The Sexuality Blog: Let’s explain why what happened this week was bigotry

by Chi Ibe

First, let’s take you through dictionary definitions:

According to Merriam-Webster, simple and full definitions:
1. Full Definition of bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

2. a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).

3. According to vocabulary.com

  • If a person is intolerant of other ideas, races, or religions, we call that person a bigot. The intolerance expressed by that bigot is called bigotry. Bigotry is ugly.

4. And Cambridge:

person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life.

      Intolerance of difference. Refusal to accept people for difference.

This week, Nigeria had a very useful debate.

A young man at the centre of a debate about sexuality (he has said he is not gay), Idris Okuneye (known as Bobrisky) was invited to a conference to speak about his specialty- social media engagement. In quick order, two important people pulled out of the conference – because of him.

Reason: his gender bending, cross dressing, according to one of them, “radicalized the conversation”.

LOL.

Let’s not talk about presidential adviser, Bashir Ahmad. That one doesn’t like trouble. He didn’t make any real defense of his decision. He just said his own and left the room. Made no value judgements. So it’s fine. Even if, his refusal in fact is the textbook definition of bigotry if it was based on religion.

bashir

You cannot debate a man who hasn’t made an argument.

The other party, however, made an intellectual case for its decision.

 

And it’s one that deserves to be engaged, because it gave the anti-Bobrisky, anti-minority wing of the argument a base from which to fly.

It even gave reasonable, non-prejudiced pause in thinking through the debate.

Understandable. But let’s reason together.

When bigoted people are accused of bigotry, the standard defense is any of these things: my values, taking a stand, or freedom of association. Bull crap.

Imagine someone saying ‘I won’t rent you my house because you are Igbo and my values don’t allow Igbos’ or ‘I won’t attend a conference with you because you are a woman, and according to my values, women are to be seen and not heard’.

Even though to be fair, many Lagos landlords, and even Nigeria’s president have said foolish things like this. Ideally (and we hope someone someday takes someone to court for this) in the first case, that landlord can be sued to court. In the second case, you guys should not have voted such a guy.

And if these are truly our values, then what little wonder our country is like this.

Let’s even try this one: Imagine someone says, I won’t give you a product or service because you are APC and I am PDP. The proper answer would be: Hey f__tard, you can’t do that.

That’s it. The whole point of bigotry, is refusing to treat a person as you would any other person because you disagree with that person on – difference.

The global standard is clear: you cannot discriminate against a person on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexuality.

Disagree with me, state that clearly, refuse to do what I am doing, or be how I am. Sure, go ahead. But you can’t deny me certain rights because of that, and you can’t question them – like Alder did when they questioned Bobrisky’s inclusion in a conference.

That means you may not like it, you may disagree with it, but you cannot refuse to engage as you would anyone else, because of that.

And ultimately this is not a question of freedom of association, it’s a question about humanity.

Sure, anyone has the RIGHT not to associate (it would be a different matter if they refused to provide a service to him because of this) with Bobrisky.

But does anyone have a morally and intellectually honest ground to do so based on a labeling, an otherness, a difference?

To shame him, to de-legitimize him?

Nah.

That’s what made this week so beautiful. Some Nigerians, stuck in the past, thought they could depend on a social consensus about acceptable bigotry, and could hide under the cloak of values to legitimise prejudice.

Many young Nigerians – on Twitter, on Instagram, on blog comments, and on Whatsapp – said ‘hell no’ to such nonsense.

And thus we have hope. In a future where difference is understood, come to terms with and ultimately welcomed.

And amen.

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