What is a bigot?

Often used as a throw away insult between commenters on Slugger. Dictionary.com has extensive references.

  • Colm

    A bigot is someone who disagrees with you!

  • Jo

    In a sense, Colm is right, but only if the disagreement becomes based on complete irrationality or absurd unevidenced generalisation, or refusal to acknowledge realities – rather than a refusal to change their mind.

  • Harris

    What Is A Bigot?

    “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of others.”

    With all due respect to our unionist/loyalist posters, is this not a fitting description?

  • Occasional Commentator

    It’s difficult to define it precisely but here’s my attempt.

    Non-bigots listen to their opponents’ arguments. They may still totally disagree with them but at least they listen. When I say ‘listen’ I simply mean the process of memorizing the words.

    Also, a non-bigot will try to understand the argument. Again, ‘understand’ needs some definition, but I try to use it in a way which does not imply ‘agree with’. i.e. We should all be able to ‘listen’ to Hitler’s arguments (or a translation of), ‘understand’ why they were so convincing, but not necessarily agree with them.

    Many in NI neither listen nor understand.

    Listening and understanding does not mean compromising – if anything, you need to listen and to understand to be able to properly defeat your opponents’ arguments. Anybody who is truly certain they are correct should have no trouble listening and understanding and then carefully picking their opponents’ arguments apart.

  • The Beach Tree

    It’s a hard word to pin down, but the following ideas seem pretty important.




    Plea to dept to forebears, history and tradition for justification of belief and practices, rather than reason or future interests.

    Hostility to and intolerance of ‘other’, often blaming ‘other’ for real or perceived slights, and assigning an overly malicious intent.

    Opinion superficially justified on false truisms, clichés, prejudices and generalisations.

    Hostility to reason or social norms on issues connected with the bigotry. Such reason often derided as ‘surrender’ ‘treasonous’, ‘appeasement’ and other inappropriately military adjectives suggesting battle tactics.

    Tendency to ‘exceptionalism; – the idea that the group one is ‘part of’ is inherently stronger, worthier or ‘better’, often with no genuine attempt to make reasonable justification.

    Following from ‘exceptionalism’, belief that ‘one’s group’ deserves or must be given rights and privileges with-held from the ‘other’, and in some cases desire to employ rights and privileges over and against the other. Again often justified by irrationality and prejudice.

  • Jo

    Take the following two statements:

    Catholics have on average smaller cranial cavities than Protestants in Northern Ireland.

    Therefore, it is reasonable to assume Catholics have on average smaller brains.

    Therefore I am justified in making explicit derogatory references to the intelligence of Catholic people and further, am justified in selecting Protestants over Catholics for employment.

    Now: assuming the first statement to be true, for the sake of argument, are any of the subsequent assumptions and behaviours indicative of bigotry?

  • Animus

    Catholic women must really be thick based on that evidence (women have smaller cranial cavities than men).

    Size doesn’t matter where brains are concerned, so even if the first statement is true, the subsequent statements don’t logically follow.

  • Jo

    “Size doesn’t matter where brains are concerned”

    ..or indeed, in any other arena? 🙂

  • George

    no because you are drawing irrational and illogical conclusions from your first statement.

    Taking statement one to be true:

    Firstly, there is no evidence that Protestants are using their bigger brains just that they have them.

    Also Protestants may be naturally bigger than Catholics, hence the larger cavities.

    They may have larger brains for “non intelligent” but extremely useful functions like speaking underwater.

  • eranu

    is it catholics or protestants whos eyes are too close together ? i cant remember 🙂

    “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of others.”

    i think a simple defination of a bigot, adding to the above statement, is when hatred is involved. nothing wrong with disagreeing with someones religon, but if you hate them because they are a certain religon that makes you a bigot. so i think its really the hating of a certain group that makes it bigotry.

  • Jo


    I deliberately used the religious references on this occasion, but JOBLOG visitors may recall I covered a corresponding piece of genuine research by our very own UU professor Richard Lynn who has reached the conclusion that men have higher IQs than women due to difference in brain size.

