Gordy’s recent gaff comes at something of a timely moment for me, having recently been accused of bigotry myself.
The OED definition of bigoted is thus: having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance towards the opinions of others.
Mrs Duffy’s question, regarding “them Eastern Europeans” certainly displayed a level of ignorance, but did it reveal bigotry? I think it’s fairly obvious who the true bigot in this situation really was.
You have to feel a level of sympathy for Gordy here, but I think it is important as it reveals the gaping chasm between private and public persona at a time when politicians are desperately attempting to re-install a sense of trust in them, all of them attempting to play the trustworthy card. How are we able to trust a politician who is so dismissive and indeed disrespectful towards one of his faithful voters? Given he’d actually handled the situation fairly deftly, his remark that the encounter was “disastrous” displayed a level of insecurity and lack of awareness. Is this a quality that we want in our prime minister?
Mrs Duffy was not a bigot in that she displayed no belief in the superiority of her own beliefs, nor did she show any sort of intolerance. Gordy on the other hand, ironically displayed that very quality that he proclaimed to despise so much. By assuming that Mrs Duffy’s question arose from a deep-seated intolerance, as opposed to a genuine perceived concern, he displayed a disturbing prejudice all of his very own.
None of us know what motivated Mrs Duffy’s question. She might well be concerned about a perceived stretch in public services and creaking infrastructure which is unable to accommodate significant number of immigrants. Her concerns may or may not be valid. She could have a distrust of foreigners, the point is, her question inferred neither of these options. In the absence of evidence, I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt. To make assumptions about people, to ascribe them certain characteristics including intolerance because of who they are, where they come from, the colour of their skin and their religious beliefs – now that is prejudice.