I've been hunting for the following article for awhile and finally found it today.
Tolerance For The Intolerant
(The Washington Post)
By William Raspberry, The Washington Post
Friday, June 9, 2000
Will America ever be free of bigotry?
Of course not--not as long as its population comprises human beings. Let's try a more realistic question: Will America ever reduce bigotry to manageable proportions?
I offer two answers. The first: It already has. The second: It never will.
How can both these things be true? The first (so it seems to me) is obvious. By almost any measure and on almost every front--race, ethnicity, gender, politics--there is palpably less bigotry in the land. And what bigots remain (with such obvious exceptions as skinheads and their ilk) seem increasingly uneasy with their bigotry--as though they know it is something they need to work on.
And yet, bigotry remains as entrenched and as ubiquitous as ever--not because Americans refuse to change but because the definition of bigotry keeps changing. If we have not managed to reduce bigotry in America, it is (at least in part) because bigotry has become so easy to achieve.
I offer two examples out of scores of possibilities. Sunday's New York Times had a fascinating Page One piece on a racially integrated Pentecostal Church in Decatur, Ga. Black and white worshipers sing and shout together during what Martin Luther King Jr. used to describe as the "most segregated hour in America."
And they embrace each other in ostentatious shows of Christian love, even visit, on occasion, in one another's homes. But not always easily. Some of the white people quoted in the piece openly express misgivings about the degree of racial integration--sometimes remembering how much more comfortable they used to be with worshipers who looked like themselves, sometimes complaining about the changes in the music. One old guy, chided for his outdated reference to his darker brethren as "colored," announces with pride that he no longer uses the N-word.
I've talked to three people who read that story as evidence that racial bigotry is alive and well, even--perhaps especially--among those who call themselves religious.
The second story involves Laura Schlessinger--the smart-mouth and arrogant host of the immensely popular "Dr. Laura" radio talk show.
The issue, though, is not her know-it-all attitude, her unshakable moral certainty or her put-down of callers she thinks are holding back on her. It is her attitude toward homosexuality, which she has called "deviant." She has described homosexuals as "biological errors." She thinks gays and lesbians can be cured of their problem.
And the leadership of the gay community has targeted her as an anti-gay bigot. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), among others, hopes to torpedo her bid to take her advice show to television.
Is Howard Pugh, the 65-year-old Pentecostal in the Times piece, a bigot because he talks about "coloreds" and has misgivings about the changes that are taking place in his church--even while he ponders what he considers the plain fact that Heaven will be integrated? And if he is, what are those people who bar nonwhites from their churches altogether--or who move to another church at the threat of integration?
Aren't we making bigotry too easy?
I confess I don't know--I think science doesn't know--what causes homosexuality. I don't know whether it is something one is or something one becomes. Is it an "orientation," as gays themselves now say, or a "preference" as they used to put it? Is it immoral (the predisposition as well as the practice)? If so, what are we to make of the kids we see at age 5 or 6 and "know" they'll grow up gay? These are real questions for me.
But is Dr. Laura a bigot because she is convinced she knows the answers? Because she thinks homosexuality is a disorder that can be treated?
Is the talk-show host a bigot for calling homosexuality "deviant"? Or is she simply a person whose view of the matter may be different--even ignorantly different--from that of GLAAD?
And if she is a bigot, what do we call the people who find sport in gay-bashing or the ones who brutally beat Matthew Shepard to death?
It worries me that what used to be mere difference of opinion is often recast as bigotry. Isn't that the same as punishing people for who they are and what they believe?
Isn't that bigotry?