Feb 20, 2010
Content Warning: Racism
Students are taking a more mellow tone during the protests. Trying to incorporate education and as well as a positive message.
Friday’s protest consisted of a space for positive intention, standing around holding hands, and speaking to the emotions present in the situation. Then a professor gave a speech and there was a presentation on non-violent communication by Gary Baran of the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Many individuals choose not to come, deliberately honoring the requests of Rev. Jesse Jackson, to not lend credence to the forum, who was concerned that the protest gives them something to the forum to feed on.
Yet afterwards, when the forum presenter, Barry Sommers concluded his holocaust presentation. The forum regulars presented him with a rapturous and standing ovation. The forum feeds itself.
Meanwhile the protestors rejected this time of hate, trying to create something empowering rather than hurtful. The protest drags the forum out of the darkness and into the light where it can no longer feed itself. Here the forum is no longer empowered.
Some ask why? Why restrict hate speech, why should the protesters ask the forum to leave and how is it hurtful? Continue Reading
I respond, that targeting groups, because of who they are is unacceptable. Saying- you should die as was part of Jimmy Marr’s presentation in December “Death to Jews,” goes too far. Their members have invited neo-Nazis made many feel unsafe. Their presence contributed to the environment where a someone felt comfortable spray painting a swastika in the LGBTQA office.
So how do you respond to hate speech if you don’t want to restrict free speech?
Education, demonstration and incorporation.
Education means find what they are saying, talk about it. Break down the arguments of hate. In this case: blaming Jews for the holocaust, breaks down when you consider the Nazi propaganda blaming Jews for economic downturn, which was a result of inflation to pay back reparations to France from the treaty of Versailles after WWI. Or the notion that Islam is criminal, ignores the fact that Muslims make up a population of over 1 billion individuals. For some Muslims, the ‘four pillars’ constitute Islam, for others it means simply not eating pork. Religion means different things to different people. Or that homosexuality is a mental disorder, since gender is constructed, or else all men and women would act in the same manner and all would be prone to the same behavior in the every situation. Gender is subjective and not intrinsic. And the ideas of Pacifica and hate speech is flawed.
So with education, you can challenge their ideas. This may be empowering to those feeling targeted by the hate speech. Unfortunately it will rarely dissuade the owner of those ideas. Compassion for their situation can help, I would venture a guess that most of the ideas meant to target and isolate groups ‘in the other’, are born from tremendous insecurity. That is, when one feels insecure, they need a group to blame, a target. This will fall on people who look different, talk a different way or have different mannerisms. If we want to change the ideas, we need to address the fundamental insecurities of those with the targeted group. For instance in germany, the economic downturn was blamed on the Jewish population, seen a money handlers; blamed on the Roma, seen as thieves or ‘dirty’. To address this insecurity one could make an appeal to basic humanness, which may or may not work. Another alternative is to offer alternatives, like to consider other sources of their oppression, government policy for instance. The international system which promotes war, or ideologies which promote large expenditure with no social gain. Really though, differing arguments will only go so far and if at all possible, try to get the individual to seek counseling. Generally, we could all use some counseling. By working to understand the difficulties and problems within us, we can find commonalities for all of us.
The second element is demonstration. This has the twin effects of first uniting communities, creating a voice for those disempowered and second for giving a medium so seek a better world. It is peculiar mission, activism. Because one cannot simply put away notions of inequality, once you see it, you will see it more and more frequently, working to stand against it takes courage. One must continue work, never satisfied, because there is always a better future. Yet able to find a fulfillment in the work you do.
Demonstrating, protesting and civil actions are necessary options by any citizenry to compel an action. We can see that there are counter currents of ideology, which define civic participation. But why participate at all, why not just stay at home or only go to work? because if you pursue this ideology, you are not part of society- you are an identity which is separate and impotent. Whereas if we work together seeking a better situation we can command a better situation for ourselves and everyone else simultaneously. If we stake it out for ourselves, we are just a bunch of individuals who happen to be near one another, but if we participate and become active, we become a society and can engage in debate. When that debate promotes violence against another group, that goes too far. This is a line, where we can say language is unacceptable, bigoted and dangerous.
Demonstrating can target the language of the actions of individuals, turn the anger and hatred into a source of unity. For instance, after the swastika was drawn in the LGBTQA office, there was a candle-light vigil, showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Similarly when hate language is employed, the group promulgating such language can responded to. Members of the offended community should speak up and have a space of safety. This unites communities and helps everyone support one another. Activism creates events and pressures others, it allows us to branch into something more effective and powerful. If we simply ignore a situation we gain nothing, but if we take hurtful situation and bring it into the light, there will be support.
So activism turns what is oppression and minimization into a place of empowerment. Effective demonstration allows the community besieged to find solidarity and empowerment. Responding to hate speech can be a source of unity and compassion. It is important to show solidarity with attacked communities, otherwise they are left out and isolated. Hate speech should be responded to, or its legitimacy will grow and may actually result in broader more hurtful situation. In the case of Pacifica Forum objecting to the targeting of groups and historical inaccuracy.
Finally incorporation. This is the notion of co-opting the event. “There is nothing gained from being ignorant”- Rev. Jesse Jackson. Any hateful language can be institutionalized, in that we learn about it, Rev. Jackson also purposes “learn the language of hate and reject it.” If we take the language and teach others why it is hurtful and why it should not be used, we all gain, we reduce their power and put it into our own hands.
Their meetings, brimming with hatred, can be met with demonstrations and education but their can also be reduced. Their hatred can be met with rejection, that is to say learn from their words and take away their power, turn their words against them. If they use the ’n’ word, know the historical significance of the the word and challenge it, break it down and educate them on why such phrases cannot be used, or be more proactive and break down their logic that allows them to use such a word.
As hate groups exist can be challenged and learned from. They can be a issue to unite around and a place to push against. They should be taken, used and repulsed. It is necessary to recognize, reject and replace hate speech and stand for safer communities.