Is the belief in bigotry more powerful than its manifestation?
I’m going to use a silly example to answer this question, but this is a serious problem in contemporary America because it eliminates honest discourse and prevents the information age from becoming an age of enlightenment.
Over the centuries thinkers have questioned the concept of truth. They asked how truth was discovered. They asked about the nature of truth. And thinkers today still debate whether or not the “higher truths” are absolute.
In 1987 American philosopher Allan Bloom published a book called “The Closing of the American Mind.” Bloom wrote, “There’s one thing a professor can absolutely be certain of, almost every student entering a university believes or says he (or she) believes that truth is relative… The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance.” For these students, Bloom suggested, all belief begins to take on the characteristics of religion.
Thirty years later how entrenched has this religiosity become?
Recently, Campus Reform, a self proclaimed watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, played a prank on college students at New York University. Campus Reform sent a camera crew to get student reaction to President Trump’s first State of the Union address. No student interviewed cared for President Trump’s tone and the consensus was that the State of the Union address was the most racist speech they ever heard. Some even stated they never thought they would witness this type of open bigotry by an American President in their lifetime.
Here’s the punch line.
President Trump wasn’t scheduled to give the State of the Union address until the following week. Campus Reform showed up at NYU a week in advance and pretended President Trump addressed the nation the day before. The students overreacted to a speech that didn’t even occur.
The prank was featured on Fox News and the Campus Reform representative expressed his disappointment in the NYU students. He said, “For people that pride themselves on being so open-minded and so tolerant…They made up their minds on rhetoric, based on preconceived ideas about Donald Trump and about the Republican Party, but not actually on facts.”
Now, the Campus Reform representative dismissed the students as know-nothing Trump haters. Campus Reform succeeded in their main goal which was to prove liberal bias on a college campus. But I think Campus Reform and Fox News missed the absolute truth the charade revealed, which was the student’s belief in bigotry was more powerful than its manifestation.
Now that was a silly example, but the danger of this type of religiosity lies when you change the variable. For example, is the belief in racism more powerful than its manifestation in 2018, and if it is, how can one challenge the absolutism of that belief without being accused of having a closed American mind?
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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