As all 90s babies did, I grew up assuming the world had been fixed. Homophobia, racism, religious intolerance ... they were part of the past, weren't they? Like shoulder pads, fluoro and thinking brown was an excellent colour for decorating.
Wrong. A YouGov survey in England found nearly half of the population agreed with one of four anti-Semitic statements. Anti-Semitism lives in the UK.
When I read this, I sighed comfortably and thought 'thank God that doesn't happen here.' And then memories floated to mind.
Once, when on a road trip, we passed a cop.
As we passed, the guy in the seat next to me shouted, "f****** Jewish c***!" at the cop.
At that point, I thought it would be pertinent to point out I had Jewish family. There followed the most exquisite silence. If I'd announced that I intended to braid his pubic hair I'd have created a less awkward moment.
Yes, I have Jewish family. I'm not Jewish myself; my aunt, uncle and cousins are. Mum's sister converted to Judaism when she married my uncle. Growing up, it wasn't something that I paid much attention to. They were Jewish. My brother's a devout Catholic, Mum was an Anglican preacher, and Dad's a Dawkins disciple.
If my aunt uses two different sinks for washing up, who cared?
Because I never thought being Jewish was weird, the first time I heard an anti-Semitic statement I was amazed. A friend at school turned to me and said: "Some Jew just bashed my car."
I was getting ready to be filled with righteous anger. But something stopped me. This was a lovely girl, who was kind, tolerant and intelligent. What she'd said was lazy, offensive and anti-Semitic. There was a huge disconnect between who she was and the things she said.
I knew if she met my aunt and uncle, she'd think that they were wonderful.
So why was this sweet, sensitive girl speaking such bilge?
I think we're all guilty of it. Not specifically anti-Semitism, but repeating offensive statements that we don't mean.
Have you ever heard someone say something lame is "so gay!" Or call a girl someone's bitch?
People who say this aren't necessarily racists, homophobes or sexist pigs. They can be tolerant, nice people, with Jewish friends and gay siblings. They are just thoughtlessly repeating dumb, offensive stuff.
You saw it with John Key and the "gay red shirt". Is he a homophobe? Would he refuse to talk to gay people? Probably not. He's probably got gay friends. He's just parroting common, homophobic phrases.
Because when you get down to it, most people don't wake up in the morning thinking, "what can I do to batter suppressed minority viewpoints today? Maybe I'll call the Klan ..." Some do.
They call people Jews, or fags, with deep, inflexible venom. These people deserve all the scorn, disgust and censure you can spit at them.
But most humans just repeat disgusting phrases, which don't reflect how they feel. It doesn't make it okay to say this kind of thing. No one should be using "Jew" as an insult. But we know that.
The worrying part is that our regurgitation of thoughtless comments shows that humans are not rational, logical supermen.
We think we are. Especially us left-wing tofu types, who are very, very good at enjoying our sense of moral superiority.
But poisonous phrases creep into everyone's vocabulary.
I had a harrowing experience yesterday when I called someone a slut. Then I realised that I believe in women wearing what they want, doing what they want and shagging who they want. Well done, Verity.
Right now, Islamophobia threatens, multiculturalism flails and tolerance looks like it could do with a stiff drink.
This leaves humans, in our dazzling capacity to bleat thoughtless crap, open to absorbing dialogues of fear and prejudice.
Even if we think we're above it, our everyday language shows that we are very vulnerable.
We need to question what we're hearing and what we're saying.
Because there's nothing prejudice likes more than lazy thinking.