Bigotry in a Marginalized Minority Community – Vampires and Human Rights

Bigotry in a Marginalized Minority Community –

Vampires and Human Rights

By Elzie Roze

Definition:

Bigotry is the state of mind of a “bigot”, a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance or animosity toward members of a group. Bigotry may be based on real or perceived characteristics, including sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, region, language, religious or spiritual belief, political alignment, age, economic status or disability. Bigotry is sometimes developed into an ideology or world view. [1]

For more on this topic view the entire article at the link below:

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigotry

Let me start  by saying, Yes. Yes, I am sensitive to the topic at hand. I have my finger on the pulse of this issue daily. I see it where others overlook it, but then again… I always have…

 

When I was 6 years old, I had the fortunate experience of meeting someone who would play a vital role in my life. I was in the first grade, enrolled in a Catholic school. The school year had just begun. About two weeks into the school year my class got a new student, the only African-American student in an all white and Hispanic school. For the sake of this story I’ll call her Rosemary.

Rosemary was introduced to the class. At recess I observed as all the other students decided not to include her in their play. One or two stated that they wouldn’t play with her because she was black. I went over to her and asked if she’d like to play with me and be my friend. She said. “Yes”, and we were best friends throughout that school year. Rosemary was a nice girl. I was invited to her home. Her parents were nice people. That’s what I learned about Rosemary. What I learned about the other kids was that they had missed out on knowing what I learned. It was a sad parting when my family moved away at the end of that year.

It’s a long ago memory, but it illustrates two points that I want to make. First, bigotry is a fact in society. It’s unfair and unjust. It hurts. Second, the actions of each of us as individuals makes a huge difference in combating bigotry, discrimination and hate.

 

The problem

The online vampire community is a loose gathering of  self-identified vampires, their donors, friends, families, and other supporters. We come together online because we’ve sought a place to be among people similar to ourselves so that we won’t be rejected, ridiculed, judged, and perhaps even abused as we might be if we were open about ourselves to people in society in general. We come to exchange ideas and information, to form friendships and alliances, and sometimes just to share mutual interests and concerns.

So it seems odd, and very disturbing to me, that there is a bit of bigotry and prejudice in our midst. People get into arguments and from time to time decide to use bigoted slurs, discriminatory language, and verbal bullying to try to win an argument about beliefs, opinions or ideas. They are occasionally intolerant of those whose first language isn’t English or those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. They are sometimes angered by those who may be ADHD or have other behavioral issues such as Aspergers. I’m going to theorize that some of this is due to a lack of understanding and education on the topics of bigotry and hate speech or about the various backgrounds and challenges each of us may face. A lot of it is due to people just not caring how they attack someone, particularly online – people online are easy targets, not seen as real humans, or are easy outlets on which to vent personal frustrations or self-esteem issues. Finally, there is a small, very small I think, portion of people who truly do hate others based on their “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, region, language, religious or spiritual belief, political alignment, age, economic status or disability.”

Here’s the problem – How can we as a marginalized minority community (self-identified vampires) tolerate intolerance to others? How can we hope or expect anyone to take us seriously in wanting to be accepted and respected for who we are when we are apathetically willing for others to be rejected and disrespected?

Answer to both: We can’t.

So, how do we go about eliminating bigotry, bullying and hate speech from the OVC?

We do it one step at a time. – We learn all we can about what the issues and concerns of others in various minority groups are. We commit to making a change. We commit to acting each and every time we see or learn about these things happening among us. So, to start…

 

What is Bigotry?

Ayn Rand said that racism (here we may substitute any form of bigotry) means, “that a (person) is to be judged, not by (his/her) own character and actions.” It “negates two aspects of (a hu)man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.” It is the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” [2]

The definitions above from a Wikipedia article and from Ms. Rand are starting points to define bigotry.  We have all encountered bigots – people who use words, slurs, and name-calling to demean others. They bully and attack others physically or verbally. They dehumanize people based on (1) an inborn/unavoidable trait (sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, disability), (2) accidental attribute (nationality, region, language, economic status), or (3) religious/spiritual or political alignment choice. I am separating these three categories of bigotry for the sake of this discussion because they represent varying degrees of control that the individual experiencing the bigotry has over the trait for which they are targeted by a bigot.

