To be bigoted is to be intolerant of other people’s beliefs, preferences and opinions.
Arguably, there is a difference between being a bigot and engaging in bigoted behaviour.
An individual we may wish to describe as bigoted would be someone who thinks in a bigoted fashion or engages in bigoted behaviour as the norm. It is part of their psychology to think and behave this way in most situations.
Whereas an individual to whom we may wish to attribute a bigoted action on a particular occasion, would not necessarily be described as a bigot generally.
It may be an isolated occurrence, a single unit of behaviour which would require a specific type of explanation relative to that occasion, rather than a manifestation of a wider behavioural pattern.
To engage in bigoted behaviour in the latter sense may be the most appropriate way of describing much of the behaviour witnessed at football games, during which opposing supporters engage in behaviour they would otherwise condemn or be embarrassed about.
Rather than categorise an individual as bigoted because he has been found to have engaged in illicit chanting, for example, it may be more appropriate to recognise that he is not generally a bigot, but has simply engaged in bigoted behaviour on this occasion.
In this sense, that individual’s bigoted behaviour may be described as irrational. It is neither logically consistent with his general background beliefs and attitudes, nor is it typical of how he would behave in other circumstances.
The causes of such types of behaviour vary. It is likely that an individual who has engaged in illicit chanting at a football match, but who would never contemplate intolerant disrespect of other people’s beliefs, culture or heritage outside of this occasion, would have experienced emotional triggers that elicited this type of response at that moment in time.
In order to understand bigoted behaviour of this type, we need to understand more about the emotional triggers and the seeming lack of control over the outward expression of these emotions.
There are times when the emotional triggers are heightened through intense excitement, disappointment or fear; other times they are heightened through intoxication; and at times it is simply about group-belonging.
It is not uncommon to get caught up in the moment. Whatever triggered the bigoted behaviour at the time, many individuals subsequently express regret about their behaviour once the source of their irrational response has abated or has been removed entirely.
In cases like this, bigotry at football is irrational. Oddly enough, there are many other individuals for whom such behaviour is the norm, and for whom bigoted behaviour would be perfectly rational in the sense that it would be logically consistent with their background beliefs, attitudes and wider behavioural patterns.
To engage in bigoted behaviour of any sort is wrong and may have devastating and unintended consequences; to be a bigoted individual in general is so much worse, and the consequences of their behaviour are typically intentional and justifiable in their own mind.
To remove bigotry from football games, it may be that you need to adopt a different type of approach, depending on the type of individual you are dealing with.
Dealing with individuals who have engaged in an irrational display of bigotry in the heat of the moment would require helping them rationalise the event and the context of their response at a later point, in the hope that they can learn how to break the causal links and associations that tend to trigger the behaviour.
Dealing with individuals whose lives are steeped in bigotry is a different case entirely.
It is not obvious how to undo the connections and associations, because in their mind they are watertight. They are completely logical, they have been reinforced time after time through the way they experience the world, and they sit consistently with the way they live their lives on a daily basis.
In fact, it may be the case that we just have to admit that such individuals are unlikely to change or be changed. Sadly, they may be lost causes in the fight against bigotry.
Only encouraging a complete shift in their framework of beliefs, emotions and attitudes could bring about the changes required. Only something akin to a total re-evaluation of the way they see the world is likely to have the desired effect.
The problem is such individuals would be unlikely to see this as necessary in the first place, because they do not see anything irrational or wrong in what they are doing.
In this sense, it could only be hoped that their influence is limited and that they do not infect others with their distorted and bigoted worldview.
It could only be hoped that there is sufficient knowledge and awareness in those around them, especially those of an impressionable age, that they do not inherit their bigotry.