Are You a Scapegoater?
Yesterday, we completed Week 2 of the Mississippi Episcopal Church’s Anti-Racism and Racial Reconciliation training. Click here to read about Week 1 of this 4 week training. What did I learn this week (other than, apparently, my voice doesn’t stand out in a large Zoom group, and I have a short temper about that?)
When I was growing up, we called certain white people in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, prejudiced. This usually meant they were racist AF. But we didn’t call it that. So I had come to think of prejudice as a lighter word for racism. It isn’t.
Here’s the hierarchy of words building through this conversation. You can see how it flows from individual thought to group action.
- stereotype: simplistic views usually based on perceived biological differences (individual thought)
- prejudice: pre-judging someone without sufficient grounds (individual thought applied in a particular judgment)
- bigotry: marinating yourself in your prejudiced feelings (intentional thought)
- discrimination: acting differently towards someone based on your unsupported beliefs (moving from thought to action)
- scapegoating: unfairly shifting blame to a group or member of a group (targeted action)
You’ll note racism isn’t in this group of words. I really like that. It’s as if we’ve gotten so use to shouting “You’re the racist!” at each other, we’ve shoved aside how we get there. (Don’t worry, we’re delving into racism later.)
For one thing, we don’t limit our “stereotypes” to race. Other examples included age, geographic region, and gender. And “scapegoating” as a practice does such damage. Yet, we rarely name it. It’s not just racist to blame crime on immigrants. Statistics show it’s scapegoating.
I especially love “bigotry” because of its focus on intentionality. Surely this is where so much damage lies. When you wallow in your prejudices, reinforcing them, darting their no matter the subject at hand (so the only nurse whose care you found substandard was the Black nurse?)
Maybe it’s also the reason bigots are so LOUD in their opinions. I’ve wondered about this forever. Now I learn bigots invest a lot of time developing their opinions. I’m gonna say they’re proud of their creations. That’s the way the brain works.
And It always returns to God
My favorite thing was the diversity of Bible scriptures people shared to support this work. For example, I spent an HOUR this morning researching mine. I chose Amos on justice; the Syrophoenician woman teaching Jesus about widening his mission; and Jesus reading Isaiah in the temple to say the words had been fulfilled that day. Listening to theirs, mine felt a little too on the nose. In contrast, their readings were expansive. Generous of spirit, and lush in their view of the Kingdom of God. The words might have had slightly different meanings for each of us, but we all sighed as the leaders read them.