15 minute bigot
Andre Koen: What is bigotry? Have you heard that word before? Have you known a bigot or seen a bigot on television?Female Audience Member: A bigot is somebody that says something or preaches something and goes against the fact of what they just said they believe in.Andre: I might call that statement ironic. What she said is that a bigot is a person who says one thing and does something else or they contradict themselves. I would say that person might be hypocritical but they might not necessarily be a bigot. They could, in fact, be a bigot but there's a special way that I'm looking for in terms of how we define it.Female Audience Member: Is it when somebody thinks they're better than somebody?Andre: It could be that someone thinks that they're better than someone else.Female Audience Member: For certain reasons.Andre: For certain reasons. That sounds like a pretty good way to think about that.Male Audience Member: Bigheaded.Andre: That they might be bigheaded.Female Audience Member: They hate everyone that's different from them.Andre: They hate everyone that is different from them. I am older than most of you in this room and when I was growing up there was a television show on called "All in the Family." A number of other people remember that show, too, right? "All in the Family" featured a star, this guy named Archie Bunker. That was the character. The main character was Archie Bunker.
You're nodding your head so you know what I'm talking about. Can you describe Archie for some people who weren't able to see that show? What was he like?
Female Audience Member: He was just a really self-centered, grouchy old man.Andre: He was a self-centered, grouchy old man. What else?Male Audience Member: He didn't care.Andre: He didn't care about other people. What else?Male Audience Member: He was detestable.Andre: He was detestable.Male Audience Member: No redeeming quality.Andre: It didn't seem that he had any redeeming qualities, right? He talked bad about everybody. He didn't use the politically correct terms to identify people and he didn't care to because this was his world.Male Audience Member: A lot like Al Bundy.Andre: A lot like Al Bundy, right? The interesting thing is if you met a person like that in real life, is that someone you would want to hang out with?Female Audience Member: Probably not.Andre: Probably not. The thing that I find most interesting is that Archie Bunker, or Carroll O'Connor as the character of Archie Bunker, showed up in America's living rooms for over 15 years. This detestable person shows up in America's living rooms for over 15 years with all the bad stuff that you guys just said about that person or bigot. He was known as America's favorite bigot. Why is it that that show would have lasted for over 15 years?Male Audience Member: Because he spoke the truth and truth hurts.Andre: Because he spoke the truth and he truth hurts?Female Audience Member: Because sometimes people find it amusing to watch somebody that's kind of ignorant, I guess.Andre: OK. Sometimes people find it amusing to watch people that are ignorant.Male Audience Member: I was going to say that people felt good saying "Well, I'm not like him."Andre: People felt good in saying "I'm not like him," right? So, you guys are on the same page. I did comedy. I was in a comedy troop and we did improv comedy. I took classes to learn how to do that kind of comedy. You can take classes to be funny. One of the things they taught us in this class is there are two reasons that people laugh at things. One is that we think that we're smarter or better than the thing that we're laughing at or that the thing that we're laughing at is smarter than we are.
Case in point, "Gilligan's Island." Here we have the professor who was making solar panels out of coconuts but he can't figure out how to make a boat to get off the island. Just absolutely absurd. He was really smart to the point that he was dumb so we can laugh at him.
In Archie Bunker's case, we would laugh at him because most of us thought that we were smarter than him, although I will also say that he also spoke the truth for some people. Some of things that he said were people's truths at time as we were changing and evolving in the United States.
I would propose to you that he was also a satirical character for us to look at ourselves as Americans to see where we've come from, where we're going, to ask the kinds of questions is this the kind of person I want to be, and if not, what kind of person do I want to be? He was presented to us in that particular way.
Now, the thing I thought also was very interesting about Archie Bunker was that he had a son-in-law that would actually try to bring him real information. Archie would say something crazy over here and his son-in-law would say "No, Arch. This is how it is for real." He would give him statistics or data about something.
What was Archie's response to that data, that information?
Male Audience Member: "Shut up, meathead."Andre: "Shut up, meathead." He'd call him names. He'd try to embarrass him, make fun of him. That information would go in one ear and out the other. It was like water off of a duck's back. It just didn't stick. I don't know if you've had conversations with bigots before. I know that I have and I've tried to bring them information. Guess what I found? The same thing happens.Female Audience Member: They can't hear you.Andre: They can't hear me. It's so funny because I'm a logical person so I try to take them down this logical path and they say, "Well, that doesn't make sense because of this or this." And, I say, "Well, what about this or this?" "Well, that doesn't make sense either." Then finally, they get to a point where they get so frustrated then say, "Well, I don't even care what is says, this is how I feel. This is just me." When people tell you stuff, listen because that helped me figure out how to work with bigots and bigotry. I thought that my talking at them, I thought that my giving them information was actually going to do some help, do some worth, do some good when in fact, it didn't until I figured out what does.
Bigotry, and I want you to write this down somewhere. If you have space on something, just write down bigotry is an emotional state.
If I have a bigot in my life, they will not be moved by information. What will they be moved by?