    The question I asked was what public policy decisions might be influenced by such “research” (unequal pay?)

    Another valid question is why such research is undertaken in the first place if it is not to provide some forms of dubious empirical evidence to back up an innate (and bigoted assumption, as it is irrational and seeks legitimacy) that one group (whites, men) is in some since “superior” to another (blacks, women)?

  • Animus

    I don’t think it is hatred that makes a bigot, but intolerance.


    How useful is speaking underwater?!

  • Colm

    “In a sense, Colm is right, but only if the disagreement becomes based on complete irrationality….”

    Exactly! Anyone who disagrees with me has got to be completely irrational 🙂

  • Ringo


  • Brian Boru

    Certainly I would consider an insistence on rubbing another community’s noses in defeats 300 years ago every year thousands of times to be indicative of bigotry.

  • Henry94

    [Let’s not open that particular can of worms, Henry – ed Mod]

  • Henry94

    Fair enough so.

  • eranu

    “I don’t think it is hatred that makes a bigot, but intolerance. “

    animus, id put intolerance down under the wider banner of hatred? to avoid getting too specific and getting away from the underlying feelings. if people get to the point of being intolerant towards a group, surely there must be some underlying feelings of hatred creating the intolerance.

  • Animus

    I don’t think it’s hatred Eranu. I think the underlying factor is fear, not hatred. Maybe it’s along the way in a spectrum, but it’s easier to challenge fear and change behaviour than it is to change hatred.

  • Harris


    “I don’t think it’s hatred Eranu. I think the underlying factor is fear, not hatred. Maybe it’s along the way in a spectrum, but it’s easier to challenge fear and change behaviour than it is to change hatred.”

    Animus, don’t you know that hatred is a by-product of fear? It’s the fear that has enabled those to hate, in NI. Remove fear and hatred will eventually go with it.

  • Animus

    Yes, Harris, this is what I mean by being on a spectrum. One can be a bigot without being overtly hateful. But fear is the underlying cause, which can either lead to acceptance or harden into hatred. Much bigotry is sustained through ignorance, not hatred.

  • ch in dallas

    If you don’t sit next to a black person at Mass, you’re prejudiced; if you don’t want to sip from the Communion Chalice because a black person did, you’re a bigot; if you tell them after Mass not to come back you’re a racist.

  • ganching

    ch in dallas – I think doing any one of those three things makes you a racist.

  • ch in dallas

    Ganching, I disagree, but more lingustically. Morally, I agree that all 3 are wrong. However, if one calls all 3 racist, one has no superlative to go to. If all 3 are racist, you go from calling someone a Paki, to operating ovens in Buchenwald, all described with the same word. It can be done, but then you have to start using the word really, really, really a lot. And using the word racist is usually a word that instantly stops all conversation.
    Also, in my Mass example (I’M Catholic and it happened to come to mind) prejudice and bigotry usually only hurt the thinker, whereas with racism, an overt action is taken on those wrong thoughts to hurt someone. It’s the best I’ve been able to come up with, and here in the U.S. we talk about it ad nausium.

  • Alan McDonald


    I enjoyed your hierarchy of prejudice/bigotry/racism. Do you find that there is any residue of anti-Catholic feeling in the southern US?

  • ch in dallas

    Thanks Alan. I’m your man on this one!Not too much anymore, especially in the cities. I do get the joking “idol-worshipper” comment every now and then. In 1968, my sis went off to college, and her room-mate’s parents pulled her from the dorm and told my Mom they wanted their daughter to have a Christian room-mate! My Mom’s family is southern protestant, and Dad’s was Irish Cath. and French. Here the Church used to be very Irish, but is really being driven by Latino growth. Our Cathedral in downtown Dallas has average Mass atendance on Sun of 11,500, 2nd only to St Pats in NYC. Our parish ave about 6,000 at 6 masses. I go to the teen’s mass b/c I like the rock and roll. And I’m talking young men and women with hands in the air praising Jesus! Catholics here are doing fine.

