Because I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, where Jews like myself were either a majority or large minority, I didn't experience bigotry against my religion till I got to college. Once I got to college I experienced bigotry against my religion. I found myself in a non Jewish fraternity. My frat had more than its fair share of racists and bigots. Much of their racism was directed at African Americans and the N word was common, however they still had plenty o venom left for me. There were plenty of jokes about my "beenie" and other derogatory remarks toward my religion. I objected as often as I could however at some point it became impossible to comment on every single racial slur and inappropriate comment.
I saved my condemnation for my senior speech, one final speech each senior makes to the rest of the frat right before graduating. At our fraternity, the guy that brought us our food was a black guy named Arnold and we had a Hispanic in the frat named Greg Macias. I will clean up the language because I try to keep it clean here, but here is the last twenty seconds of the speech...
One last thing, when I first arrived here, many of you made comments about me being Jewish. At first, I figured it wasn't that big a deal because you weren't that mature, but since its been four years and you still haven't gotten over it. The only thing I can see is that to you I'm just another K%^E, just like Macias is just another S^&C, and Arnold's just another Ni$$er.By throwing the very derogatory words back in their faces, I turned the tables on their own racism. It was like they were being called the very words that they had so often used to describe others. The reaction was more than I could have ever dreamed. Most of the fraternity either wanted to apologize or explain themselves. I wasn't having it. I said my peace and I challenged their sensibilities and that was the goal. For a while at least, racists had been challenged and they questioned their own racism.
My experience with racists is that most of it comes from an obscene sense of arrogance, or hubris if you will. Most of the racists and bigots I have met, were bigoted because they felt superior to others around them. Most of them not only felt superior to other races and religions but individuals. They didn't just feel bigoted, but they felt they were smarter, funnier, more athletic, and more attractive than those around them. Many of the racists I met came from privileged backgrounds. That may have been where that sense came from. Obviously, the roots of racism takes on many forms but my experience has been overwhelmingly from simple hubris.
What I have learned is that the best way to deal with racism is to confront it, challenge it and condemn it everytime you see it. When I challenged my frat mates and exposed their naked racism, it had a profound effect on them. Some tried to continue to justify their racism to me, but many were genuinely sorry for what they had done. Had other classmates immediately condemned comments like Russian pisspot, the bigotry against my country of origin would not have lasted past the first moments. Had others joined me in condemning the racism in my fraternity, I would never have needed to end my senior speech as I had done.
That is one of my biggest problems with Barack Obama's speech yesterday. He spent much more time explaining Wright's bigotry than condemning it. To me, the roots of his bigotry are frankly totally trivial and irrelevant. Ted Bundy also had a reason for killing. Most child molestors were themselves once molested. That doesn't make their act any less evil. Everyone has a reason for everything. It is much more important to confront, challenge and condemn racism than it is to try and explain and understand it. If we are to deal with our racial divide, then, in my opinion, it is most important that racists be exposed and shunned first and foremost. One of the main reasons I wrote about the racist forum I discovered is because I think it is vital to expose racists wherever they are. Racists thrive because their views are supported by enablers. They find an audience for their hate. From my perspective, if we are to make tangible gains against racism on a grassroots level, then good people can't sit idly by while they witness it against anyone. If racism is to end it must be shunned by society. That starts with each individual taking it upon themselves to recognize, challenge, and condemn it when it is in front of them.