June 29, 2013
(CNN) -- Once a racist, always a racist? Will bigots always be bigots?
Or can people truly evolve over time for the better? And if they do, should we applaud their metamorphosis and welcome them back?
The easy answer -- as we are seeing with Paula Deen -- is to quickly label the person a racist for past insensitive remarks and cast her out to the fringes of society. But that's not the best answer for our nation.
I say this as a person who been called racist slurs on numerous occasions. I'm of Arab heritage. I have an inbox full of e-mails from people calling me things like "sand n----" or telling me "Go back to where you are from." (Which, I should note, is New Jersey).
I'm also a Muslim, and I don't even want to describe here the litany of hate-filled insults that have been directed at our community and myself. The worst part is that these slurs don't come just from ignorant bigots who can easily be dismissed, but often by elected officials and even religious leaders.
But I will say this -- if a person who had called me a "sand n----" later expressed remorse and sincerely explained that they now understand it was hateful and wrong, I wouldn't respond with: "Too bad, you're a bigot for life."
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't invite them over for dinner, either. However, I would cautiously applaud their change of heart and hope to see it evidenced by not just an apology, but by deeds as well.
And I would do this not just because they did the right thing by me, but also because they did the right thing by our society. They were evolving for the better and this in turn makes us a better nation.
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(CNN) -- If someone today argued for laws to legally bar interracial marriage that person would universally be labeled a bigot.
But in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, 73% of Americans still supported them. Did that mean that more than 70% of Americans at that time were bigots? No. But there certainly came a time that you were one if you continued advocating for such discriminatory laws.
Are we at that point yet with gay marriage? Is it fair to label a person a bigot simply for arguing that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?
That's the first issue we discussed in Episode 2 of the new weekly CNN Radio podcast "The Big Three," co-hosted by CNN opinion contributors Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and myself. Each week we look at three big issues making news. (For those catching up, our first episode is here.)
To listen to this episode of "The Big Three," click on the Soundcloud audio player on this page. Or you can find us on iTunes.
In the new episode, here are the three topics we chose to discuss/fight/yell/joke about:
1. Are you a bigot if you oppose gay marriage? Margaret Hoover raised the issue of whether we throw the word "bigot" around too quickly. She also posed the thought-provoking question: Would we would have called President Obama a bigot a year ago before he embraced marriage equality?
My response is "Yes" with an asterisk. The asterisk being that I won't yet call anyone who opposes marriage equality a bigot simply because they believe marriage should be between a man and woman. (If you demonize gays, than I will call you one now.) But in time, that label will be accurate for those who continue to advocate discrimination. John Avlon, being the centrist that he is, made a very fair point that this is a process and it will take time.
To continue reading or to hear the podcast please click HERE to go to CNN.com