If the news is to be believed hate crimes against Muslims, Latinos and other minorities continues to increase. Even though these numbers are squishy because, as a country, we don’t do a great job tracking hate crimes, a truth is hate or rather it’s expression does seem to be growing. And so I wonder how do we stop the hate?
Stop the hate inside me
My own experience indicates that the first thing I need to do about hate is look to myself. I know that I’m capable of hate — in an instant when I let anger surge and over a longer period when I let resentment of any type linger.
I need to let go of fear as well because fear can kick in hate for me. For example, when I first became aware of women wearing burkas and hijabs my initial reaction was fear that I might be somehow forced to wear one.
Eventually I realized that wasn’t likely. I also recognized that in early Christianity women often covered their heads. In my adopted faith of zen Buddhism, many women who are nuns or priests shave their heads just as their male counterparts do. The abbot at Sweetwater Zen Center where I live doesn’t shave her hair off, but cuts it down to maybe an 8th of an inch from time-to-time.
What’s with religion and women’s hair? I don’t know, but I’m no longer afraid of women who cover their heads.
Saying ‘hello’ can reduce or even stop the fear
Fear of the ‘other’ can be quite powerful. Fortunately we can become aware of it and change it. Several months ago I was at one of my favorite coffee shops to meet a friend. I was early, picked a spot and after securing the table with my stuff, turned to head for the counter to order and was almost face-to-face with a young woman in a colorful burka (A burqa — also known as chadri or paranja in Central Asia- is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public.)
We were both startled. I reached for something to say, and started with “Hello, you look like a student” as I gestured to a pile of books she had at her table. “What are you studying?”
We both relaxed and had a short friendly chat about her goal to become an alternative health practitioner. In other words, we had both risen above fear of the other at some level and became two women in a coffee shop — with the kind of conversation we often have when we meet people we don’t know.
Which isn’t to say that all fear is bad or leads to hate. Fear can call attention to unsafe conditions, giving us a chance to respond and move to safety.
I do find for myself that simply ‘hello’ is one of the ways I can stop needless fear and the hatred it can lead to.
About that safety pin and other practices
I was disappointed when, after the woman’s march in 2017, the safety pin as a symbol of solidarity didn’t really take off. The thought was when I wore one it would mean I was willing to speak out when I saw someone being mistreated.
In theory I’m still willing and have been known speak up so once in a while; it might be easier if those of us willing to do so were wearing some sort of symbol.
I also make it a practice to slow way down when the cops have someone pulled over and make it clear I’m looking, bearing witness as it were.
Speaking up and bearing witness are two more ways to stop hate. It’s part of how I can stay open and undefended.
I also am willing to recognize my whiteness and resulting white privilege out loud, to own it as it were, when it’s appropriate. It’s interesting to sometimes see people relax because I’m willing to admit I have unearned expectations of safety and respect.
What I’d really like, of course, is to wave a magic wand so the whole world could ‘just get along.’ Unfortunately I don’t have one. So I take the small steps I can, hoping it helps.
Love, blessings and abundance,
Originally published at https://whengrandmotherspeaks.com .