Racism, Bigotry, and Prejudice

In the past, I’ve talked about racism, bigotry, and prejudice.  Some of these issues have dealt with the mosque at Ground Zero, immigration, or statements made by church leaders about the priesthood ban for African Americans.  Prejudice, bigotry, and racism are often used interchangeably, and there can be a lot of overlap.  (In fact, one of the dictionary definition for “bigotry” is “prejudice.”)  Some people object when the terms racist and bigot are thrown around too loosely.

I’ve decided to do a little survey.  Here are some dictionary definitions for prejudice, bigotry, and racism.  Perhaps some terms are better used than others terms for certain topics.  What do you think?

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14 comments on “Racism, Bigotry, and Prejudice

  1. I am ambivalent about my answers on the priesthood ban because I am not sure whether you are talking about how the ban came about and was perpetuated through the decades, or the attitudes toward the ban today.


  2. Glenn, you can interpret it any way you like. I think the terms apply to both today and the past. Obviously, there has been a marked improvement in the past 30 years, but there is still room for improvement.

    I think the ban was based on race (whether one prefers bigotry, prejudice, or racism, it matters not to me–but I would call it racism.) I’ve been reading a book “Black and Mormon”, and will discuss race relations in a future post.

  3. For those that respond “I don’t like any of the definitions”, could you write a comment proposing a better definition?

  4. I found this definition on Wikipedia: Prejudice: preconceived judgment toward a people or a person because of race, social class, gender, ethnicity, homelessness, age, disability, obesity, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.

    Racism is the belief that the genetic factors which constitute race, ethnicity, or nationality are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that ethnic differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

    Bigotry: persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, inter-regional prejudice, gender and sexual orientation, homelessness, various medical disorders particularly behavioral disorders and addictive disorders and religion or spirituality.

    Should I add these definitions to the above?

  5. I was thinking along ht esame line as glen when was answering the questions.I answered the preisthood ban q’s. With the thinking that it was why they had the ban.

    I think it is impossible to eradicate racism, predujudice and bigotry from society.

  6. […] The Mormon Heretic tries and fails to write a non-leading poll. […]

  7. I do not think we have enough information to conclude that the priesthood ban was racist based. The institution of the ban is about as well documented as was the restoration of the Melchizadek priesthood. We know it happened.
    I would not like to be one to make a judgement based upon inadequate data and lacking any sort of revelation on the subject. Especially when the only offical pronouncemnets on the matter that I am aware of are that the actual reasons were not revealed.


  8. Glenn, I think there is enough information. See my post on Early Black Mormons and Was the Priesthood Ban inspired?. Historian Connell O Donovan has documented 6 black men who performed priesthood ordinances prior to 1850, and makes a compelling case that Brigham Young instituted the ban to prevent inter-racial marriages. The priesthood restriction was a reaction to William McCary seducing white women into unauthorized polygamy, and Enoch Lewis’ 1846 marriage to a white LDS woman, Mary Matilda Webster (daughter of a stake president) in Boston, and their having a mixed-race child in 1847.

    The ban wasn’t officially declared until Brigham Young declared it in 1852–and this after he previously said (quoting from my post)

    On Mar 26,1847, Brigham Young made a statement that he was aware of Walker Lewis, and aware that Walker held the priesthood. Young claimed on this date that there is no race-based ban. The statement is “its nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh. We have to repent [and] regain what we [h]av[e] lost. We [h]av[e] one of the best Elders–an African in Lowell [i.e. Walker Lewis].” By December 1847, he’s completely changed his mind. Now he calls for Enoch and Matilda Lewis and their mixed-race child to be killed for breaking “the law of God.”

    In 1852 “An Act in Relation to Service” officially becomes law. Brigham Young alludes that there has been no official ban spoken by Joseph, or any other leader when he says, ‘if no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood.’

    This Act made black and Indian slavery legal in Utah. Now Brigham was a bit of a horse trader. He knew that California and New Mexico were trying to be admitted to the Union as free states. Due to the Missouri Compromise, he felt that Utah might have a better chance for admission if we came in as a slave state. Congress had a special balance of power between free and slave states, and Brigham knew well that southernors would be upset if the balance of power was broken.