 

Group

Mutability

(ability to change)

Some Types of Bigotry Associated with These Groups

sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, disability Inborn/Immutable:People fall into these categories by biology or medical conditions beyond their choice or control Sexism, misogyny, homophobia, bi-phobia, transphobia, heterosexism, racism, ethnocentrism, ageism, (dis)ablism 

Bigotry against persons in one of these groups is a human rights violation.

Nationality, region, language, economic status Medium:People may be able to change the sub-group they fall into under one of these categories, but are unable to choose the initial group into which they were born. Xenophobia, nationalism, fascism, classism, elitism
Religious/spiritual, political alignment High:People may be born into a category but have full ability to change which category they fall into if they choose.

 

Religiocentrism, religious prejudice, antisemitism

 

We recognize bigotry as the unjust judgment, targeting, and disrespect of an individual based on a perceived collective trait rather than on the person’s individual character, ideas, morals or actions. On the flip side of that — when an individual is judged, targeted and disrespected as a member of a particular group, all individuals within that group are equally effected and dehumanized. Bigotry starts as a wrong assumption about others and then takes the form of slurs, accusations, demeaning language, bullying (physical and verbal), shunning, blaming and discrimination.

 

Bigotry and discrimination against people in any of the above three categories was declared a violation of human rights by the United Nations in 1948 [3]. Most states in the U.S. have hate crimes laws with increased penalties for those committing crimes motivated by bigotry [4] against individuals in the following categories: race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and other (which includes in political affiliation and gender identity). On a more day-to-day and familiar scale, bigotry is against the stated policies of many of the online meeting places that most of us frequent; Facebook is no exception. Facebook has a clearly defined policies against bullying and hate speech [5][6]. There’s a reason that the UN, U.S. States, websites, and Facebook make such declarations, laws, and policies against hate speech, bullying, abuse, and bigotry towards others — It violates human rights, it dehumanizes others, and it harms society at large.

 

Why Do People Engage in Bigotry?

“The doctrine of toleration requires a positive as well as a negative statement. It is not only wrong to burn a man on account of his creed, but it is right to encourage the open avowal and defence of every opinion sincerely maintained. Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions.”[7]

 

A 2011 study, explored the causes of prejudice. The findings were published in an article in Psychological Science, February 2012. The study found that low general intelligence (IQ), conservative ideology, poor abstract reasoning, and authoritarianism were predictors of prejudice.[7]. To put it another way, the less intelligent and logical a person in the study was, the less exposure to people of various types from various backgrounds a person had, the more rigid the person was in their way of thinking, and the more that person was to likely to submit to or seek to exercise excess authority over others – the more likely that person was to engage in bigotry and discrimination towards others. Those who were more educated, intelligent, had a higher ability to use logic and reasoning, were more varied in their life experiences and were more willing to entertain new ideas and experiences were less likely to prejudge others.

What is important here is for each of us to not only challenge our own preconceived notions about others but also to understand that our beliefs, opinions and ideas are not sacred or exempt from criticism or challenge. There is a vast difference between attacking a person and attacking an idea, between questioning a belief and making broad assumptions about a person’s character based on his/her beliefs, between asking someone to defend an opinion and requiring someone to defend an inborn trait or life choice, or between disliking a particular person and dehumanizing or demonizing an entire group of people to whom they happen to belong.

 

Observations of Bigotry in the OVC

“The onus is on “her” to Prove her identity… because Science and Genetics reveal her to be Male and Not Female. … And till “she” can prove herself as a woman, I am charging her with hypocrisy against her lauded and most treasured Science.” ~ Unnamed OVC member in an “open” Facebook group discussion in regards to a transgendered individual. This statement was later retracted when presented with a list of 15 peer reviewed medical journal articles “proving” transgender identity is an inborn and verifiable human trait.

 

I have had the unfortunate opportunity over the past year and a half to observe several cases of overt bigotry and verbal bullying in the OVC. I have documentation and screen shots of quite a few such incidents which I either archived for myself of which were sent to me by others. I also saw many others that I wasn’t able to document.

Sometimes these incidents were on people’s personal Facebook walls or rants or comments on others walls – anti-women,  racist, homophobic, or religiously bigoted statements. Generally, my response was to “unfriend” the offending person after reporting the abuse to Facebook.

