(I am a gamer and, as such, I like to look for patterns and balances in things of the real world. It is fruitless as the real world tends to be wiggly and hard to quantify with rules like a video game or table top role-playing game is but, sometimes, even these attempts can help me understand the world a bit more. The following is something I wrote awhile back but describes what I called the Path of Bigotry. I spent a couple weeks researching racism, sexism, and other -isms and found a common thread in many of these pathways. I looked around and didn’t find anything else about this path I had noticed so I decided to post).
“They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course.”
– Third President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, taken from his Notes on the State of Virginia, 1853, in reference to problems concerning the emancipation of black people as he saw them.
The first step that the bigots normally seem to take when targeting a minority such as the LGBT community is to attempt to control the language of the conversation. In this first step the well meaning can easily be conned into buying into this divisive tactic as the dividing facts are based on observation or “common sense” (e.g. common understanding and folklore concerning the out-group in question). Often, this means associating the target with either some negative aspect correlated to their identity or with what most easily separates them from the in-group (e.g. the “majority”, as it were). Because it is the easiest to establish, this step is often the first and forms the basis for all following steps.
Examples of Divide: The examples of Divide lay in the use of words to create division. The word nigger comes from the French word negre which, in turn, comes from negro – the Spanish word for black. Since the melanin in their skin easily separated them at a glance from fairer skinned populations this word became a way to solidify the darker skinned people as the “out-group” in the eyes of the “in-group” (there were “niggers” and then there were proper human beings, as it were). A more modern example is SSA (or Same Sex Attracted) which seeks to define homosexuals it targets by their sexual drives while removing association with romantic drives. By defining LGBT people by sex, the in-group comes to view them as not entirely human, not capable of real love, and fully separated from the rest of humanity.
Purpose of Divide: The purpose of the Divide step is to create initial division and separate the targeted minority from the rest of the human race. It is designed to play off the natural human fear of the unknown and the different. It is easier to make a case against the acceptance of some alien interloper than it is a fellow human.
Suggested Counterstrategy: Where your foes seek to divide, instead draw parallels. Focus on emotional appeal to those moderates who may not know you and maybe swayed by your foes. If you are gay and a foe attempts to define you as a pervert by cleaving your sexual orientation from your romantic drives, reaffirm the romantic. Share a story of the first time you fell and love, for example, so that moderates see themselves in you. Always be ready to calmly correct a foe who attempts to reaffirm the division. Do not get angry. This will be seen as “defensiveness” and an intelligent bigot will capitalize on it. While it may seem unfair, the in-group has the advantage and until the targeted out-group makes inroads, overt anger will likely be met with fear from would-be allies. While I am placing this under Divide, this particular rule goes for all steps. Perhaps more so as they proceed.
“As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.”
– Anita Bryant addressing the repeal of anti-gay laws in 1977 Dade County Florida.
If division is allowed to take root, then associating the target with negative or even overtly dangerous qualities becomes the next logical step that the bigot follows. Associate is a step where the aforementioned bigot attempts to further alienate the aforementioned out-group via associating them with some societal ill. This works best if the Divide step has taken root but Associate can be attempted even if the Divide step has been thwarted by the out-group and their in-group allies.
Examples of Associate: Black people are prone to criminal behavior and irresponsibility and, as such, inviting them to integrate with the white community is a mistake. Gay people shouldn’t be around children because they will recruit them into an unwholesome lifestyle or sexually assault them.
Purpose of Associate: By associating the out-group with societal ills, the bigot not only further alienates the out-group from the in-group but now attaches overtly negative qualities to the group that (supposedly) affects said in-group. In the eyes of the in-group, the bigot hopes to create a feeling that the out-group is a clear and present danger to the in-group and draw upon the fear of the initial division to further separate the two. This is critical if the bigot wishes to take his insanity even further.
