The soft bigotry of low expectations

2009-09-11 16:31

Path: /Published/CityPress/2009/09/06/CP/Texts/maxbigot.xml Creator: system Last Modified by: system Print Chanal: CityPress Edition: CP Publication Date: 20090906 Section: Features Folio: Page Ref: 21 Book: Source: MethodeSOMETIMES even fools say things we can agree with or use. The first time I came

across the concept of “soft bigotry of low expectations”, it came from the mouth

of former US president George W Bush during his political campaign in 2000. I

thought it a profound summary of something that had bugged me for many years,

but I never wanted to use it because it was contaminated by that fool.

Now an

American friend of mine tells me not only did the phrase predate Bush by some

years, but it has subsequently been used by many progressive thinkers over

there. The New York Times, for instance, accused the US foreign affairs bosses

of soft bigotry for making excuses for the failings of the prime minister of

Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

That’s a relief. Now I can also use it without


For those who haven’t heard the phrase before, it means something like

“the inherent condescension in the assumption that a certain person or group

will not live up to the standards of others”.

I remember reading on the

website The Anonymous Liberal (oops, is my slip showing?) after the great debate

in October between the two vice-presidential candidates in the US, Sarah Palin

and Joe Biden, that Palin was getting much better ­reviews than she would have,

had she been a man. It was a clear case of soft bigotry of low expectations:

“Let’s face it. The press is holding her to a much lower standard for fear of

being called sexist by ­Republicans. Dan Quayle did much better than Palin did

in his 1988 ­debate and he didn’t get nearly the praise she has.”

A South

African example: You would be guilty of soft bigotry of low expectations in

South Africa if you lowered the standards ­required for black learners to pass,

or lowered the minimum requirements for black students for ­entrance to

­university, because you actually think they are not as clever as white

students. Or if you say we should not condemn those striking ­municipal ­workers

who trash everything in sight, then you’re a soft bigot. You wouldn’t say the

same of white workers if they behaved like that, now would you?

I find the

ANC’s decision to make that political thug Badih Chaaban, of the alleged

National People’s Party, the mayor of the Cape Winelands District, and to make

political deals with that other Western Cape thug who was caught on camera

making lewd suggestions to underage girls, Truman Prince, cases of the soft

­bigotry of low expectations. To my mind, these decisions say we should lower

our standards when we deal with “coloured” people. (Are they forgetting that

Barack Obama is technically “coloured”?)

I will accuse of soft bigotry anyone

who makes any excuse for the tomfoolery and corruption of ANC Youth League

leaders. At the same time, I found Julius Malema’s sweet words after his visit

to the white homeland of Orania, shortly before the April elections, to be soft

bigotry of low expectations. He ­presupposed that Afrikaners were ­genetically

programmed to be ugly racists who beat up black people. When they gave to him

instead, he felt he had to praise them.

Join in the fun: what would you call

examples of the soft bigotry of low expectations?

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