Senate President Harry Reid is the latest big-name personality to prove he has the IQ of a mushroom by stepping up to a microphone and putting his racial bias on display for the world to see. It never ceases to amaze me that bigots can be so dumb, but then perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised since bigotry itself is such a dumb concept. Think about it. Bigots believe they are better than other people on the basis of inherited characteristics, and in most cases the delineating characteristic is race. The bigot’s feelings of superiority are based wholly on considerations other than merit. Bigots believe they are special because they were born into a certain race and that others of a different race are somehow lesser beings. Ironically, people of another race can be smarter, better educated, and more successful than the bigot, yet he will still view them as lesser beings.

Bigots think of people not as individuals, but as members of racial groups as if they somehow lack individual personalities, attitudes, aptitudes, motivations, ambitions, and characters. This unfortunate tendency explains the stereotypical comments from America’s Senate President while speaking to an audience of Asian Americans recently. Frankly, Harry Reid is fortunate that: 1) His audience was not black, 2) the Asian audience was forgiving and willing to rise above his bigoted comments, and 3) He is a Democrat and, therefore, given a pass by the mainstream media—a pass no Republican would receive. One member of the audience, asked to comment on Reid’s statements, simply shrugged and said, “We have heard these kinds of comments all of our lives. We just ignore them.” This magnanimous response, though commendable, hardly excuses Harry Reid for perpetuating racial stereotypes. He is, after all, President of the United States Senate.

I have never understood where the type of thinking Harry Reid displayed comes from, but I suspect it can be traced to feelings of inferiority on the part of bigots. Any individual who needs to feel superior to others to stroke his own self-esteem is dealing with some deep-seated inferiority issues. I learned as a child not to view people as special on the basis of the circumstances of their birth. An elementary school teacher I remember with fondness used to tell her young charges that special is as special does, meaning that people are not inherently superior to each other. Rather, we make ourselves special by what we do in life, what we accomplish, and what we contribute to the betterment of society. To this kind and wise women who taught hundreds of elementary school children, a special person was one who did the best he could with whatever gifts God gave him and, then, tried to make life a little better for those around him.

Just being born into a certain race hardly makes one special. Pick a race—any race—and I can show you people of high achievement and important societal contributions who are of that race; in other words, special people. I can also show you members of the same race who don’t deserve the oxygen they breathe. This said here is some advice for Harry Reid and other bigots. Learn this simple lesson I was taught in grade school: People are like ice-cream. They come in a lot of different flavors, all of them good. For those who try to refute this folksy but wise maxim by claiming there are bad people in the world, I respond: “Of course there are bad people in the world. I am no Pollyanna, nor was the dear old teacher who taught me this lesson.” There are bad people in the world—people of every race—but bad people are bad not because of their race but because of their character, or better said their lack of character.

This same teacher also taught me and the other young desperados in her care that we had no right to get all puffed up about things we did not do and over which we had no control. She was explicit and unrelenting in making the case that race is one of these things (and this was in the 1950s in the Deep South). People do not choose their race. Race is assigned by God. Further, there is nothing in God’s Word to suggest that one race is any better than another. People are equal in the eyes of God—we are all sinners. What makes people special or less so is how they live their lives and if they do the best they can with what they’ve got. This was an important lesson for a class of youngsters growing up during some of the worst years of Jim Crow.

Too bad Harry Reid never had the benefit of studying under this teacher. If he had, here are some other lessons he would have learned and, in turn, benefitted from: 1) View people as individuals, not as members of racial groups; 2) Judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin; and 3) Rid yourself of the belief that being different from you makes other people wrong or bad. Finally, one more piece of advice for Harry Reid and others who are prone to opening their mouths and inserting their feet: If you cannot rein in your racial prejudices, at least learn to keep your mouth shut. Your pathetic after-the-fact apologies are irritating.