The Invisible Endemic of Hateful Bone Disease

Vision of the Valley of Dry BonesThe hate crimes trial of three White men in Georgia who chased down and killed a Black man when he ran through their neighborhood is coming to an end. Mercifully, we have not had to listen to any of them testify that they don’t have a racist or hateful bone in their body. But let’s face it. Bigotry is endemic to human existence.

At the same time, the impulse to deny bigotry is blindingly strong. This is why we hear people who have said or done racist things turn around and say they “don’t have a racist bone” in their body. It’s why some folks are up in arms about discussing racism in classrooms. It’s also why a hate crimes trial is such a risky undertaking – because it can be terribly hard to prove what is in the heart of people who commit terrible offenses.

For some of the same reasons, implicit anti-fat bias keeps getting stronger – even as explicit fat shaming becomes ever less acceptable. People rationalize their own biases and banish them from conscious thought.

Firing Someone for Bigotry

To understand just how difficult it is to confront bigotry, consider the case of a Muskegon police officer who lost his job in the midst of accusations of racist behavior. In interviews, his police chief said he had no doubts that this officer had to go because of a pattern of racist behavior. But the chief was also convinced the officer would get his job back on appeal if he were fired for racist behavior. Chief Jeff Lewis could not let that happen, he said:

“I cannot, in good conscience, bring him back here and put him back on the streets of this town.”

So instead of explicitly calling out racist behavior, Lewis removed the officer from his job because he had lost the public’s trust. It’s a long story, but well worth hearing if you want to understand why everyone and no one seems to have a hateful bone in their body.

Denying the Undeniable

The bottom line here is simple. Racism and other forms of bigotry – notably anti-fat bias – are endemic. And yet many people will disavow their hateful bones and deny the undeniable. So confronting bias and bigotry is a tricky business. But ignoring it is unacceptable.

Click here and here for the two-part story of the Muskegon police officer fired for a loss of trust. For more perspective on the endemic of hateful bone disease, click here, here, and here.

Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, painting by Gustave Dore / WikiArt

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February 20, 2022