Bigotry as pack mentality

The word miscegenation was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War.

teens1When I linked to a couple articles about obvious signs of bigotry, my friend Chris wrote: “Holy 1952, Batman! What’s up with all the crazy racism stories? Are they more prevalent or are they being reported more?”

Well, yes. Both, I would assert.

At the same time, I’ve come up with a theory. There was a period that bigotry, at least in the public forum, was considered impolite, inappropriate, untoward. What changed is that people have been able to more easily find like-minded folks online. In other words, bigotry as pack mentality.

So, if Malia Obama is going to Harvard — but is taking a year off first, that’s a rather benign story. But the racial vulgarity that appeared in comments in the FOX News, just-as-tame, report, was a torrent that forced FOX to disallow comments altogether.

Old Navy tweeted a picture of an interracial family and Twitter is inflamed in racist blather. It echoes the 2013 Cheerios TV commercial generated Sturm und Drang in numbers so great that the General Mills website likewise had to forego comments.

I contend that a “lone wolf” bigot, being shouted down by other readers, might give up. But when he finds like-minded allies, this emboldens the bigot to spew vile, knowing that at least some others will also take up the cause.

One of the comments in the Old Navy story made reference to the word miscegenation, a rather old-fashioned term:

Miscegenation comes from the Latin miscere, “to mix” and genus, “kind”. The word was coined in the U.S. in 1863, and the etymology of the word is tied up with political conflicts during the American Civil War over the abolition of slavery and over the racial segregation of African-Americans. The reference to genus was made to emphasize the supposedly distinct biological differences between whites and non-whites…

The word was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War. The pamphlet was entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro. It purported to advocate the intermarriage of whites and blacks until they were indistinguishably mixed, as a desirable goal, and further asserted that this was the goal of the Republican Party. The pamphlet was a hoax, concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them what were then radical views that offended against the attitudes of the vast majority of whites, including those who opposed slavery…

Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax…

By then, the word miscegenation had entered the common language of the day as a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. The issue of miscegenation, raised by the opponents of Abraham Lincoln, featured prominently in the election campaign of 1864.

In the United States, miscegenation has referred primarily to the intermarriage between whites and non-whites, especially blacks.

Before the publication of Miscegenation, the word amalgamation, borrowed from metallurgy, had been in use as a general term for ethnic and racial intermixing.

Of course, President Obama is the child of a white mother and a black father. For a time, I think that partially insulated him from the full blunt of bigotry. “His mom’s white; maybe he’ll be all right.” But once he showed that he actually expressed the feelings many blacks in America experience, he had his “half-white” card revoked.

Not all gatherings are online. Check out White Power Meets Business Casual: Inside the Effort to ‘Make White Nationalism Great Again’. “Trump, the engrossed crowd was told, intends to smash an oligarchic system ‘stacked’ against white America. The only way to break free from the system that blocks ordinary white Americans from fighting against the ‘disease’ of multiculturalism and the unilateral rule of the American elite is to get behind a candidate with tremendous cultural capital who is also capable of funding his own campaign in full.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Bigotry as pack mentality”

  1. I think it fits in with the larger human tendency of “cruelty as pack mentality,” or perhaps more subtly, “I’m gonna go along with the pack against this “outsider” because then they won’t treat me as an outsider”

    I saw this myself as a child: I was usually the “outsider” (a combination of coming from a family with less money than the “norm” in my town and my being a little egghead who cried easily) but I can also remember, to my ongoing shame, that there was a girl even less popular than I was that I actually joined in somewhat on tormenting. I still wonder at that as an adult and the only explanation I have is that I maybe thought the cruelty of the mean girls would be deflected from me for a while. It was still wrong, which is why I am so horrified as an adult that I did it as a child.

    Sadly, I only see the pack mentality getting more so as we go forward.

    I dunno. I have too much to juggle in my day to day life to worry about what Malia Obama is doing in re: college or how Cheerios chooses to represent families in their ads.

  2. I think your hypothesis is strengthened by this comment from a guy I was briefly interested who wrote a conservative two page rant on Facebook at midnight that I called him on the next day:

    “The largest red flag though is that you read so much into Facebook . Facebook land isn’t real. It is a place for people to go and say what they want.”

    This “Internet land/ politics land isn’t real” mentality. I’m not sure what “real” means in this context, but I think he means that he wouldn’t do it face-to-face.

    It’s a bizarre kind of compartmentalization that is fueled by the online pack mentality you describe and I think it’s pretty dangerous.

  3. When I read about miscegenation I couldn’t help but hear the wonderful voice of Madelaine Bell and Blue Mink singing Melting Pot which I hope isn’t too frivolous given the subject matter. Because this sort of reaction is worrying on both sides of the Atlantic (viz the anti-semitic tendencies in out left-leaning parties for one)

    It will take a special breed of politician/statesman to bring the world to its senses. Sadly, Donald Trump and Vladamir Putin don’t inspire confidence in that department.

  4. “What changed is that people have been able to more easily find like-minded folks online. In other words, bigotry as pack mentality.”

    Yep. If you think you’re the only one with an idea, you tend to keep your mouth shut about it.

    I am starting to believe that the irritation factor of blatant fools like that varies with the square of their number: if there are half a dozen spouting nonsense — geez, what did Malia ever do to them? — it’s 36 times as annoying.

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