  • Alan McDonald

    CH, thanks for the insight.

    I have just seen the status of Hurricane Rita on the late news. I hope you don’t have any relatives in Galveston or along the coast. If Houston and Dallas are full of Katrina refugees, where will you put the new folks?

  • ch in dallas

    Thanks Alan, No relatives down there although my partner at works family farm is next to Houston. I don’t know where there gonna put’em. Dallas has 50,000 from Katrina. Our new postal lady started today, from New or. and my wife was talking to her. She and her 4 year old daughter made it out with their clothes. She and my wife were both crying at the mail box in the 100 degree heat. She said she wants to go home, but home’s not there anymore. But as someone on this blogg told me, Keep your head down, and your spirits up. What a sweet Irish thing to say! 🙂

  • Dr Snuggles

    While dictionary.com is a useful tool, perhaps a native English dictionary, rather than a US one, would help. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a bigot as:

    a person who is prejudiced in their views and intolerant of the opinions of others

    There are a couple of subtle differences from the US definition. This one is virtually all-encompassing – “prejudiced in their views” – rather than simply “strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race and politics”.

    The COD definition is also more pejorative. “Prejudiced in their views”, leads us to look at the definition of “prejudiced”, which is:

    showing a dislike or distrust derived from a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience

    I prefer the UK definition, which makes it clear that a bigot’s views are not based on reason. The American definition allows the possibility that the bigot, while intolerant, may be right all along.

    As for the “black person at Mass” example posted earlier (9.46pm last nght, to be precise), I have to agree that all three actions are racist. It is simply not good enough to say that the word “racism” should be reserved for “operating ovens at Buchenwald”.

    One does not cheapen the word “racist” by overuse, as long as that use is accurate. More dangerous, I think, is the suggestion of precluding its use for “lesser” offences, such as the stated example of calling someone a “Paki”, or refusing to sit next to a black person in church.

    If someone feels that the word “racist” is used too often, then perhaps they need to start by acknowledging that there is too much racism. As for “operating ovens at Buchenwald’, wasn’t that genocide?

  • Animus

    Dr Snuggles – Native English? What language is spoken in the US? (Please consider that Bostonian English, for example, is truer to Shakespearean English than southeast London English)

    Not sitting next to a black person may be a racist activity, it may not be. Intent is important. Would you really like to claim that a person who doesn’t know any black people and is a bit nervous is a racist? That sort of knee-jerk name calling is what makes many people lash out at so-called political correctness.

  • Jo

    I think in the church example that if “don’t” is replaced by “won’t” it is a better indication of racism/bigotry.

    I have never sat beside a black person in church, not because I am racist, its just there either havent been any there or to do so would have meant shoving past a row of people to ensure I sat beside him! I imagine that might be seen as a little intimidating!

  • Dr Snuggles

    Animus, I accept that “native English” is a clumsy term. I wanted to avoid using the terms “Queen’s English” or “English English”. However, my meaning was pretty clear and it’s somewhat disingenuous to pick up on that, especially as it is a conspicuous non sequitur in relation to your second point. However, as ‘native’ means born of, or indigenous to, then “native English” means what I intended it to mean, at least etymologically speaking.

    My point was simply that when discussing the meaning of a word as used within a particular geographical region, it seems sensible and prudent to use an authoritative dictionary that is native (if you’ll excuse the word) to that region in order to explore that definition.

    I have no beef with you about Bostonian English or US English in general. I worked for a year in New York City and much prefered the rich conversational language of the locals to what I hear in the cafés of north London. But that’s entirely beside the point.

    As for your next point, you don’t have to scroll back up very far to see that I said “refusing to sit next to a black person in church”. You don’t think that’s racist? I’d be fascinated to hear what is. I don’t recall ever mentioning any “nervous” people who didn’t know any black people (because I didn’t). However, racism is not dependent on intent, but prejudice, which by definition may well not be based on reason or experience.