Suggested Counterstrategy: Unlike Divide, Associate often involves using what may at first glance seem like evidence to make the out-group seem like a danger. Often this evidence is actually a combination of appeals to authority, appeals to tradition, slippery slope fallacies, and correlation drawn without causation (known as a post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy). Read about these logical fallacies and get to know them. When they are deployed, simply and calmly point out the strategy for what it is (a lie). By doing this you can win those who might otherwise be swayed.
“GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, poses as a “gay rights” and ‘anti-bullying’ group for youth, going to bat for them on issues like discrimination. But GLSEN is actually a threat to children, unless parents don’t care about their kids being drawn into early deviant sexual activity, or learning to approve of sinful, God-defying behaviors without the parents’ knowledge.”
– Linda Harvey, Political Pundit in Association with Mission America addressing Day of Silence, a day set up in American public schools meant to address bullying by anti-gay bigots.
The third tier of the road towards the ultimate goal of the bigot is to prevent the speech and counter arguments of the out-group by way of societal pressure and by way of the law. If enough of the in-group comes to believe the slander pushed in Divide and Associate steps then the bigot may convince them to see the out-group as an encroaching enemy. If this happens then passing laws and putting pressure on said out-group becomes the easiest means of “defeating” them.
Examples of Prevent: Segregation laws in the mid 20th century in the United States that separated white from black in the south eastern portion of the country. Laws that prevent homosexual couples from adopting kids based off the twin post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacies that homosexuality can be taught and that homosexuals will be dangerous to the kids (e.g. molest them).
Purpose of Prevent: By preventing the out-group a voice and solidifying the falsehoods associated with them in the previous two steps, the hope is that people who might not give the whole affair much thought will see that there is a law in place against this out-group that limits their activity, assume that the law was passed in good faith and align themselves, unwittingly, with the bigot. If they are curious about the law, the bigot is ready to explain why the law is in place (often using the same poor evidence that was used in establishing the Associate step). Prevent also partially silences the out-group, either not allowing them a chance to plea their own case or intimidating them into silence under threat of the law or mob action if they step out of line. At this instance, their speech is not completely silenced but there is real danger in play and it is hoped by the bigot that this danger will cause enough fear in the targeted out-group that they comply and remain silent in the face of any verbal or legal assaults on their rights.
Suggested Counterstrategy: Things become more tricky with the law on the side of the bigot but the day is not lost yet. Political and social activism is required to turn back the tide in tandem with the emotional and logical appeals of the counterstrategies given above for Divide and Associate. We are socialized to assume that the law exists in the good faith of protecting us so most people are ignorant to why many laws are in place. Society runs because we accept them. If you actively speak out and open the eyes of the more moderate members of the in-group you may succeed in turning the tide back towards the side of good in this fight.
“My own convictions as to negro slavery are strong. It has its evils and abuses…We recognize the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s Laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him – our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude…You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”
–Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, 1861 – 1865
This is the beginning of the downward slope into really dark times for the out-group that has been the target of bigotry. American black people suffered under the Isolate step for years as both slaves and under the law of “separate but equal” due to a perceived inferiority to whites. Isolate is similar to Prevent but, at this point, society has so accepted the danger the out-group allegedly represents that the full backing of society and culture, law and common sense, rest behind the bigotry. In such a state of affairs, it is not uncommon to see celebrities, politicians, and other high profile people openly attack the out-group and even insinuate moving on to the final step (e.g. actor Ivan Okhlobystin in Russia making commentary about sticking gays in ovens to protect children, for example, now that “homosexual displays” have been outlawed there). During the Isolate step, the state will work in unison with the bigot to silence, marginalize, and destroy the out-group in question as is the case in Iran and Uganda (or the state will turn a blind eye to the crimes against the out-group as is seen in Russia now).
Examples of Isolate: Lynchings and whippings of black people at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama during the 1960’s allowed by Alabama Police. The enslaving of those same people centuries before to work on cotton plantations in the South. The execution under the laws of Islam of homosexuals in Iran today. The execution of the openly Christian subjects by Emperor Nero of Rome in the first century CE.