    There is also a horrific story about Indians killing Indians if the Mormons didn’t buy Indian slaves. It is my contention that Mormons purchasing Indian slaves saved Indian lives. Check this article out about Indian slavery (about half-way through): http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/08/10/mormons-and-indians-in-the-great-plains/

    I can’t help be see race as a large factor in these decisions. While I applaud Brigham for using slavery to save Indian lives, it is my contention that race played a huge factor in the priesthood ban and slavery. I can’t see any other way to explain it.

  9. Perhaps I am just becoming more cynical and prejudiced myself, but as I think about the immigration debate, the “ground zero mosque”, Rep. King’s congressional hearings about Muslim radicalization, birthers, etc., I think we are taking obvious steps backwards in terms of bigotry, racism, and xenophobia. I wrote a post one time attributing this to an increasingly crowded and mobile world that is forcing us to come into contact with people and ideas that we could have successfully avoided in a less crowded world, and I still think that has a lot to do with it.

  10. Hmmm, this is a different side of Brigham Young than I have seen before! Thank God we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know who to follow!

    I disagree with (my hubby) Astral_Lds – It IS very possible to eradicate bigotry from society. As he should know, tolerant people show other people how to be tolerant.

    Jacob, you may be right that some people are taking backwards steps in regards to xenophobia, etc, thanks in large part to the biased slant of the media, but I think that the inter-racial melting pot is forcing us to confront our biases.

    I think when we have enough faith in our own personal connection to the Holy Spirit, we can let go of our strangehold on preconceptions and just let the Spirit guide as to what is true. Then it’s easier to be open-minded and tolerant, without fear of getting our own brains scrambled. 🙂

  11. Jacob, I think xenophobia is cyclical. Every time there is a mass influx of immigrants, the reaction is the same. It was the same with the Irish following the great potato famine, as well as Poles (aka Polacks), Italians and Germans in the 19th-20th centuries.

    Eternal Daughter (I may have to call you ED!) I like your goal to eradicate bigotry. It is amazing to me how quickly people can turn on each other. The Jewish and Rwandan Holocausts come to mind. I did a few posts on the Rwandan Genocide: A Horrific Tale of Forgiveness” and Hotel Rwanda.

    Armaund Mauss, a Mormon sociologist discusses how quickly people can turn on each other. He calls it “the moral panic”, and shows how that happened in the Haun’s Mill Massacre.

  12. No probs, MH. You can call me ED.

  13. I am one of those stating I don’t like any of the definitions, but only because that was the best answer for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the definitions, it was that I didn’t like the choices.

    The choices were mostly centered on hatred or ignorance. I think fear is a huge, if not the leading, factor for many. Xenophobia would have been the best choice in my opinion as long as it is the literal definition (fear of strangers) and hatred is not part of it.

    Most reactions like racism, prejudice and bigotry are rooted in fear. They are secondary.
    Fear is the answer to all of your questions.

  14. Bishop Rick, I think you have a strong point in regards to fear–I too think that is the root problem.

    A few days ago, I was discussing this post with a co-worker, and he asked me my definitions of racism, bigotry, and prejudice. Since I was driving, I couldn’t cheat and look up this post, so I had to come up with them out of my head. Here’s what I came up with.

    In my post about the difference between Persians and Arabs, I learned that there are only 5 races: white (Caucasian), black (negro), asian (oriental), Native American, and Pacific Islander. (I have since learned about Australoids, a specific race indigenous to Australia.) So race has a special definition to me. There is no such thing as “the Jewish race” (they’re Caucasian), or the “Arab race” (also Caucasian). These are merely ethnic or religious groups. So my definition of race has to do with genetic differences.

    When discussing any issue about blacks (priesthood ban), or asians (perhaps WW2), these are racial issues. I noted that one of the definitions of bigotry is prejudice, so I would say these 2 terms are basically the same thing. I would say that bigotry sounds worse than prejudice (in a semantic way). A person can be bigoted about many subjects more encompassing than merely race. There can be religious bigots, gay bigots, communist bigots, Mexican bigots, catholic bigots, mormon bigots, etc. Bigotry applies to a lot more terms than simply race.

    I know that some people call Hitler a racist. Under my definition, there is no such thing as a Jewish race (they are Caucasian just like Germans), so I would say Hitler was a mass murdering bigot.

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