    However nervous a person may be, however few the number of black people a person has seen (presumably they have no television), a refusal to sit next to a black person is racist. Choosing not to do so may of course not be – they may simply prefer to sit with their husband.

    Even in ch in dallas’s original example, he said that “if you don’t sit next to a black person at Mass, you’re prejudiced”. It’s crystal clear he isn’t talking about someone who simply doesn’t end up sitting beside a black person for no particular reason, because that would not involve prejudice. However, prejudice based on race is racism, whether one likes it or not.

    As I’ve already said, racism is what is is – we should not fear the use of the word simply because some people like to pretend that it is not as big a problem as it is.

    Far more prevalent these days is the charge of being “politically correct”, especially by those who have not bothered to actually read or understand what has been said. “Knee-jerk name calling”? The irony isn’t lost on me.

  • Animus

    Calm down, Dr Snuggles. It’s hard to take seriously the ire of someone called Snuggles. That native English bit was frivolous – I wasn’t actually being accusatory – should have used an emoticon. 😉 there, will that do?

    Re: the second point – I’m not denying racism is a serious problem. However, I still maintain that someone’s reluctance to sit next to a black person does not make them racist automatically. Think of a different example if it helps focus your thinking. Young boys are sometimes tongue-tied and don’t know what to say around girls so may avoid sitting next to them. Does that make them sexist? I don’t think so.
    I would not want to condemn people as racist/sexist or any other ‘ism’ so hard and fast. Again, I reiterate the point that there is a spectrum of belief and behaviour. Northern Ireland, despite its growing multiculturalism, is still a rural society largely and people harbour all kinds of preconceptions that I don’t think make them racist – they aren’t necessarily harbouring ill will, just ignorance.

  • Dr Snuggles

    It’s always a treat to see the old sixth form debating society “calm down” trick. No one could be calmer, my friend – where’s the “ire” you speak of? Please address what I said, not what you wish I had said. You can’t seriously contend that refusing to sit next to a black person is not evidence of racist (see dictionary) attitudes.

    Your second-paragraph example is, of course, utterly specious. Of course a young boy getting tongue-tied around girls isn’t sexist. An adult who refuses to talk to the opposite sex may well be a misogynist though, and that is a more focused comparator (to borrow from your attempt at acerbity).

    “Northern Ireland, despite its growing multiculturalism, is still a rural society largely and people harbour all kinds of preconceptions that I don’t think make them racist – they aren’t necessarily harbouring ill will, just ignorance.”

    For the third time, ill intent is not necessary for an act to be considered racist. This is a simple matter of the meaning of words. A person with the ignorant preconceptions you cite may decide that, for the good of his business, he will not hire a black or migrant worker. Perhaps he harbours no ill will whatsoever towards the job applicant. Perhaps he is ignorant and simply believes that the worker would be better off “going home”. Despite the lack of the “ill will” you mention, he has still acted in a transparently racist way.

    This really isn’t complicated. Prejudice is not dependent on ill will; it is based on preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

    As for your “rural society” claim, the 2001 Census classifies 70% (and growing) of the NI population as living in urban areas, and I hardly think the other 30% would happy to be pigeonholed as the “ignorant” hillbillies full of “all kinds of preconceptions” that you paint them as.

    Once again, we should not be afraid of the simple meaning of a word. Racism is dangerous and nothing like enough is being done to tackle it in Northern Ireland, where it is one of the fastest growing motivators for crime, along with homophobia. The NIO has a hate crime unit now working on ways to educate and inform victims of their rights. Thank goodness not everyone wants to brush this problem under the carpet, or make facile comparisons with childhood shyness.

    Of course there are degrees of racism – not all racists are white supremacists; not all chefs are michelin star winners. We are often dealing in shades of grey, but even low-level racism is pernicious. It certainly should not be excused or painted as something harmless.

  • Animus

    I think in the businessman example you’re confusing discrimination with racism. Back to the dictionary with you. It really isn’t that complicated.

    I worked as anti-racism trainer, I know that many people in NI have limited if any contact with ethnic minorities. The church example isn’t a good one, but your certainty and smugness are laughable.