Sometimes these incidents took place in private messaging sent to me or to others. Sometimes I reported the abuse; sometimes I didn’t (not reporting it every time was a mistake).

Most often, however, these incidents took place in the public forum, during a discussion turned into an argument in one of the OVC Facebook groups. My initial response to seeing such things was to not want to report another member of the OVC community – to not draw attention to the OVC by having Facebook look into such reports. This was wrong on my part. It was wrong because it allowed the offenders to believe that the culture of the OVC was OK with such behavior, that they could get away with it. When I realized my error, my first step was to ask such people, either in the group or in PM, to remove their statements. If that failed, I reported them.

One such person complained in a group recently that I was trying to get him kicked from Facebook. That is not the primary aim of reporting someone to Facebook for a violation of the Community Standards. The primary goal is to get the comments removed and to let the person and the community as a whole know that such behavior is not OK. Certainly Facebook has the option of locking such a person’s account or even removing their profile, but I’ve never known this to happen without repeated offenses being reported. The bottom line here is that they need to be reported so that they change their behavior. Having the person removed from the community by group administrators or by Facebook should be the result of those individuals being unwilling or unable to change their bigoted and abusive behavior.

 

Eliminating Bigotry in the OVC

So, how do we as individuals and as a community make a change? How do we eliminate overt bigotry, hate speech, and bullying from our community? How do we foster a culture of diversity and acceptance?

Here’s my personal plan and pledge to myself and the OVC community:

 

  1. I’m going to be aware of what is being said and what constitutes bigotry, hate speech and bullying.
  2. I’m going to know the Facebook Community Standards and the rules and standards for other forums and groups to which I belong.
  3. I’m going to know how and when to report violations.
  4. I’m going to communicate my disagreement with those who engage in bigotry, hate speech, and bullying to the offending individual, the group owner/administrator(s) and the community as a whole.
  5. I’m going to defend and speak out for those who are targeted by bigots and bullies.
  6. I’m going to inform group/site owners and administrators of violations by individuals of the Facebook Community Standards or the rules and standards of other particular forums and websites and hold those owners and administrators accountable for dealing with these issues/persons in the group(s)/site(s) they run. On Facebook, I’m going to report groups whose owners/administrators refuse to take responsibility for repeated violations in their group(s).
  7. I’m going to encourage others to become involved in standing up for diversity, equality, and respect and in acting against bigotry, hate speech, and bullying.

 

I can’t say that everyone can or needs to take the same actions that I’ll be taking though I would encourage you  to do so and welcome your support. For many, just observing and reporting posts anonymously through the Facebook reporting system may be as much as you are able or willing to do, but that is an enormous help in eliminating bigoted posts and comments. Multiple people reporting the same posts or persons are much more likely to yield results than reports from a single person. I can’t speak for how to do so on other sites since rules and methods for reporting and other actions vary by site.

I have received the consent of the owner of The New Goth and Vampyre Alliance (https://www.facebook.com/groups/187451151294178/) to use the group to post issues of concern on this matter effecting the OVC. The New GVA is a drama free, well moderated, casual group in which any and all topics can be freely posted and discussed.

I have received the consent of the owner of the HELP STOP CYBER BULLIES group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/170679796337469/ ) to use the group to post issues of concern on this matter effecting the wider Facebook community. The HELP STOP CYBER BULLIES group is an information resource and support group for those interested in or facing bullying issues.

Please feel free to join me in one or both of these Facebook groups.

References:

[1]         Wikipedia, Bigotry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigotry .

[2]         Moorfield Storey Blog, 2/10/2012 –

http://storeyinstitute.blogspot.com/2012/02/libertarianism-and-dilemma-of-bigotry.html.

[3]         The United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ .

[4]         Anti-Defamation League, State Hate Crimes Statutory Provisions,

http://www.adl.org/learn/hate_crimes_laws/map_frameset.html

[5]         Facebook, Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, item 5, https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

[6]         Facebook, Community Standards, https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/

[7]         Leslie Stephen, The Nineteenth Century, vol. 13 (1883) p. 665

[8]         Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes, Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing

Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact, Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri, Psychological Science,  February 2012.

Copyright Elzie Roze 2012 ~ reproduced with full permission.

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