Letter: The undercover nature of bigotry

To the Editors:

Not long ago, hate crimes in our country, especially those based on racial, religious, gender, and ethnic bigotry, were in fashion and out in the open. Employers seeking able-bodied men and women didn’t hesitate to post on their front doors “Irish and Blacks Need Not Apply.”

Gender bias and sexual exploitation in the workplace were once unashamedly blatant and commonplace. It wasn’t long ago that the Ku Klux Klan was one of the most powerful political forces in Indiana, Missouri and most of the South. One of the most lauded films of the silent movie era remains Birth of a Nation, which extols the virtues of the KKK. Jews were publicly harassed and persecuted because of their religion and culture. Asian-Americans were locked up in internment camps. African-Americans were lynched and hanged, and little, if anything, was done in response to these atrocities — not long ago.

Nowadays, bigotry — defined as fanatic devotion to a particular racial, religious, gender, ethnic, political, or social identity, and intolerance toward those who differ — has gone underground and is so uncool or politically incorrect. Yet it nonetheless continues to rear its ugly head, like a cloaked Klansman, to grab our attention and garner our fears to its advantage without knowing its personal identity.

We have witnessed it in the brutal beheading of journalists by masked Islamic extremists. For many people of color, it is a hangman’s noose or racial epithet anonymously left for them. And most recently, it is a swastika secretly carved on the locker of a Wilton High School student.

Bigotry will exert every effort to conceal its personal identity because it seems more frightening when it is cloaked, anonymous, or hidden under the cover of darkness. But my faith informs me that “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26)

When I was a child, I saw the movie The Wizard of Oz, and remember trembling in fear with Dorothy and her friends at the billowy, ominous sight of the great and powerful wizard, only to later discover that this was but the frightening facade of a feeble old man hiding behind a curtain.

We must continue to reveal what is covered; to unmask what is hidden in an effort to convince the world that the true nature of bigotry is feeble and old, and has no place in our future.

The Rev. Dr. ArnoldIsidore Thomas,

Senior Minister

Wilton Congregational Church