    Thanks for that bit on the NIO group – you’ll no doubt be thrilled to know I’m on the PSNI Diversity Working Group looking at hate crime. Those working with em and gay communities might be surprised to read your know it all comments. Or perhaps not.

  • ch in dallas

    Dr. S and Animus, Bravo for the enlightened discussion! Well played. I’m glad I could tee it up for you. After consulting Oxford and going to bed, I realized that “bigot” as I used the word did have southern U.S. overtones. Here where I sit in Texas, we had Human Bondage just 140 years ago, and when I was a boy in the early 60’s, racial segregation. Now before anyone gets high and mighty, remember that the British slave trade gave us this problem, and the Republic only took 85 years, through Civil War, to start to fix the problem. I suppose that we have reserved the word racist for the upper end of the spectrum. I use the formula of the black civil rights establishment Prejudice + Power = Racism. We’ve learned here that once you pull out the superlative, all discussion ceases. It has to. Say I make a bigoted comment about a black that shows prejudice, maybe a joke I heard in a movie. I think it’s funny, but someone else doesn’t. They cry You’re a RACIST. Talk stops. It has to. You’ve compared me to the KKK. My job could be in jeopardy. A whisper campaign starts at work. You know that guy, he’s a racist. If you can’t talk about prejudice, it will continue to fester.

  • Dr Snuggles

    “I think in the businessman example you’re confusing discrimination with racism. Back to the dictionary with you. It really isn’t that complicated.”

    Discrimination and racism are not mutually exclusive concepts. Discrimination on the grounds of race is a form of racism. Just like discrimination on the grounds of gender is a form of sexism. It really, really isn’t that complicated.

    “The church example isn’t a good one, but your certainty and smugness are laughable.”

    Play the man, not the ball. You have no idea what I do for a living, what colour I am, what sexuality I am, or how this issue has affected me directly. So don’t attack me personally.

    “You’ll no doubt be thrilled to know I’m on the PSNI Diversity Working Group looking at hate crime. Those working with em and gay communities might be surprised to read your know it all comments. Or perhaps not.”

    Good for you. If true, I’d be surprised if we haven’t met, as I (as though it wasn’t obvious) work in this area myself. I spend roughly half my time working in the gay community. As for working as an “anti-racist trainer”, I recently experienced similar training during which a role play degenerated into sniggers as one trainee did what they thought was a hilarious impression of a gay guy. The trainer laughed along.

    On average, more than five racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast alone every week (figure from Belfast District Policing Partnership). That number is growing by decimal points all the time.

    That sets the context for this discussion, and for the tiresome charges of “political correctness” against those who dare to point to a problem and call it by its name.

    I am not suggesting, nor have I suggested, that an old woman who is reluctant to sit next to a black person in church is as bad as someone who would petrol-bomb his house. However, the prejudice behind both scenarios is based on race, even if the outworking of that prejudice is manifested in very different ways.

    If you think that’s being a know-it-all or smug, that’s a terrible shame. It seems to me that this is becoming less about winning the argument, and more about winning the game.

    CH, I’m sorry, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but if you made what you yourself describe as “a bigoted comment about a black [person] that shows prejudice” in my workplace, you would end up in front of a trbunal, end of story.

  • ch in dallas

    Dr. S, Thank you for assuming that I’m a nice guy, which I think I am. However, you have made my point for me. Say I use the word “n**ger in a joke at work. Not smart,true. I may have heard a black entertainer in a movie make $20 million using this word a hundred times the night before. He makes $20 mil, I just relate the joke, and I’m hauled in front of a tribunal, END OF STORY. No presumed innocence, no “watch it mate”, but I’m HAULED, HAULED, mind you, in front of a TRIBUNAL, no less, and it’s the end of the story!!! To save my career, I then might be allowed to go to mind re-education camp (diversity training). This is all stuff of the Gulag, not Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

  • Animus

    Discrimination is not necessarily a form of racism Dr, although it can. I discriminate when I choose a Wim Wenders film over a Woody Allen. You’re right that the old woman isn’t as bad as the petrol bomber, but I would be reluctant to call that woman a racist. And I’m sorry, I do find your comments smug. The political correctness thing is this: people are terrified anything they say about gays or blacks, even in trying to learn, will be perceived as racism. People then avoid situations in which any negativity could be perceived. “Oh, I won’t know what to say to that lesbian, I will just avoid her altogether” – this is the sort of scenario which leads to an unfortunate consequence of alientating people.

