We all hate the culture of hate in which we live.
We can all admit to the fact that at some point in our lives, if not now, we have treated another group as inferior, or automatically thought something laced with bias the second we saw a person who looked different than us. But, if someone asked you if you were a hateful person, would you say yes? As human beings, none of us are born hateful, but instead we are exposed to the culture around us that systematically implements ideas of hate, discrimination, and bias against certain groups of people. We all agree on the fact that a world without hate would be a better one, but the truth is, very little of us are able to admit to the fact that each and every one of us contributes to this culture of hate every day.
Sally Kohn, an advocate for urging others to see the humanity and likeness across all types of people, recently did a TED Talk called What We Can Do About the Culture of Hate, to which I have linked down below. She begins her talk by sharing a deeply personal story about how she, herself, was a merciless bully when she was a young girl. It wasn’t until a feeling of hypocrisy overcame her when she began to research and teach others about the importance of kindness and acceptance that she realized the extent of her actions as a kid. This, to me, was extremely inspiring and moving; the ability to admit one’s own fault takes a huge amount of courage and self-awareness that many people lack. However, she used that own first-hand experience as a bully to further inspire her to really distinguish what exactly causes people to hate.
As she discusses in her talk, there is a very wide spectrum of the concept of ‘hate’. This may be the reason people have such trouble noticing their own feelings of hate towards others; it is so easy to dismiss our own negative feelings by comparing them to much worse instances of hate. Kohn asked her audience a question that really struck me: on one end of the spectrum is hate on a mass scale through horrific crimes like genocide, and on the other side, there are acts of prejudice so small that many might not even notice. However, aren’t the two still considered hate? Don’t they both stem from the same roots? Because no one even wants to entertain the fact of placing themselves on the same scale as the historical examples of the worst possible instances of hate, we, as a society, find ourselves in a trap. Kohn made a great point on this topic by saying that when we choose to convince ourselves that we do not hate, we automatically place ourselves above those who do. This itself is redundant; the act of feeling superior to other groups is one of the most fundamental actions of hate.
Therefore, to extinguish racism, homophobia, sexism, or any other negative connotations fueled by hatred, we must do the thing that seems logically the most counterproductive in this situation: admit our faults and recognize the hate we feel towards others. It’s been repeatedly shown through research that hate towards others is amplified by unfamiliarity. So, in order to make a change, we should be focusing on listening to stories of others, rather than placing blame or looking for the differences between groups. It’s easier said than done, but as Sally Kohn said, we are all capable of letting go of those feelings if we just make the effort.
Sally Kohn’s TED Talk: What We Can Do About the Culture of Hate
image source: Jacobs, Liz. “Sally Kohn Talks Leaving Fox News.” TED Blog, 30 Oct. 2014, blog.ted.com/sally-kohn-on-leaving-fox-news/.