As this is the season of peace on earth and goodwill to ALL men I want to ask a question that has been on my mind for a few months – why do people think it’s okay to hate?
It seems that hate is on the rise and spreading. According to an article published by the BBC news on 4th September 2016:
“Freedom of Information figures suggest hate crimes increased by 20% last year, to more than 60,000”
And here’s a quote from a USA Today story published November 14th 2016.
“What may seem like a dramatic rise in the number of hate harassment and hate incidents happening across the country in the wake of Tuesday's general election is not in anyone's imagination, experts say.
There indeed has been a spike in the number of reports of such incidents, say representatives for two organizations that track such occurrences. A representative for one group, in fact, said the rise appears to be even worse that what was took place immediately after the terror attacks in 2001.”
Even in my adopted country, Canada, hate is on the rise. Recently a man in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, threatened two young women at a transit station. According to the CBC news.
“The man approached two young women wearing hijabs at the University of Alberta station at 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 8, police say.
The man, believed to be in his 60s, pulled a rope from his pocket, tied a noose and said: "This is for you."
At this point I should share a little about my background, I was born to Irish parents living in England, and was a teen when the IRA initiated a spate of bombings in the mid-seventies.
Let me clarify this point. Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi are my heroes. I don’t believe in violent confrontation for political change neither did my parents. Unfortunately we were Irish and that was all it took to convict us in the mind of public opinion.
According to the group Civil Rights in the UK. “It was not uncommon to see signs in Britain during the 1960s proclaiming, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”.
In the seventies we were subjected to verbal and physical abuse and I experienced first hand discrimination in the work place.
The Runnymede Trust, a think tank working for equality among Britons, notes in an article.
“Evidence about abuses arising out of the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (1974) have been documented in detail by Paddy Hillyard (1993) in his study Suspect Community. He enumerated 7052 detentions up to 1993, 86% involving no further action, Negative stereotyping of Irish people is widely recognised. However the extension of verbal abuse into physical threats and violence is very rarely recorded and occasions surprise and disbelief when documented. The CRE report (1997) found evidence of police and neighbour harassment which included violence and intimidation."
My father was one of those detained, and denied legal representation. He was held for over a week questioned for days. Whether he suffered torture or not he never said, but he did tell me they wanted him to confess to something he didn’t do. There were no charges, how could there be? He was innocent, but his experience was not isolated as the report shows. And according to the International Business Times there were still anti-Irish protests taking place in Liverpool, England in 2012.
This is the world I grew up in, one where I was a designated second-class citizen because of an accident of birth. Please don’t think I’m complaining. I know there are many people in the world who are far worse off, whose experiences at the hands of bigots are traumatizing and horrific. I only point out my past because I believe it gives me, a middle-aged white woman, greater insight into what it is to be hated for no good reason.
If you’re wondering how to judge people so you can tell the good from the bad then this is how I explained race, bigotry and choosing friends to my children.
Imagine your house is on fire. You’re curled up on your bedroom floor. It’s hot and the smoke makes it hard to breathe. You’re scared. A fireman with all his gear comes to save you. His fire retardant mask is covering his face so you don’t know what he looks like. You don’t care about the color of his skin, what he believes, or who he sleeps with. He’s there to save you, and you are grateful.
Now, you’re standing on the sidewalk, you’re safe, but you’re watching your home burn and you learn that an arsonist set fire to your house. For no good reason, this person destroyed your home and everything you owned. You don’t know what he looks like. You don’t know the color of his skin, what he believes, whom he sleeps with, and you don’t care. The arsonist has endangered your family and destroyed your world.
We tend to define ourselves, and others, using words that tell us nothing about the people we really are. We use words that describe the color of our skin, our sexual preference, and our religious beliefs. But what we really need to know is would this person be a friend and save me, or are they hateful and will they destroy me.
In life we will meet good people who will save us. They will be there for us when we are at our lowest point. We will meet nasty people who will think nothing of destroying us. The only way to know one from the other is to ignore color, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual preference, and really get to know them.
Whoever you are and wherever you’re from I wish you a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season