    Unfortunately your story of the anti-racism trainer is all too common. People working on anti-discrimination issues should be working together on common themes (I’ve heard gay men complain about discrimination in one breath and ridicule lesbians in the next, so it crosses most areas I suspect)

    I didn’t say you were a horrid person, but I feel you think you have special knowledge. My apologies.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Animus, I don’t feel I have a special knowledge, but I guess I have had a special upbringing in that I was always taught to respect and understand diversity. I find prejudiced opinions very difficult to take and virtually impossible to understand. I accept that that may well represent a lack of understanding on my part.

    As for what constitutes racism, perhaps we can agree to disagree. I have no problem accepting that my own grandmother was racist, for instance, but it didn’t mean I didn’t love her. The fact that her attitudes were a result more of misunderstanding than malice does not change what I understand racism to be.

    Your example of the gay men ridiculing lesbians rings very true – one only has to watch an episode of Will & Grace to see that sort of thing. My view is that discrimination is wrong, across the board.

    CH, maybe this is a cultural difference, but workplace laws and regulations are very tight in this part of the world. If you used that word in a joke or otherwise in my office, you would be subject to more than one official complaint and would most certainly face a tribunal.

    I don’t think the fact that a black entertainer uses the N-word changes its acceptability. The black community is in fact “reclaiming” a word used to do them down for centuries. An equivalent is gay people calling themselves “queer”.

    Reclaiming a pejorative slur for a community is a way of lessening the word’s potency for causing offence. It may seem a subtle difference on the surface, but in this case, I don’t believe one usage is anything like the other.

  • ch in dallas

    Dr. S, I appreciate the thoughtful response, and we are both obviously people of good will. However, I (and a few black leaders) disagree with the “reclaiming” notion. Bill Cosby has told black people not to expect whites to drop the word when they don’t. When popular hip-hop culture is making millions of $$ with “nigga this and nigga that” (note in quotes from Cosby)white teens will never learn. In fact white teens with baggy pants half-way down their ass greeting each other with “Waz up mah nigga!” is de riguer. They don’t know anything about police dogs and firehoses on marchers. People with good intentions no doubt are conducting tribunals, removing books from libraries (no more Mark Twain or To Kill a Mockingbird unless they’re “scrubbed” of offensive words) and stifling they very good debate we’re having. So I guess in conclusion, for the petrol-bombers and the KKK, let’s have at’em. For everyone else, let’s sit down with a pint and talk it through. Now, gotta run, to prepare to get my arse blown away by a hurricaine. 🙂

  • Dr Snuggles

    Batten down the hatches, CH. Let’s hope Rita doesn’t cause the havoc that Katrina did.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but Bill Cosby was widely rounded upon for some of his comments. He also said: “You’ve got to stop beating up your women because you can’t find a job, because you didn’t want to get an education and now you’re (earning) minimum wage.” Some black groups accused Cosby of pulling up the ladder after he’d climbed it.

    The whole “reclaiming” thing is certainly a thorny issue, and it’s a whole different debate.

    Anyway, all the best with the hurricane!

  • ch in dallas

    Dr. S. I appreciate the warm sentiments and the fine debate! We are certainly making preps, but Rita may be turning a bit to the east. Good for us, bad for someone else. Can you imagine, a storm system that would easly cover Ireland, and the equiv. of the pop. of NI on the move to Dublin! In a 100 deg heat mind you (38 C). Anyway, good night Ireland, and keep us in your prayers…….