My personal view is that bigotry and discrimination, for any reason, should not exist. I consider it heinous and absurd. It’s something that’s always been a part of the human race—there’s even evidence of it in prehistory—and is quite possibly a primitive instinct built into our genetic code. However, like so many primitive instincts: just because the detritus of our old-timey ancestors remains part of the fabric of our being doesn’t mean we have to embrace it. Our capacity for reason means that, unlike much of the animal kingdom, we don’t have to act in accordance with our “nature.”
It’s clear, despite what some have said in the wake of Ferguson and other examples of overzealous police actions tinged with racism, that a great deal of progress has been made in the social psychology of this country since the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and the gay rights movement. Don’t get me wrong; equal rights do not (yet) exist for minorities, but significant progress has been made. It will continue to be made as the “hearts and minds” of the American people are won. The systemic issues will slowly be rooted out as new generations of parents teach their children that superficial qualities don’t have to separate us. The human race is one species, and the only thing dividing us is how much of an asshole a person is.
The sitcom black-ish, for all its many faults, has deftly satirized this concept from the black perspective. Three generations of African-Americans, under one roof, illustrate the progress that has been made: old codger Laurence Fishburne fought for the rights his grandchildren take for granted, to the point that they can’t fathom Obama being the country’s first black President, much less understand just how terrible things once were. Anthony Anderson’s protagonist is caught in the middle: he is keenly aware of the battles fought by previous ancestors, and he wants his children to understand and respect that without undermining what social progress has been made. In an odd way, he (at least in the early episodes) yearns for a “separate but equal” divide, where his kids’ race is directly linked to their cultural attitudes, and he’s comically befuddled by their complete apathy regarding both racial divides and embracing the unique aspects of black culture.
Stephen Colbert has lampooned the claim of not “seeing” race, as well, and while he does a great job of showing the absurdity of such claims, the more important point is that racial differences still exist and are still seen; they just increasingly don’t matter, especially in larger cities. My theory is that the diversity of large cities exposes the various subcultures to one another, and while a person in a large city may still make unfortunate generalizations, they will begin to see people as individuals, rather than as representatives of a group they dislike. It’s the Archie Bunker syndrome, where he’s generally a right-wing bigot, but he lightens up considerably when individual members of a group he superficially hates “prove” themselves “equal” to superior white males.
This leads back to my personal disgust with bigotry and discrimination. I believe in the primacy of individuals, and I judge people based on who they are as people, not their skin color and/or country of origin and/or the genitalia they possess and prefer. I’m not afraid of judging people, because I know that no part of me—even the scary, subconscious part of me—sizes up a person based on these superficial qualities. I wasn’t raised that way, and my life experience has taught me that nobody’s character can be summed up based on these qualities. They’re irrelevant. Anybody who is willing to divide people based on superficial qualities, and the stereotypes that have developed around those superficial qualities, is an idiot. I also think anyone willing to put themselves into a group-shaped box and define themselves—and let others define them—based on superficial qualities is an even bigger idiot.
Plenty of people think this way, but it’s an absurd way of looking at identity. You are not black first and a person second. You are not a woman first and a person second. You are not a member of your goofy religious group first and a person second. You are simply a person. Yes, certain facets of your heritage and upbringing will make you different; these superficial qualities add to all of your other qualities to make you a unique little snowflake, not a giant ball of snow comprised of every other member of one superficial group.