of fact way. It really got me to thinking.

There was a show on a couple of years ago where you had to spend time with a group of people you didn’t particularly care for. It could be religion, ethnicity or skin color that set off your bigot alarm. You had to see them for who they were and not what you wanted them to be.

The results were predictable. As you lost some of your biases and phobias you found they weren’t that bad after all. As a matter of fact you might actually grow to like them. If nothing more, you understood. We had a more than an enjoyable evening with that male couple. I have often chatted with them on the street. It was fun to go beyond just the niceties.

We are entering into an incredibly difficult time for our country. We have to make very tough decisions as a people and a nation. We can’t hate Democrats or Tea Partiers. Rich. Poor. We can’t vie for the wealthy, Hispanic or Black vote. We have to listen to all sides. We can’t play the game.

A bigot by definition is one who has extremely strong views and refuses to accept any opposing point of view. It grows to hate and disdain. Last week the fiasco that we call representative government was absolutely at its worst. As someone said if we are this divided on such small matters as the current budget, what does that say for our ability to do the heavy lifting ?

Maybe I mistook my fears of being a bigot for what I knew were the many times where I have been condescending and dismissive. I can’t say I am terribly proud of that.

I now have a little better appreciation for black history. Sure I knew about slaves but only in passing. You really do have to see and feel their pain. I can’t just say that’s history and let’s move on. It goes deeper than that.

I guess I have to learn the same about Hispanics in the Southwest who owned most of what we now know as Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. And Hawaiians. And Native Americans. The Asian populations of the west coast. Jews, Buddhists and yes even Muslims. I have a lot of work to do.

My biases and prejudices won’t go away overnight. Hell, I am Irish. What would life be like without the drama. I am also not going to beat myself about the head and shoulders. But I really think I am starting to get it. I hope you do too.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoid: The Pacific Trash Vortex sits somewhere between California and Japan. It is roughly twice the size of the state of Texas. It contains various concentrations of plastic, chemicals and sludge that are carried into this whirpool by ocean currents. 80% is from land based pollution and 20%from ships. Wait till Japan kicks in.



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