April 6, 1999
There's been a lot of talk about hate and bigotry lately.
Hate was behind the dragging death of a Texas black man and the fatal shooting of a Florida black woman waiting at a stop light with her white boyfriend. Hate was behind the separate murders of two gay men who may or may not have made passes at their murderers. Hate is the underpinning--implied, denied, or acknowledged--of too many organizations, right wing, left wing, social, religious, or otherwise.
Whether emboldened by sympathies perceived in the rise of conservatism or secure in the electronic anonymity of the world wide web, the hate-mongers among us are crawling out of the societal woodwork in astonishing numbers. Recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that it was recording 600-800 hate-based incidents a week, from cross burnings to murders. When they speak before them, prominent politicians like Trent Lott and Bob Barr legitimize groups rooted in the ideals of racial supremacy. And the Reverend Matt Hale, denied an Illinois law license, takes to national TV whenever he gets the chance to proclaim proudly that he is a racist.
The Internet is so rife with bigoted websites that I'd much rather my children stumble onto nude pictures than the site that declares their skin color fair game and extends a hunting license to those who log on. On a recent excursion into cyberspace I couldn't help feeling that I was walking through the withering putrefaction of a garden in hell. One site posts aerial photos which "prove" that Nazi death camps were too narrowly configured for the Holocaust to have happened. Another uses an old Currier & Ives painting to show that plantation slavery was less cruel and more democratic than history tells us. Religious sites scream that God hates gays, while anti-religious sites declare Christ was a communist homosexual hippie nailed to a pair of 2x4s. Literate cyber nomads can download the entire texts of Hamlet, Paradise Lost, and Rime of Ancient Mariner translated into so-called Ebonics. Conspiracists can gorge themselves on Zionist plots to rule the world. Blacks and jews are trashed on more sites than any other groups, but they have no lock on being the targets of hatred. If you belong to a racial, ethnic, sexual or religious group, somewhere out there is an organized effort to hate you.
Indeed, there has been a lot of talk about hatred and bigotry these days. I thought the debate might benefit from my penetrating analysis, an insight so profound it that if uttered aloud often enough it might help a troubled mind avoid succumbing to aerial photos and Currier & Ives prints. So here goes: Psst. Pass it on. Bigotry is just plain stupid.
I'm Gary Earl Ross.