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On Prejudice

by Izzy Kalman (August 2003)

At a recent seminar, I set up a role-play to demonstrate how racial insults can be dealt with in a positive way. Someone volunteered to be an anti- Semite and insult me for being Jewish. Several participants, including the volunteer herself, claimed that bigots cannot have any self-esteem – that if they have any hatred against others, they cannot have any true regard for themselves either. They portrayed bigots as being hopeless, rotten-to-the-core psychopaths. It would be wonderful if this were true – that only highly disturbed people can be bigots. The truth is that all of us can be bigots. If we are to learn anything from the Holocaust, it is that civilized, intelligent, moral people can be taught to hate, to blame others for their misery, and to eagerly and self-righteously go about murdering another group of people. Not only is this not abnormal, it is actually the normal thing for people to do. Almost all peoples throughout the history of the world have harbored and cultivated hatred for another group. In present-day USA we are not so aware of it because we have done an excellent job of reducing the expression of racial hatred and marginalizing bigots. But even today racial hatred is going on rampantly throughout the world. There are probably well over a billion people on the planet who have a burning hatred towards Americans, and probably a few times that number who hate Jews. The people who harbor these views are not biologically different from you and I. They are, for the most part, moral people who love their families, their countries, and their God. The main difference is that they live in societies that actively teach and encourage hatred. People love to hate; it gives them a tremendous sense of power and righteousness. And when hatred is officially sanctioned, people cheerfully engage in it. When people hate in a group, their emotions get amplified and they can be driven to carry out the most horrific acts of violence. You may not be willing to admit it, but if you and I were born and raised in such a country, we too would probably be harboring vicious racist attitudes.

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