Suppose that a controversial issue arises in secular society. The majority viewpoint coalesces around opinion “A”, but you side with the minority by adhering to opinion “B”. Certainly, the majority opinion within sinful secular society, at any point in time, is not necessarily correct. And that opinion may change from time to time. But before we consider what the issue may be in a particular case, we have to admit, in general, that either side might be wrong. Neither the majority nor the minority point of view is necessarily correct, merely because it is in the majority or minority. And the same can be said for liberal opinions versus conservative opinions on any issue. Neither liberalism nor conservatism is infallible.
But nowadays, the majority opinion on any controversial issue is being treated as if it were absolute infallible truth. Even if the same opinion were in the minority less than 10 years ago, people speak and act as if no reasonable and caring person could possibly disagree. No philosophical or scholarly argument is offered to support the majority opinion. Once it is accepted by enough persons, it is treated as if it were an obvious truth. All who disagree must be either uncaring or unintelligent. An now here is my main point in this post: all who disagree are treated with contempt.
What does this have to do with racism? According to Catholic teaching, racism is gravely immoral and intrinsically evil. As an intrinsically evil act, racism is always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances. As a gravely immoral act, racism is deserving of severe condemnation. It is never moral to choose to commit an act of racism.
However, I would keep the definition of racism narrow, such that an unconscious bias based on race would be wrong, but not a type of racism, strictly speaking. Racism is a deliberate choice to hate another human person based on their race or ethnicity.
When racism against a particular group is accepted in a sinful society, it becomes socially acceptable to express hatred for persons of that group. It becomes socially acceptable to treat the members of that group with ridicule, contempt, and malice, openly, even very publically. Of course, if you choose true hatred for another human person based on some other consideration, it is still a grave sin, even if it is not called racism. So racism is essentially one type of hatred.
In modern-day society, it has become socially acceptable to hate persons who hold the minority opinion on any controversial socio-political issue. This socially-approved hatred is similar to racism, except that the hated group is not defined by race, but by their chosen opinion on a particular topic.
The issue of gay marriage (same-sex marriage) is a case in point. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2004, 60% of Americans opposed legalized same-sex marriage; 31% were in favor. In 2008, 51% opposed and 37% favored same-sex marriage — a 14% difference. In 2011, there was only a 1% difference, with those favoring same-sex marriage holding a slim majority for the first time: 46 to 45%. Pew Research has the numbers for 2013 at 50% in favor, and 43% opposed. However, a 2013 study by a team of researchers from Ohio State and Boston Universities found only 23% opposed to legalized same-sex marriage.
The character of the public discussion on this issue has changed since the pro-gay marriage side became the majority view. It is now common to find public assertions that gay-marriage is a right, and that anyone who opposes legalized same-sex marriage is “homophobic” or “a bigot” or other derogatory words and phrases. The pro-gay marriage view is often presented as if it were an absolute truth, which no intelligent and caring person could oppose. Yet only a few years ago, 60% of Americans opposed gay marriage. This suggests that a significant portion of Americans changed their views. Were they unintelligent and uncaring until the last few years? No. There are intelligent and caring persons on both sides of this issue.
On the issue of homosexuality, slurs against gay persons are rightly rejected by society. But then why are slurs socially acceptable, at this point in time, against anyone who opposes legalized same-sex marriage? This type of verbal mistreatment should not be acceptable toward anyone. Catholics are sometimes the recipient of these types of slurs, because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex marriage is not a true type of marriage. It is not a natural marriage; and a valid Sacrament of Marriage is not possible when the spouses are the same gender. My view on this issue is the same as the teaching of the Church. But I oppose the mistreatment of persons on either side of the issue; we should not have contempt or hatred for any human persons, regardless of their beliefs on controversial issues.
Other issues see the same type of process, whereby the majority view is treated as absolute and unquestionable truth, and those who hold the minority opinion are ridiculed and denigrated. Then, too, whenever there is strong polarization on any issue, any moderate position is treated with contempt by both sides. This happens among liberal and conservative Catholics, where each side treats the other with contempt. Yet it is manifestly unchristian to treat any human person with ridicule or contempt or hatred, regardless of their beliefs or opinions. Jesus would not approve of hatred for any reason. A sound philosophical or theological argument might be accompanied by some rhetorical expressions. But any true malice directed at anyone crosses a line; and it’s not a fine line.
I view hatred against any group of human persons, whatever their (alleged) flaws may be, as in the same category as racism, as a type of unjust, inherently gravely immoral, hatred for one’s fellow man. Society should reject hatred of persons who hold the minority point of view on a controversial issue just as it should reject all racism.