When Hate Upturns a City…

What do we do when hate seems to be winning?

I’ve been completely overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and fear over what happened this past weekend in Charlottesville. I was in shock for so many reasons, but one being that my husband and I had just spent a relaxing, peaceful weekend away from home in Charlottesville just one week ago. On Saturday evening, I started seeing pictures flood the internet of immense, horrifying acts of hatred and racism happening in places we stood just one week ago. How could this even be the same place? My heart broke for all the people nearby that are now living in fear of hatred and violence. I was met with a horrifying realization: racism is still an extreme, dominant force in our society.

I’ve been imagining what it would be like if that had happened in my city. What if I woke up tomorrow to find my city upturned by a massive crowd carrying torches and symbols of violence and terrorism that represent some of the most horrendous acts of hatred in history? In case we’ve forgotten, the KKK was a symbol of violent, mass killings against a specific group of people just because of the color of their skin. In case we’ve forgotten, Nazi swastikas are symbols of a mass genocide of people based solely on their race. If the sight of a KKK rally carrying torches and brandishing Nazi symbols in the name of white supremacy doesn’t terrify you, then you might need to reevaluate yourself.

I’ve noticed there are a wide variety of responses that circulate after an event like this takes place. And there are obvious right ways to respond and obvious wrong ways to respond. My hope is always that all those I know will respond with love. That we will rise above it all and show love to those around us in new ways. That we will be willing to stand up for those who are being wronged. That we will have the courage to speak truth and light into a situation of complete and total darkness. Thanks to the fact that we are the social media generation, this last thing has been made easy for us. Thanks to social media, we have been handed a platform to speak our minds at any given moment, and we have the ability to reach the masses with our words. So what do we do with it?

Here are a few responses I’ve noticed to be typical lately when acts of racism have surfaced:

1. “So you’re all upset about [exhibit A]? Well, don’t you remember when [exhibit B] happened? That was just as bad and no one did anything about that, so…”

Here’s why this is response is wrong:

Comparing one horrendous act to another does not make the present horrendous act any less horrendous.

2. “What happened was horrible, but people can be racist toward all kinds of people, not just [this kind of] people.”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

What if someone deliberately hurt your child because of the way they looked? Would you comfort your child by telling them that yes, what happened to them was wrong, but people are wronged every single day? How would that make it better?

3. “Racism is not really an issue; what happened was just a result of people being stupid.”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

Racism is incredibly real. And the line between stupidity and hatred is not a blurred one.

4. “No one is actually discriminated against because of the color of their skin or their ethnic background; anyone who says otherwise is just exaggerating, being dramatic, or is one of those people who has to bring race into everything.”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

Honestly, if you’ve made this argument, it’s obvious that you’ve never been discriminated against based on the color of your skin or ethnic background. Consider yourself blessed. But just because something doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

5. “I blame [insert person/people group] for this behavior!”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

It’s really easy to sit back and point fingers. But casting blame only creates more tension and anger.

6. “[Insert people group] are all [insert broad generalization about entire people group].”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

Generalizing an entire people group can only lead to prejudice. Do not allow hatred to breed hatred.

7. “Why is everyone making such a big deal about [thing that happened]? [Insert people group] are not the only people who face prejudice and adversity…”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

It’s not okay to downplay someone’s current suffering by pointing out the fact that everyone suffers. Yes, all lives matter. But standing up for certain lives in a particular moment is not downplaying the importance of other lives. Refusing to acknowledge someone’s hurt, however, does downplay the importance of the lives of the people who are hurting.

8. “I feel the need to express the fact that I am not racist, because [insert proof for not being racist].”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

If you are not guilty of racism, you do not need to become defensive as though you are.

9. “Everyone who hasn’t spoken out against [thing that happened] [on social media] is condoning what happened.”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

Social media’s made it way too easy for people to be outspoken and bold about anything and everything. It’s also safe; it allows us to say whatever we please without the discomfort of a heated, face-to-face conversation. We are whatever we want to be on social media, yet it’s only the two-dimensional version of our true self. Let’s focus more on what people are doing in the real world instead.

10. “How about we all just agree to disagree and move on?”

Here’s why this response is wrong:

Maybe this is a decent stance to take from a political standpoint, but racism is not a political issue. This is not an “agree to disagree” stance. Racism is wrong, it’s always been wrong, and it will always be wrong. No political, religious, or cultural stance should change that.

 

So what is the right response?

How should we respond when our country seems to be growing more mad by the day, and when our news is filled with violence and acts of hatred? In what ways should we respond when the bad people of this world are overshadowing the good? When people are tearing each other down and fighting with each other over what the right or wrong ways to respond to this situation even are? What can we possibly do or say? What can I, as one, single person amid the masses, do to help this situation?

This is what I know to be true:

1. Our words are powerful.

They can feed lies, or they can combat them. They can wound, or they can heal. They can tear down, or they can build up. They can breed hatred, or they can breed love. Let’s choose to love others with our words, think before we speak, and be sensitive to the feelings of others. This is a time where hatred is overshadowing love. Don’t add to the problem.

2. We can choose to be apathetic, or we can choose to have compassion.

This generation has become desensitized to the pain and suffering of the world. It is easier or more convenient to turn a blind eye to all the people hurting around us. It’s not always easy to acknowledge another person’s pain. It can be uncomfortable and difficult. But we need to learn how to both hear it and respond to it. A little humility can go a long way.

3. Racism is a very real thing.

People are being discriminated against and hated for the color of their skin or their ethnicity. It happens every day. And ignoring the problem will not make it go away. We need to start acknowledging it for what it is before we can find ways to fight it. We also should be acknowledging the things that exist around us that are being used as platforms for racism. The Confederacy should not still be giving us so much grief. Why are we fighting over flags and statues? Is our defensive stance adding to the problem? We should approach these things with caution, and not allow them to become objects of division among us.

4. In order to find ways to fix the problem, we need to be informed on how our country operates.

This means that we should know our politics, no matter how cringe-worthy this idea may seem. It’s easy for us to just turn away from politics completely in an effort to live our lives in a blissfully ignorant state. But if we do this, we might miss out on ways that we can actually help. This week, there was an online petition that went around and successfully shut down an organized white supremacy rally that was supposed to take place somewhere else. If we want to find ways to help like this one, we need to stay informed.

5. Love is still greater.

We cannot buy into the lie that love is a thing of the past. We cannot become consumed by negativity and begin believing that hate and violence and sadness is all that exists in this world. There is still good in this world. There are still good people. Love still exists. We should be focusing on those things in life that are good, allowing the light of life’s purely beautiful things to shine through amid the darkness. We cannot forget how to love and be loved.

So here is what I choose to do:

I am choosing to love others with my whole heart. I am choosing to always be looking for new ways to show that love to others. I am choosing to be careful with my words, and to make a conscious effort to keep my words toward others edifying and uplifting. I am choosing to smile more. I am choosing to always look for the good in others. I am choosing to be willing to listen to the cries of those around me who are hurting. I am choosing to acknowledge the fact that I make mistakes and may not always act in love, but I am choosing to try and always be quick to admit when I am wrong and seek reconciliation where it is needed. I am choosing to not be complacent and instead take action when needed. I am choosing to not turn a blind eye to the misfortunes of others. And I am choosing to keep my eyes fixed on a God who has not yet abandoned us, who is alive and present in our lives and is ready and waiting to use us as a light amid this current darkness if we choose to trust in Him. I am choosing love.

 

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9

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