It seems like the news, and especially social media, are full of hateful speech and actions: hate and violence against immigrants, against women, against LGBTQ folks, against Muslims, against Jews, and against people of color. The recent passage of the AHCA by the House of Representatives seemed to say that our elected officials do not value the lives of sick, fat or disabled people.
Some of us are shocked by the hate; others are less surprised.
The question remains: What can I personally do about it? Am I helpless in the face of this, or are there things I can do?
Here are some suggestions for action against hate:
- We can support organizations that track hate and report hate. That includes the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Both those institutions have been doing this work for years, tracking hate groups, hate speech, and hate crimes, and they are good at what they do.
- Read this Sally Kohn articles in the Washington Post: This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter. See what applies to you and run with it.
- Support the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). It is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants. Again, visit the website, read their materials, and donate if you can and if their goals sound right to you. If you can’t donate, help spread their message.
- Subscribe to your local newspaper and to publications that don’t preach anyone’s party line. The “Fourth Estate” is an essential part of a healthy democracy, and our has been sadly weakened by the advent of “free” online news sources. When you pay for your newspaper, online or offline, you are paying journalists to ask questions and dig for answers. The good ones annoy politicians of ALL stripes. Personally I subscribe to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and SFGate, the news source for the SF Bay Area. Supporting ethical journalism is one of the most important things we can do to keep democracy healthy.
- If newspaper subscriptions and donations are not in the budget, we can still support those who do good work. Journalists receive endless harassment and even death threats; they appreciate friendly emails and tweets. We can spread the messages of organizations that fight hate and support the oppressed.
- Volunteer and/or give financial support to Planned Parenthood. It serves women from all walks of life, but especially low-income women.
- Join with like-minded people to fight hate. Join a synagogue, a church, a mosque, or secular organization. Ask about their social justice programming. Combining our energy with that of others makes for more effective activism. If disability or other factors keep us from some activities, we can still encourage those who are able to be more active.
- We can educate ourselves. Listen to minority voices online, in print, and in person. If we are not members of a group, we cannot know what’s best for African-Americans, Muslims, women, poor people, Native Americans, incarcerated persons, LGBTQI, or disabled persons. They aren’t stupid, even though institutionalized racism/sexism/homophobia/etc has taught those of us with privilege to think they are. Don’t assume that your minority status makes you an expert on someone else’s needs. In short, don’t talk – LISTEN.
- Help clean up Twitter and other social media. Block people who spout hate messages – block them immediately and without any discussion. They thrive on argument and discussion – deny them that luxury! If you have accidentally misjudged someone, you aren’t hurting them by blocking them, and you haven’t engaged in lashon hara, evil speech by slandering them. Instead, spread information from reputable sources and resist the urge to retweet things that may or may not be true.
- When someone points out that we have said something hurtful or hateful, we can listen instead of becoming defensive. This is the most difficult thing on this list, but it may well be the most important. All of us have something to learn about the way our language impacts others, and usually it is unpleasant to learn about it. I have a script I try to use to keep my defensiveness from kicking in: “I am so sorry! I will try to learn better!” I accept that I will never know all about the experiences of others, just as they won’t know all about me. It costs me nothing to express sorrow about my ignorance, and the good thing is, it is an opportunity to learn.
How are you fighting hate in America? What strategies have I failed to list here? If you are a member of a minority, what have you seen that worked? What do you wish people outside your group would understand?