If the news is to be believed hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities are significantly since the election of Donald Trump. 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 on the increase. 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?
Saying hello can 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 hatered it can lead to.
About that safety pin and other practices
Recently I’ve made a habit of wearing a safety pin to show solidarity with others and my willingness to speak up should I see someone being mistreated. It’s a public announcement as it were that I’m willing to speak up and take action to stop the hate.
Yes, I’m well aware that some feel this is an improper action on my part. I’ve been speaking up for the bullied and the disenfranchised for a long time now – and in this moment the safety pin feels right to me. Maybe I will add a sign to it – haven’t decided yet.
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.
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.
What are your thoughts on how to stop the hate?
Love, blessings and abundance,
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