The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.
Recently the net went on an uproar as a young Muslim teen was arrested for bringing into school a homemade clock as a teacher assumed it was a makeshift bomb. Cries of Islamophobia, racism, and bigotry went off as everyone posted their support for the young man within the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. And as outcries and condemnations of the hate many Muslims within our society have to endure, it got me thinking of every other case of discrimination where “hate” is blamed.
I started considering all those other cases where the net calls out the issue of bigotry against specific groups, but instead of simply assuming these are born out of hate, I started to consider them from the eyes of those discriminating. The only way to understand a situation is by placing yourself on both ends of the spectrum while trying not to applaud outright or condemn outright. Why? Because quite often those we accuse of bigotry and hatred don’t view their own actions as being born out of hate. Some even view their actions as righteous and necessary, viewing themselves as “the good guys.” Before you accuse them, not only of bigotry but of delusional as well, it might be a good idea to step into their shoes; look at things from their perspective, if for nothing else to better understand them as people, to humanize them even if they don't do the same. Maybe then we can understand why our fight against hatred is falling miserably.
What if the issue isn’t hate, but rather fear?
We live within a society absolutely obsessed with protecting ourselves from threats, where every step we take and every event brings along an endless list of things to fear. Take a moment to look at the same events you would assume are the result of bigotry, and look at them from the perspective of fear.
Cops fear that the random black man is actually an armed thug.
Your average US American fears that the border crossing Latino is actually a drug runner or the Arab is really an ISIS terrorist.
Blacks, Latinos and Arabs fear that cops will attack without any real provocation.
But it goes beyond race.
Blue collar workers fear that the immigrants will steal their jobs.
Conservatives fear that marriage between gays will damage the concept of families.
Liberals fear that anyone who open carries will suddenly go out on a killing rampage.
Feminists fear that men are potential rapists.
Men’s Rights Activists fear that women can make up rape accusations.
Religious people fear the atheist’s influence in society while the the Atheist fears the effects of religion in society.
And the list goes on and on.
This fear breads the demonization those they fear while humanizing their own daemons. Cops use excessive force against Blacks and Latinos, massive protests are called out to stop children from crossing our borders, criminalization of the Muslim community, discrimination against gays, etc. All of this is done under the banner of self-defense, so calling them out as acts born out of bigotry can easily be dismissed.
And it becomes even easier to dismiss as those with common fears band together to pat each other in the back and cheer each other on. What do people do with what they fear? They attack it. We see this within every single social movement as they call out everything they hate about everyone else under the guise of justice, when in reality it’s little more than a support group to deal with their fears.
I can almost hear you quoting Yoda as you equate fear and hate. (“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”) But when we focus our actions to deal with the resulting hate, we do nothing to stop the fear that gave birth to it in the first place. We need to stop fighting the hate speech and fight the fear speech.
This isn’t done by calling out privilege. Calling out privilege is little more than “let me make you feel just as bad for something you can’t control as you treat me badly for something I can’t control.” As a tool for retribution and vengeance, sure it works fine. That’s if your final goal is just getting even. Me? I prefer to find solutions to the bigger problem.
We need to condemn and challenge every single bullshit stereotype that is used to label people. We need to call out everyone profiteering from force feeding out society fear. We need to call out every media channel and outlet who profit from telling us what to hate and who to fear. We need to realize that Black doesn’t equal thugs, Latino doesn’t equal drug dealers, Muslims doesn’t equal terrorists, White doesn’t equal privilege, Cop doesn’t equal killer, Men don’t equal rapists, etc. We need to call out these sites and programs for what they are.
Fear mongers profiting from us like parasites.
Fear is a hard habit to break. Within our social setting it means trusting your fellow man, and that’s something very hard to do when you’re constantly thinking about how others look out only for themselves. Maybe that’s what needs to change, maybe if we stopped focusing so much on the ME and focused more on the WE, we wouldn’t fear so much. But till that happens, we could start with simply asking for one thing.
Please do not feed the fears.