Responding to Hate Speech
“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.
2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” Brene Brown: Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
“Those people” are humans. Real humans with real stories.
In order for me to respond appropriately, I need to first remember that “they” are people. I can’t reduce them to animals or body parts.
Also, it is not my job or my responsibility to “control” another person.
It’s easy to respond in the heat of the moment, and that’s what my 4 year old does.
She immediately reacts based on emotion.
I can do better than a preschooler. I can step away from the situation, I can take a breath, I can pause and intentionally choose how I respond.
When I respond to hate, I don’t want to do it from a place where I see “them” as less than me.
I want to “call out” racism, sexism, and all the hate. I have to pause though, and look at my intentions.
What do I hope to accomplish? Am I angry and hurt and I want to yell at someone?
If I want to truly make a difference, then I need to act accordingly.
So now what? What do I do when I encounter hate speech?
Here are some of the major points:
1. Draw Attention Away From Hateful Protests and Demonstrations
“every act of hatred should be met with an act of love and unity.” Specifically, this could take the form of an alternative event — held at the same time as the hate-based event but in a different area — emphasizing the strength of the community in all its diversity.”
2. Do Not Engage with the Attackers
“People who show disregard or outright hatred for Muslims, African Americans, Jews, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, or members of other minority groups cannot be expected to act rationally. This means confronting or arguing with such individuals likely will not help the situation, but could actually pour gasoline on the fire.”
3. Focus on Protecting the Attacked Person
“…our knee-jerk reaction is often to try and “talk down” the perpetrator, but …helping the person being attacked is almost always the safest and more effective approach.”
4. Alert the Police and Other Authorities When Appropriate
“It’s important to keep in mind that hate speech is generally protected by the First Amendment, while not every act of bigotry is a “hate crime” in the technical sense. Regardless, reporting acts of bigotry can help the police and other authorities be more aware of what’s happening and potentially prevent the escalation of more serious acts.”
5. Prepare in Advance
“If a person has given careful consideration to how they’ll react,” she says, “they’re more likely to muster the courage to speak up. For example, someone who isn’t prepared may resort to a knee-jerk reaction (such as arguing with the attacker) that could escalate the situation instead of extinguishing it.”
Social media provides a perfect place to start a fire fueled by hate, but the flames starts out small. The fire only burns from the tips of their fingers to the screen. When I respond with anything at all, I am adding logs to the fire. I watch it happen every single day. Instead of allowing the fire to burn out, we are piling on logs by the thousands.
Kneel or stand with the oppressed. Focus on those who are being attacked.
And lastly, “if our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree. When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our faith.” Brene Brown