The rise of extremism and hate crimes is disturbing. How do we effectively respond? And in answering that, we need to consider: Who are we being? What reality would we like to create?
Be – Choose – Create
If we mirror that which we wish to change – like hate and aggression – we ironically become more like them. We think we’re right and they’re wrong. While they, of course, think they’re right and we’re wrong. It becomes an endless loop of violence, us and them, right and wrong. Extremists, neo-Nazis, and the ‘alt-right’ thrive on violent opposition.
What’s beyond that and what else is possible?
We have at our disposal the most powerful tools and weapons to change the world. What could we choose that works, doesn’t compromise who we truly are, and expands consciousness?
Consider the power of connection, humour, creativity, kindness, non-judgement, dialogue… These are practical and effective.
* Daryl Davis, a black musician, befriends white supremacists. He asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
His unusual hobby yields a collection of robes and artifacts when they leave the KKK due to his friendship. A documentary has been made: Accidental Courtesy. “In an age of digital disconnection, Daryl’s method is rooted in personal interaction.”
* Watch this fabulous short video of former KKK leader Johnny Lee Clary talking about his encounters with Reverend Wade Watts. The power of humour is remarkable, as is the African American man who had the courage to wield it even in the face of violence.
- A city can get creative too. Like the German town Wunsiedel sponsoring protestors – neo-Nazis unwittingly raised 10,000 euros for programs to end neo-Nazis! It became Germany’s most involuntary walkathon. Banners welcomed the “Nazis Against Nazis” and organizers offered bananas for them keep walking and raising money. Other communities began emulating this brilliant, successful approach.
- Restorative Justice can be transformative. Facilitated dialogue offers clarity, accountability, healing, resolution, and breaking down of stereotypes as well as other underlying causes of hate crime. Mark Walters’ book provides empirical evidence: Hate Crime and Restorative Justice: Exploring Causes, Repairing Harms. As Theo Gavrielides points out, the law alone is insufficient, we require civil society.
- How about the age old practice of breaking bread together? Check out “I’m Black, Jewish, and Gay – And Food is My Weapon Against Bigotry.”
- “Free Hugs” – a simple act that anyone can offer, which can change everything. It became a global movement and thousands of incredible moments continue to be shared. Like Baktash Noori who stood alone, blindfolded, with open arms in the wake of a large terrorist attack in the UK, holding this sign: “I’m Muslim and I trust you. Do you trust me enough for a hug?”
Let’s also listen to the wisdom of former extremists who help others leave. A former neo-Nazi skinhead, Arno Michaelis, changed “because people demonstrated the courage and inner peace necessary to defy my hostility rather than reflect it…People who I had claimed to hate — a Jewish boss, a Lesbian supervisor, black and Latino co-workers — refused to lower themselves to my level, instead choosing to model the way that we human beings should treat each other.”
Hate wears many faces and has no borders. And we have many effective tools and ways to respond. Here is a great resource guide from the Southern Poverty Law Centre.