I don't like Gay people.
I don't like black people.
I don't like Asian people or anyone who isn't of the same ethnicity as me.
I believe women should stay in the kitchen and not have the same, equal rights as men.
Those are all opinions. Albeit they are all opinions I, and likely you, disagree with. I don't hold any of those opinions myself. But some people do. And that's bad. Right?
Is it bad to hold an unpopular or negative or offensive opinion? Everyone holds negative, offensive and unpopular opinions. So why if you hold one of the opinions listed above are you crucified by not only society but also, in many cases, the law as well?
Opinions are personal to you. You can't 'prove' someone has a particular opinion except if they do or say something that backs up what you think they think. Or they admit it.
What's more, something is never controversial until you make it controversial. The topic of Religion, rape and Politics are not controversial. South Park is not controversial. Nothing is controversial. Not until someone says 'that's controversial'.
Politics, Religion and rape and, hell, let's throw abortion in there too, are all sensitive issues. Sensitive from the point of view that someone is likely to get offended if you talk about them. And it's because of these people that get offended that things are classed as 'controversial'. Nothing ever begins as controversy. It only becomes it when people say so.
It's OK to hold the opinion that a woman shouldn't be able to have an abortion and vice versa. It's OK to hate Religion and be an atheist. It's even socially acceptable to not associate with Religious people. Just like it's acceptable not to associate with people with different political views to you.
However pushing someone out of a conversation and ignoring them because they themselves support a different political party to you or believe in God and the Bible is still discrimination. But that's OK.
If you push a black person out of a conversation and ignore them, that too is discrimination. But that's not OK. In fact, you might get arrested over it.
It's OK to hate people and oppose people's beliefs and views to the point of hating them. But that's also not OK.
You can't 'hate' Jewish people because they're Jewish. You can't hate black, Asian or any people that are different from your ethnicity. You can't hate homosexuals. You can't not believe in women having equal rights. You can believe and have these opinions inside your mind, but socially and lawfully they are unacceptable. You'll get in legal trouble for having these opinions most of the time, so it's not just the social side you have to worry about. That's only if you make them public of course.
So why can't you hold these offensive, unpopular and what many would class as 'bad' opinions? Especially if you can already hold opinions of equivalent negativity about other things?
Obviously abuse is a good factor to consider. Verbal or physical abuse is not really ever tolerated by society. Shouting abuse at black people, gay people and women is something you will be punished for. Physically hurting another person due to their sexual orientation, skin colour or gender is also something regarded with high disgust. And understandably too.
But that's too much of an obvious reason why these offensive opinions don't stand in todays world. What about if you ultimately keep them to yourself and only let your true opinions be known when they become relevant? What if you don't shout abuse or hurt black or gay people but you simply don't like them and don't talk to them and avoid them at all costs? Why does society and the law still deem you a piece of dirt if you conduct yourself in this manor?
In todays society you can hate someone for anything, except their sexuality, gender, ethnicity and, in some cases (like Judaism) their Religious beliefs. You can hate someone for having a big nose. Or having an odd face. Or having weird hair. Or the fact they can be a bit 'random' and 'wacky'. So if common hate for things as shallow as someone's appearance is OK, why isn't hating someone for their sexuality or skin colour OK too? In the end, it's all opinion, right?
If you're at a party and a black person comes up to you and starts talking to you and you awkwardly end the conversation and say: "sorry, I just don't really like black people..." that's a bad thing. You haven't abused him, or even 'hurt his feelings', you've just said, straight, what your opinion is because it was relevant to your current situation.
|Not really relevant but a great picture.|
If the guy talking to you had a big nose and you said: "sorry I don't like people with big noses" that is OK. The guy may get upset over your discrimination against him due to his nose size, and he may complain to the host of the party, but what does he care? Get over it, dude, no one cares. Why do you even care about that one guy's opinion of your nose?
If you're not making a big deal out of your offensive opinion and you're not abusing anyone, then why does society and the law punish you? Why is it bad to say: "I don't like black people and I refuse to talk to them", but OK to say: "I hate people with different faces or noses or features because I'm super judgemental"? In other words, why are some opinions punished, but others not? And should all negative opinions be punished or should all opinions be allowed to stand, because, let's face it, an opinion doesn't even exist and in a way shouldn't - and isn't - a punishable offence even though, currently, it is.
I said at the beginning that you can't prove an opinion. Because they don't exist. They're in your mind. There's no evidence to suggest you think something, unless you have a mind reading machine. Even if you go around shouting from your car "Gays should die. I hate black people", when the police come to your door asking questions you can deny your opinion by simply saying: "I love Gay people and black people!". Ultimately you'll still be punished for your actions. Not your opinion. You'll be punished for shouting abusive, racist and homophobic things.
That said, even if you DO deny hating blacks or Gays, the fact you went around shouting that you DO hate them is enough for everyone to assume that you are racist and homophobic.
However, as I said earlier, it's not just your actions that are punished. What if you don't shout abuse? What if you walk into a shop and say "I hate blacks", when asked about what you think of Will Smith? The police would still have a word with you and despite not hurting or abusing anyone, you'd be in deep trouble.
There's many issues to do with how racism and homophobia and other, similar, forms of discrimination are dealt with in todays world. Toddlers are being classed as racist for saying to other black toddlers "you're chocolate coloured". This is ludicrous. Partly due to the fact that toddlers can't possibly understand the concept of proper racism at that age and also because they're getting punished for stating the obvious. I'm white and my skin is ice-cream coloured. You're black and your skin is chocolate coloured. A colour is a colour. It is neutral. It is not something exclusive to people's skin. It is everywhere. Colour is in everything. So why is drawing comparisons between colour suddenly bad? Why is saying "you're black and your skin is the same colour as my table at home" now deemed racist? Comparisons can be drawn between ANY colours and, in fact, ANTHING.
And anyway, it's all about intent, right? If you mean something in a nasty way, then you mean it in a nasty way and should be punished accordingly. If you mean something in a funny or friendly way and mean no harm, then you're not really being offensive or horrible.
But enough of that digression. The original questions stand.
Why is it OK to think some offensive and bad opinions but not OK to think others? And should people be punished for holding certain offensive opinions anyway?
Arguably Ricky Gervais' famous quote is relevant here:
"My right to offend. Your right to be offended."
It's important to note that I do not hold ANY of the offensive opinions stated in this article. I don't want there to be any confusion here. I did not write this because I am actually racist or homophobic (I am bisexual myself). I wrote this because I was just thinking of opinions and how people are punished for thinking and believing certain things, even if they don't hurt or abuse anyone. I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments section!
Another article regarding racism that you might like: Variety In Race (A Question Of Racism)