Purpose of Isolate: The complete silencing of the out-group by the bigots of the in-group via brute intimidation and unethical government action against said out-group is the purpose of this heinous step. Allowed full control over the rhetoric now, the bigot and the in-group can keep the out-group subservient and submissive for as long as they serve some purpose to the in-group. This can and has included outright slavery in the past and even today. If the out-group proves more trouble than their usefulness warrants to the bigot, that is when the final step is usually enacted.
Suggested Counterstrategy: The likelihood that the out-group can do much of anything to liberate itself at this juncture is very unlikely. Subversive and illegal methodology is suggested. The use of popular music, the internet, and the counter culture to safely transport counterpoints and humanize the plight of the out-group are a means by which this can be done (e.g. Children 404 of Russia, for example). Outright rebellion against certain bigoted laws such as slavery may be required. Violence may be required. That said, violence should be a last resort; preferably the use of an avatar – someone of great personal charisma who can lead the out-group and give them strength to unite – is a preferred method, following nonviolent protest if possible (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, etc). Still, there is no way to create such a person – they are born, not made. Relying on happenstance and “waiting for a hero” is not recommended. Perception of your political and social world is key. Find members of the in-group who both hold positions of power (e.g. politicians, celebrities, authority figures) and possess a willingness to help or empathize with you against the rhetoric of the bigot. Know that some of your allies on the in-group side will still hold bigoted views about you in turn, even if they support your cause. Unfortunately, while it may not be the preferred situation or tactic, shaking hands with the devil is necessary at this juncture of the fight.
“If only one country, for whatever reason, tolerates a Jewish family in it, that family will become the germ center for fresh sedition. If one little Jewish boy survives without any Jewish education, with no synagogue and no Hebrew school, it [Judaism] is in his soul. Even if there had never been a synagogue or a Jewish school or an Old Testament, the Jewish spirit would still exist and exert its influence. It has been there from the beginning and there is no Jew, not a single one, who does not personify it.”
– The words of Adolf Hitler. Robert Wistrich, Hitler’s Apocalypse
The final and most ghastly conclusion of the bigot’s progression against the out-group is annihilation. This is where all preceding steps have been pointing. If all other steps have fallen into place and the out-group no longer serves a useful purpose to the in-group then the only logical recourse is to destroy the out-group already established as “dangerous” by the bigot. Likely, it will be predicated on a barely constructed reason; enough to give the bigot the illusion that he is doing it for some “greater good”. Using methods ranging from forced eugenics, mass murder, genocide, and mass exile (if the out-group is lucky) the in-group is now officially at war with the out-group. Hatred against the out-group is not merely encouraged at a personal level but is systematically taught by all levels of government, media, and almost all schooling. Authority figures of all persuasions join in the chorus of hatred. Any rebellion to the in-group at this juncture is generally fruitless and punished with death.
Examples of Remove: Virtually any act of ethnic cleansing in the history of the world. The genocide of Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan in the 21st century is a specific example. What separates this from Isolate is that in the Remove step the out-group is actually sought out for extermination by the in-group and the punishment isn’t merely meted out to the “troublemakers” any longer. In the eyes of the bigot, the out-group is entirely made up of “trouble makers”.
Purpose of Remove: The purpose of the final step is to enact what has been the plan since the beginning for the bigot; the permanent erasure of the out-group he so hates and fears by the in-group who now thinks as he does. At this point, most of the in-group has internalized the arbitrary factors separating them from the vilified out-group themselves to such an extent that they need little provocation to begin the slaughter.
Suggested Counterstrategy: There are none. Unfortunately, there is no case in history I have read about where an out-group got to this point and was able to turn it around on their own. While it is possible if an outside force aids you (e.g. the Allies liberating the death camps at the end of World War II) at this point escape from the locus of control of the bigot is your only valid survival strategy. Barring that, living in hiding and waiting it out as best you can in the hopes of outside intervention is also a valid survival strategy. Hang in there and maintain hope as best you can.