The thing about bigotry

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I thought this was worth pulling out:

I really don't think homophobia can stand against reality.  Mine couldn't. 

It couldn't stand against the reality of my cousin, sixty years old, works for the Port of Seattle, married to her partner, good head for business, great laugh. 

It couldn't stand against the reality of Martin and Andrew, who worked so hard for those twin baby girls.  If you saw them with those girls, it would melt your heart.

My homophobia was challenged once again when I had lunch with Greg on his last day of work.  I mentioned how, at first, his gayness was a little bit difficult for me.  He said, "me too".  I said that once, he was looking at the monitor and put his hand on my shoulder and it made me a little uncomfortable.  He looked me right in the eye and said, "Jay, if only you weren't married."  And then we laughed hysterically. 

I really think that comes down to this:  drink deeply from the world, it will enrich you.

As you guys know, I'm mixed in my feelings on integration as a kind of end all be all strategy to solve "The Negro Problem." But I'm not mixed on integration as a value. I think we should stop defining bigots as evil people. Half the problem with the "I can't believe you called me racist" is the belief that racist kill puppies, and beat their wives. But bigotry, at its core, is nothing but a kind of entrenched, willful ignorance.

I had almost the exact same experience as Jay. It was very easy to use the word "fag" around my friends--until I started working with gay people. Part of it was youth. (I was just coming into my college years) But a larger part was living in Washington D.C., hanging out in Dupont Circle (it used to be different), working in Adams Morgan, and being forced to see gay cats as actual human beings. "Gay" was no longer an abstract thing--it was, like, my editor who saved my sorry-ass copy--repeatedly.

I think it's pretty easy to deny a civil right to a dark stranger. But denying it to you children, to your friends, to your cousins is a lot harder. To bring it back to seemingly the only reason for this blog to exist, I think this is why that can't make the terrorist thing stick to Barack. They've seen this guys kids. Everything is harder then.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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