On The Importance of Denotation

Harrison Phipps
  Opinions Editor 

Hateful and bigoted; these are among the things that social conservatives are labelled. There are many reasons to be called these things, but having a dissenting opinion is not one of them. The real question that should be asked is “What do these words mean, and when is it actually appropriate to use them?”

All definitions provided will be from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is because it has origins in Britain rather than America, making it more suitable for commenting on America from an outside perspective. Other dictionaries may be steeped in the same political bias that is commented upon.

Hate: v. to feel intense dislike for. Generally, this is used to express just that, an intense dislike. However, a different trend has been growing. In contemporary uses, “hateful” as a term is being used to describe other people. In this sense, unless the subject being described has explicitly stated holding hatred, this term is entirely presumptuous.

For example, being in favor of the social implications of House Bill 2 (HB2) is often seen as showing hate toward the transgender community. Before this is fully explored, it should be stated that (1) both sides agree there is a problem of some sort and (2) both sides want to work for good. This can be said easily, as there would be no action if no action was seen as necessary and a person would never seek to work for bad; actions are always justified in the subjects’ heads in order for them to do them, with very little exception.

In regard to HB2, a social conservative will generally see the greater problem as follows: there are many who suffer from gender dysphoria. This is incredibly damaging to those afflicted, as it is a mental health disorder that affects a wide range of social interactions and understandings. The proposed solution by social conservatives for this would be to not encourage behavior that is in-line with the mental disorder, discouraging acting out in that sort of fashion. Ultimately, they care about the greater good of people who suffer, but there is a disagreement in what that good is.

Unless you are completely certain that they are not working for the good of a particular group of people, stating that someone is hateful is a gross misunderstanding. Why would someone work for the greater good of those whom they truly feel an intense dislike for?

Bigot: n. a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions. The requirement of being a bigot is intolerance, so for clarity, a definition for tolerant will be provided as well. Tolerant: adj. Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.

By this understanding, then, if someone does not want another opinion to exist for any reason, then they are a bigot. If another person thinks their opinion is fact and therefore there should be no others, then they are a bigot. However, if they think the drawbacks of an opinion serve to bolster the benefits of theirs, then they are not a bigot. The sentiments behind this term are normally a form of censorship, and—by the understanding laid out in this explanation—bigotry.

Spit out with reviling and accostment, the “b-word” normally does not mean what people think it does. If someone thinks only the superior opinion should exist, that’s bigotry. The attempt to silence and oust another opinion, even if it is offensive, is bigotry. Bigotry has nothing to do with whether or not something is offensive, but has come to be used as a byword to describe those who dare to oppose their opinion.

In racial relations, this sort of rhetoric is often used. For instance, in relation to the recent shootings where both black lives and police lives were lost in attacks and altercations, many perspectives have circulated around. On the conservative side, people saying any of the black victims deserved it are called bigots, part of the racist system that creates the violence they’re commenting on. This is a non sequitur. According to the definition of bigots, unfortunately, they do not meet the qualifications as nothing has been said about their thoughts on the existence of other opinions.

Dissenting thoughts and opinions can exist without bigotry and hatred, especially since the opinions in question likely do not live up to the true meanings of those labels.

Categories: Columns, Opinions, Uncategorized

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