People hide their bigotry to avoid consequences. A growing trend is the cloaking of prejudice and bias disguised as “choice.” Learn how to spot it and expose the hidden agendas behind this tactic.
Saying that all choices are the same is a way to hide bias and prejudice. Many people get away with it because people don’t expose this tactic. It is a way to cloak bigotry and harmful intent as a seemingly neutral premise. Let’s look at how this works so you can spot the tactic. It would be best to learn why this is a dangerous slippery slope.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ―
Hiding Prejudice in Plain Sight
A choice (1) is a decision with a range of differing implications. We must make a choice when there is more than one option. We make several choices in the course of our everyday activities. Most of these daily choices are significant for the absence of harmful effects.
“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.” ― Kofi Annan
However, many decisions have intended and unintended consequences. Many choices have ethical or moral implications. So, all our decision-making needs to involve discretion. For instance, when deciding which vegetable to eat would generally be a neutral choice. That is, as long as the decision does not have a harmful outcome.
But, if you steal a vegetable, this has a harmful effect. Stealing harms the person who owns the vegetables. Theft is not a choice without negative ethical consequences. On the other hand, if you take vegetables from your garden, then the decision is likely neutral, maybe even favorable. We need to recognize that our choices have a range of consequences, from neutral and benign to harmful and destructive.
Negative Bias and Prejudice
On the surface, Prejudice (2) appears similar to the concept of choice. It’s a decision between several options. However, decisions made with underlying negative prejudice result in harmful outcomes which may not be immediately apparent. The underlying prejudice creates a negative impact. It takes on several forms of discrimination, such as gender, ethnic, and racial bias. It could also incite physical harm and justify violence.
“The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive … but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.” ― Mark Twain
Just because you don’t intend to cause harm doesn’t excuse you from your participation in activities that do cause harm. Hiding prejudice in plain sight has become a common practice. It shifts the moral implications to someone or something else. But lack of intent does not reduce the effects of negative bias and prejudice.
So, it is logical to conclude that prejudice is the root of harmful intent. The intent of our decisions is part of the fabric of our worldview. If you have a worldview with a negative bias, it will show up in your choices. Furthermore, the underlying intent becomes your rationale for making value judgments. It is how prejudice becomes a rational neutral choice. The value judgment of the worldview promotes discrimination. And, people with this mindset rarely realize they are doing this. It becomes an excuse for bigotry disguised as an “innocent decision.”
Choice and prejudice differ in the same way discretion and discrimination differ. Discretion is a decision with a neutral effect. For instance, deciding what vegetable eat is a routine decision. This type of choice is absent harmful prejudice. In comparison, discrimination is a choice with an adverse impact, even if the effects are unintentional. Both biases come from a worldview that promotes this confusion. Prejudice results in decisions with harmful outcomes. It may seem semantics, but the results differ like night and day. Bigotry is always a poor choice.
Bias Disguised as Choice
Hopefully, you can see how choice and prejudice differ. To spot this tactic’s use, you need to identify the decision’s intent. Delve into the premise of the argument. One way to spot prejudice hiding as a neutral choice is the lack of clarity in the purpose. Ask these questions:
- Do they tell you why this choice is correct?
- Is the outcome of the decision neutral, or does it result in harmful effects?
- Is the actual motive bias disguised as choice?
- Does the decision reveal negative prejudice against any person or group (gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference)?
In the final analysis, it’s wrong to promote a premise with discriminatory intent as a neutral choice. A logical argument needs to contain valid propositions. Also, a choice that results in harmful outcomes is a breach of ethics. Harming others is always wrong. Typical mistakes reveal a lack of knowledge or attention. But the harm caused by prejudice is a decision based on a skewed value system. Unless, of course, you think prejudice, discrimination, and bias are okay. If that’s the case, then that’s the problem.
Don’t allow people to get away with hiding prejudice in plain sight. Call them on it. Let them know what you see.
Harmful results are the product of a worldview colored by prejudice. So, the obvious question is, what creates a worldview built on prejudice? Bias is at the root of extremist ideology and hate. It’s a slippery slope you should try to avoid.
“Because you didn’t come here to make the choice, you’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand *why* you made it. I thought you’d have figured that out by now.” — The Oracle from The Matrix
Cloaking Prejudice As A Simple Choice
As mentioned above, confusing choice with prejudice creates a slippery slope. You’ve likely made decisions that have some bias. Now we want you to see why. That’s the only way you stop doing it. Most people believe their choices are correct. People use the underlying bias of their worldview to justify their choices.
“Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.” ― Michael Crichton, State of Fear
Not surprisingly, religions and political entities use these tactics. In this way, they can justify harmful behavior from war and genocide to gender mutilation. They accomplish this through a brainwashing technique known as groupthink manipulation. It’s the cultural programming tool of choice. That’s because it enables them to program values and prejudices that support their perspective. That’s because bias is one of the main enemies of progress.
Sadly, many submit to this programming. As a result, people can believe harmful prejudice is correct because it comes from a source they trust. However, their trusted source can use “false” premises that result in antisocial and even violent behavior. Sometimes people will argue all decisions are choices regardless of intent or outcome. It’s an attempt to hide prejudice and bias. Don’t let them fool you with this smokescreen. Point out how the results differ. Hate and bigotry are always harmful.
Here’s how this issue comes up. For example, your religious leader asks for support of a health policy that affects the community. However, it’s really about excluding treatment for certain people. The exclusion would be harmful. It creates an ethical dilemma. If you go along, supporting a destructive act. Or, do you reject this policy? Abandoning this policy would go against the wishes of your religious leader. If you do this, you risk losing membership or worse. What do you do?
Confusing choice with prejudice is a tactic you need to avoid. It’s a misuse of an argument with the power to distort logic and values. “Bias disguised as choice” is a smokescreen to cover discrimination. Here are some practical things you can do to minimize or eliminate this from being a part of your thinking.
Stop watching news cloaked as religious programming. Stop supporting organized religion. Both are sources of groupthink manipulation tactics. These mind control methods promote an emotional response, promote biased and prejudiced thinking. Remember, hate isn’t a neutral choice. It is a decision based on bias and prejudice that has harmful consequences.
Don’t allow people to get away with this tactic. Point out how their seemingly innocent choice is hiding prejudice in plain sight.
“Privilege is when you contribute to the oppression of others and then claim that you are the one being discriminated against.” ― DaShanne Stokes
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(1) Choice definition, merriam-webster.com/dictionary/choice
(2) Prejudice definition, merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prejudice
(3) Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia