My great-grandmother was a wonderful woman. Her home was one of the warmest, most comforting places I have ever been, and many of my best memories as a child revolve around her kitchen.
My great-grandmother was also a bigot. As a child, she patiently explained to me that the Ku Klux Klan was a force for good (they built schools!). She thought that Brown v. Board of Education was one of the worst events in U.S. history, equaled only by the end of mandatory school prayer. In response to a horrific string of murders of black children in Atlanta, she commented that such a thing shouldn't happen "even to children like that."
My great-grandmother was a product of her time. The odds against a working-class Southern woman born over a century ago being anything other than a bigot were slim to none, but even now it feels kind of gross and traitorous for me to acknowledge her bigotry. She clearly met any reasonable standard for the word 'bigot', yet applying the word to her feels disgusting...
And yet it's true. I'm sorry, I have loved--and love--many people in my time. Many of them were bigoted against some group, somewhere. This expectation that "good people" won't be bigots is rather amazing. I came up in a world where it was nothing to hear the word "faggot" bandied about. Where those people awful human beings? Nah. Were they bigots? Yep. And I will tell you, without a moments hesitation, that I was one of them.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.