Female Audience Member: Emotions.Andre: Emotions. What is the most powerful emotion to help somebody move? Sounds hokey, say it.Male Audience Member: Love.Andre: Love. Think about yourself. When you were in love with someone, there were some things that you did that you wouldn't normally do because you were in love, right? So, bigotry is an emotional state.
Prejudice. What is prejudice? How does one define prejudice? How do you define prejudice?
Female Audience Member: Judgmental.Andre: To be judgmental, prejudice.Male Audience Member: It's not judgmental, it's pre-judgmental.Andre: It's pre-judgmental.Male Audience Member: Before you know the person.Andre: Before you know the person.Male Audience Member: You assume certain characteristics.Andre: You assume certain characteristics, certain plans. You've even mapped out your relationship with that person before you've really gotten to know them. Is prejudice good or bad?Female Audience Member: I think it depends.Andre: It depends?Female Audience Member: It seems to be more bad than good.Andre: It seems to be more bad than good.Female Audience Member: Yes.Andre: OK, cool. I'm walking down the street. It's 11:00 at night. There are five guys walking toward me. What decision do I make?Male Audience Member: Cross the street.Andre: I cross the street. [laughter]
Female Audience Member: Because there's one of you and five of them.Andre: There's one of me and five of them and I have prejudged the situation. I have been prejudice. You would in that context that that was what kind of decision?Female Audience Member: Rational?Andre: A smart, a safe, a rational, a good decision. I saw five guys, I made that decision, I'm going to cross the street and you would say that's a good decision in that context. The problem with prejudice and prejudice people is that they take things out of context and try to apply it to every area of their life and so it looks kind of like this, right? So, in the context crossing the street when five guys were approaching me makes sense.
Now I'm in a different context and I'm at the Mall of America. I'm walking down the aisle. There are five guys approaching me. Using that same logic that I used on the street, what decision would I make?
Male Audience Member: Don't look them in the eyes, go down different aisle.Andre: I'm going to walk down a different aisle. I'm not going to look them in the eyes, I'm going to change my direction. The problem is, at the mall what happens when I change direction?Female Audience Member: There are five more guys over there.Andre: There are five more people over there. Now I've got turn around over here and now what do I see? Five other people. What prejudice people don't remember or they often forget is that whatever decision they make in that context may have made sense, but you don't live your life by the exceptions, you live your life by the rules of law.
Prejudice is a thought.
Bigotry is an emotional state, prejudice is a thought which means that discrimination is, in fact, what?
Male Audience Member: An action.Andre: An action. We can measure that action. We have rules around what are appropriate actions and not appropriate actions. What we have is a mathematical equation here that bigotry plus prejudice equals discrimination.
What we've done as a society is we've said we don't want any discrimination so we're just going to beat discrimination out of people.
For example, I was in a training and a woman stands up and she says, "Andre, I want to know why all the people of color are moving into my neighborhood." How do you think that audience responded?
Male Audience Member: What?Andre: Yeah, they were like "ooooh." Why did they go "oooh?"Male Audience Member: Possible someone actually standing up and saying it?Andre: They're not used to somebody actually stepping up and saying it. What else? You're not supposed to say colored. You're not supposed to say that in public. You say that around your friends. [laughter]
But, society has trained us to say when we see that discrimination, "Don't say that." "Bad person." "I'm going to slap your hand anytime you do this." The problem is that we end up creating something kind of like political correctness where people don't say the wrong thing because they don't want to get their hands slapped. But, what hasn't changed about them?
Female Audience Member: Their thinking.Andre: The way they think and the way they feel is still the same. This is why this becomes important. I know that you've been on a telephone call with someone or cell phone or whatever they're called now, and you're talking to them and you know when they're smiling. Has that ever happened? You know that they're smiling. You're not seeing them, they're not close to you, but you know that they're smiling.
You can act any kind of way that you want but people know what's in your heart and what's in your thoughts just like they know if you're smiling on the phone. People try to say, "Well, I'm not like that," blah, blah, blah, and they say that in public and we see what happens in their private lives and they're a mess. They're a mess.
What I would submit to you is that we're all doing the best that we can. That is not enough. We have to do more. We'll talk more about that in just a second.
Are there any comments or observations about these concepts? Does this make sense? Am I too far out there? What are your thoughts?
Female Audience Member: Makes sense.Male Audience Member: Makes sense.Andre: It makes sense?Female Audience Member: Mm-hmm.Andre: OK, cool, cool. I didn't want to lose you. [singingly] I don't want to lose you now, don't want to lose you now.Male Audience Member: I guarantee you won't lose me now.Andre: OK. We're moved.Male Audience Member: That's all that matters.Andre: Here are some truths about people. People can learn change and grow. Who I am today is not who I was at 17, right? Thank God for that. I've adapted to the world. I've learned a lot of things. I can experience new things and old things in different ways. We can always learn change and grow. At any point we stop believing that about people, it's time for us to stop doing whatever it is that we're doing. As teachers, this is what we know to be true which is why we engage folks.
All of human behavior is goal directed which means that people do things because they're trying to get something.
Andre's purpose is to reconnect people to their Dignity and Honor in Being Human.