Last week I was feeling a sense of apprehension. It’s not the first time this has happened so I recognized how it made me feel. I spent time writing in my journal and reflecting why and concluded that I was bothered by all the hate in our world. Hate is a destructive force that plagues humanity. It can manifest in various forms, from subtle prejudices to violent extremism - we’ve seen a lot of this in the news lately. Unmasking what hate is, what fuels it, and how to combat it is crucial in fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society. So, what makes me feel better when this happens? Taking action - action to learn and try to understand and then do something about it. What follows is what I researched and learned.
What is Hate?
Hate is a complex and intense emotion characterized by a strong aversion, hostility, or extreme disapproval of someone or something. It can be directed at individuals, groups, countries, or even ideas or concepts. Hate often leads to discrimination, violence, and exclusion, causing harm both to the targets and even the perpetrators, which fascinates me. Why hate when it hurts the hater too?
What Fuels Hate?
Here are some of the main areas that I believe manifests hatred:
Fear and Ignorance: Hate frequently stems from fear of the unknown or unfamiliar. When people lack understanding or experience of other cultures, religions, or perspectives, they may react with hostility and prejudice. We see examples of this throughout history. In ancient China, people would bang drums and pots and shout to scare off the dragon that was eating the sun during an eclipse. I didn’t happen to see too many people scared at the eclipse this past week.
Insecurity: Insecure individuals are often more susceptible to hate, as they may project their fears and insecurities onto others. Blaming and targeting others can provide a false sense of security or superiority. It’s my opinion that Donald Trump often leverages fear and insecurity in so many of his followers to generate his support by targeting others.
Group Identity: Hate can be perpetuated by a sense of belonging to a particular group. When individuals identify strongly with a group, they may feel the need to defend their identity by opposing others, even if based on stereotypes and biases. Identity politics has forced a wedge between groups of people, both liberal and conservative. A strong bias sets in within these groups and they will defend their views regardless of contrary facts and information.
Media Influence: Negative portrayals and stereotypes in media can perpetuate hate. Biased reporting, inflammatory rhetoric, and the spread of false information can fuel anger and animosity towards specific groups or individuals. I think we can all think of at least one news outlet or pundit that has done this in the past, if not more.
Historical and Cultural Factors: Past injustices, historical conflicts, and cultural norms can contribute to the persistence of hate. Prejudices passed down through generations can perpetuate the cycle of hostility. I believe this is what has fueled a lot of the basis of hate in the middle east and elsewhere.
How to Fight Against Hate
So what do we do about all this hate? Being an educator I know we have tools to combat ignorance and therefore hate. I also know we have to meet people where they are, not where we want them to be. A good friend of mine often reminds me that we will be effective if both parties are calm, clear headed. When folks are excited or charged up, they won’t be open to change. Sometimes that's hard, but it’s true! Here are some actions we can take:
Education and Awareness: Promote understanding and empathy through education. Encourage the study of different cultures, religions, and perspectives. This can help dispel stereotypes and misconceptions that fuel hate. You don’t have to agree with others but it is certainly helpful to know why they believe what they believe.
Foster Dialogue: Open and honest communication can break down barriers and build bridges. Encourage conversations between individuals of different backgrounds to foster mutual understanding. Listen to understand, and not to respond and defend. Ask questions to clarify and deepen your understanding. President Lincoln is known for his “Team of Rivals” approach - bringing in people that would challenge his beliefs, stances, policies so he could learn and either strengthen his views or change and adjust them through dialogue.
Media Literacy: Teach critical thinking and media literacy skills to help people identify biased or false information. Encourage responsible journalism and media consumption. If you rely on one source of information, explore others. If you gravitate towards more liberal or conservative leaning outlets, see what the other side is reporting and their take on the topics, issues, and events of the day. Verify "facts" and social media posts before posting or promoting - don't get in the trap of promoting false information.
Legislation and Policies: Enact and enforce laws that protect against hate crimes and discrimination. Legal measures can send a strong message that hate will not be tolerated. Write your representatives at each level of government. Share your opinions and views backed by research and facts. Become an advocate and foster support for change and new legislation.
Promote Inclusivity: Create inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity and encourage people to learn from one another. In workplaces, schools, and communities, emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion. Bring a variety of people together with all their varied experiences and diversity.
Counter Hate Speech: Confront hate speech and online harassment by reporting it and holding individuals and platforms accountable. Encourage positive online behaviors and digital citizenship. Don’t stand idly by when someone is overtly hateful. Be aware, keep yourself safe and remain calm when you do.
Grassroots Initiatives: Support grassroots organizations and initiatives that work to counter hate at the community level. These groups often have a deep understanding of local dynamics and can create meaningful change.
Self-Reflection: Encourage individuals to reflect on their own biases and prejudices. Self-awareness is the first step toward change. People should recognize and confront their own hate, even if it's uncomfortable. The more you do this, the more aware you will be of your own thoughts and biases.
Positive Role Models: Highlight individuals and leaders who promote tolerance, empathy, and inclusivity. Positive role models can inspire others to reject hate and work toward a more harmonious society. Also, feel free to lead by example yourself!
Hate is a destructive force that can have devastating consequences for individuals and societies as a whole. By understanding its origins and taking proactive measures to combat it, we can work together to create a more inclusive and compassionate world. Education, dialogue, and legislation play pivotal roles in this fight, but the battle against hate also starts on a personal level, with each individual choosing to reject prejudice and embrace diversity. In the end, it's through collective efforts that we can hope to build a better future where hate has no place.