Recently there are been more and more reports of racism and hate crimes. The recent election cycle has unleashed negativity, fear, and hatred which has been lurking under the surface of America for a very long time. As a hopeful optimist, I see this as a blessing. We can not deal with something, we can not change something for the better, until we acknowledge it exists. Today we can not escape seeing the issues around us which gifts us with the opportunity to change.
The problem is that two wrongs don’t make a right. It is understandable to be angry, hurt, and afraid of the recent wave of hatred and senseless attacks. However, attacking the attacker does not make the problem go away.
For example, The Washington Post recently wrote about a racist attack on an airplane. Was it wrong for a passenger to tell another to leave America because of how they look? Absolutely. Was it justified for the woman videotaping the incident to then judge, label, and attack the attacker? No. Attacking and hating someone who hates and attacks does not solve the problem. It compounds and continues it.
What does make racism go away? The answer lies in understanding “why” people hate and fear others who are different. We learn racism from parents or those around us. We grow up surrounded by those who are “like us” making others wrong and frightening. We are quick to judge, label and stereotype without getting to know each person individually. And the main reason I believe is at the root of our currently increasing problem, is that instead of taking personal responsibility for our challenges, we blame others.
Many people who I would not have expected to, seem to be jumping on the White Right bandwagon. I truly believe that this is not because they are inherently racist. I believe it is because there are things in their own lives that they don’t like and don’t think they can affect. It is so much easier to attack and blame another than to deal with our own challenges. It is just like the man who has a terrible boss but can’t afford to quit. He comes home and kicks the dog because that is the only thing he is bigger than, the only thing he thinks he can conquer. It doesn’t solve the real problem, but for a brief moment he feels in control of his life.
And the current issues we are experiencing are not just about the actions of one segment of people. Due to the outcome of the elections, many liberal-minded people are also lashing out in anger and hate. They are prejudice and attacking of those with conservative beliefs. These people also buy into an across-the-board stereotype and deliver it with hate and malice.
We might not be able solve the systemic problems causing our societal divide. What we can do is be part of the solution when we see it around us.
Do not attack or fear those who speak or act differently. Show compassion for their pain. Seek to understand. Provide empathy. Teach through example not through attacking or preaching. Act how you want others to act. Be the model of a good citizen. Be understanding. Be accepting. Be compassionate.
Pope Francis has a great idea for Lent and I recommend it for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The Pope believes that being solely focused on ourselves has led us to be “incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.” He calls us to “fast from this indifference, [so] we can began to feast on love.” When we look outside of our own need for self-protection, we can see we are all one. In this oneness, we can have empathy and compassion for those around us. And in compassion there is healing.