Trauma-induced bigotry is an all-too-common but rarely acknowledged phenomenon. An act committed by a person of a certain race or ethnicity leads the victim or their family members to resent all people of that culture.
A critical thinker can easily look past a person’s skin color and accept that one person who commits a crime does not represent all people of that culture, but when stricken with post-traumatic grief and strong emotions, the capacity for critical thinking can be overtly clouded. An irrational and hostile judgement of people who were completely uninvolved, but who resemble the perpetrator, seems logical to the victim.
We see this in cases of soldiers who might now use racial slurs against the people of a foreign land where soldier served during war. I’ve also seen this first hand when an uncle of mine was murdered many years ago by three African Americans, my uncle’s friends and family held strong feelings of resentment against all black people immediately after that. The same goes for the reverse scenarios–many Iraqis may hate all Americans due to the death of a family member during the Iraq War, and some African Americans may hate all white people for the centuries of oppression and torture.
Not all cases of this sort of bigotry are so black and white. Some bigotry may arise against people of a certain job or even a certain economic class. Sometimes a person might witness someone committing welfare fraud and then automatically assume that, since the system is flawed, all recipients are abusers and no one should receive such help.
Each and every day we see tragedies committed by people of all colors and backgrounds. If we take the time to think critically about the acts being committed and accept the reality that one person does not represent all people, then we might be able to get past such harsh and bigoted judgements and understand that each person has lived through a specific and unique set of circumstances that has guided their actions and influenced their perceptions.
Not all border patrol agents are rapists. Not all cops are assholes. Not all people on welfare are moochers. And not all marijuana smokers are stoners.
Although, I know that not everyone who reads this is already a critical thinker who can empathize with both victim and perpetrator before forming sweeping judgements upon an entire race for the crimes of a few, my hope for the future lies in the promise that we can all become critical thinkers someday.
Ray Perez is an actor, artist, writer and musician from the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. He is best known for getting Joseph Gordon-Levitt to rap in Spanish on the song “The Prize” for hitRECord.org, JGL’s collaborative production company, and for playing the small role of Beggar in the film A Night In Old Mexico opposite Academy Award winner Robert Duvall.