I see them more frequently than most of you do, I expect. There are psychiatric illnesses which interfere with one’s ability to apply filters between thoughts and statements, and others which prevent perceiving anything but the broadest outlines of a social situation. Manics blurt things out, schizophrenics have trouble understanding what parts of a situation are important.
Then there are the sociopaths, whether full-on or the lite version of drug user and minor criminal who has little empathy for others.
Put them all together and I get to hear people taunting “nigger,” “chink,” or the like all the time – or targeting others for reasons that look suspiciously racial, even if one can’t prove it. I hear people very off-handedly telling me that all the Dominicans in Nashua are drug dealers who don’t believe in sending their children to school. That sort of thing. Prejudice in the raw.
There’s an underlying cause I think is overlooked. To some personalities, it is mere weakness and vulnerability that activates their meanness. They don’t pick on a guy because he’s black, but because they are in an environment where they can count on more defense for themselves than for their target. If the target had been Vietnamese, no problem, no difference. Just someone to hate. I don’t know how much this overlaps with people who have prejudices as more traditionally understood, but I think it explains why some areas can flip so quickly. If the rate of social or government protection for a group changes, you take those equal-opportunity vicious people out of the equation immediately. They may not be numerous, but they have likely been a big part of the troubles to date. When the prison population reconfigures, or the National Guard protects kids going to school, or the police decide to press assault charges rather than just break up fights, the predators seek other prey. They may not have much hated black people to begin with – even though the racial slurs were full in their mouths for years – and they certainly haven’t mended their ways and decided to like them now. They just become Target D instead of Target A.
Sex offenders against juveniles – but not rapists of adults – are favorite targets for that reason. They do not have the history of fights and makeshift weapons and criminality of the rest of the prison population. They are (generally) soft. They do not have any natural defenders. A lot of ink has been spilled trying to understand why this particular set of crimes sets off convicts, and I don’t think much of it pertains. There are a lot of just-so stories here. They beat them up because they can. Sure it self-reinforces, a continual reminder of which guys no one is going to lift a finger to protect. But it’s the vulnerability.