“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
All around the world, hate has become the norm. How do we stop the hate?
Bias is a human condition, and history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, politics or other characteristics. As a global community, we’ve made a lot of progress, but stereotyping and unequal treatment persist.
When bias morphs to an unlawful act, it is reckoned to be a hate crime. Most hate crimes are inspired by race and religion, but hate today wears many masks. Bias attitudes and events often tear communities apart.
Many hate crimes never get reported, in large part because the victims are reluctant to go to the police. In addition, many law enforcement agencies are not adequately trained to recognize or investigate hate crimes. Additionally, many victims simply do not report a hate crime to the authorities.
However, all over the world people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. Many times, when hate shows its face, good people rise up against it — often in larger numbers and with stronger voices to fight the hate.
Ways to Fight the Hate
We must act. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must act if we don’t want hate to persist.
Hate is an open attack on tolerance and acceptance. We must counter with acts of goodness. In the face of hate, silence can be deadly. Apathy will be interpreted as acceptance. If left unchallenged, hate will persist and grow.
Hate is an attack on a community’s health. Hate divides society along racial, ethnic, gender, and religious lines. Hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots.
Hate escalates. The very hint of hate must be taken seriously. Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence.
Team up with others who share a concern of the adverse effect that hate has on the community. Seek the help of community leaders and those with influence.
Others share your desire to fight against hate. Power comes with numbers. Asking for help and organizing a group reduces personal fear and vulnerability, spreads the workload, and increases creativity and impact. Coalitions can stand up to — and isolate — organized hate groups.
Support the victims. Victims of a hate crime are especially vulnerable.
If you’re a victim, report every incident to law enforcement and ask for their help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
Victims of hate crimes often feel alone and afraid. They have been attacked simply for being who they are. The silence of others in the community amplifies their isolation; it also appears to condone the act of hate. Victims need a strong, timely message that they are loved and valued from supportive community members.
Speak up. Hate must be exposed and denounced.
Do not debate members of a hate group in conflict-driven forums on the Internet. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
Goodness has freedom of speech rights, too. Denounce hate groups and hate crimes. Spread the truth about hate’s threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and united community is the best defense against hate rhetoric, attitudes and violent activities.
Educate yourself. An informed campaign by all participants improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved and research its flags, symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident. Learn all you can about those you will come against.
Through their literature and websites, hate groups spread propaganda that mocks, vilifies and demonizes African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ+ people and other groups. Like some of their fellow extremists in militia groups, they also sow the seeds of the fear of losing control of “their country” to a “One World Government” dominated by Jewish bankers, multinational corporations, and the United Nations. Many times members of hate groups use other groups as scapegoats for their own personal failures, low self-esteem, anger, or frustration. Hate groups frequently use chants, music or other means to recruit and indoctrinate disaffected teens.
Create an alternative to hate rallies. Find another venue for anger and frustration for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally, parade or some other type of community event to draw media attention away from hate.
Pressure community leaders. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some of these leaders must overcome reluctance and their own biases before they will be willing to take a stand against hate.
When leaders step forward and act swiftly after a hate incident, victims feel supported, community members feel safe, and space for action and dialogue in the community can grow.
Stay committed and engaged. Promote acceptance and address bias and prejudice before another hate crime can occur. Expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own group of friends and associates.
Hate usually doesn’t strike communities from some distant place. It often begins at home, brewing silently under the surface. It can grow out of divided communities — communities where residents feel powerless or voiceless, communities where differences cause fear, inequality and neglect instead of community tolerance and cooperation. The best cure for hate is a united community.
Teach acceptance. Bias is usually learned at home at an early age.
Bias is learned in childhood. By age 3, children can be aware of racial differences and may have the perception that “white” and “straight” is desirable. By age 12, they can hold stereotypes about ethnic, racial, religious groups, and LGBTQ+ people. Because stereotypes underlie hate, and because almost half of all hate crimes are committed by young men under 20, tolerance education is critical.
Schools are an ideal environment to counter bias because they mix children of different backgrounds, place them on equal footing, and allow one-on-one interaction. Children also are naturally curious about people who are different from them.
Tolerance can be taught outside the classroom as well. Consider this case in Arizona: Amid increasingly virulent anti-immigrant sentiment, the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition) began holding weekly public vigils in Tucson to remember those who lost their lives trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.
The group, which works to document human rights abuses along the border between Mexico and the United States, also keeps a list of border deaths, including age and cause of death.
Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes. Commit to fighting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace, and in religious communities. Fundamentally, acceptance is a personal decision. It comes from an attitude that is learnable and embraceable: a belief that every voice matters, that all people are valuable, that no one is “less than.”
We all grow up with prejudices. Acknowledging them — and working through them — is often a scary and difficult process. It’s also one of the most important steps toward breaking down the walls of silence that allow intolerance to thrive and grow. Fortunately, we all possess the power to overcome our ignorance and fear, and to influence our children, peers, and communities.
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