Ten Ways to Fight Hate...
Here is something that I put together for the
New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum.
I decide to make into a packet. Even though it is available online, but my thinking is if you put something in someones hands and makes it real for them.
It is going to be included in the teachers packet and be liturature that will be availible at the museum.
(Sorry I had to brake it up in to 11 different posts to make it fit.)
Ten Ways to fight Hate:
someone commits a hate crime.
at least eight blacks, three whites, three gays, three Jews and one Latino become hate crime victims.
a cross is burned.
Hate in America is a dreadful, daily constant. The dragging death of a black man in Jasper, Texas; the crucifixion of a gay man in Laramie, Wyo.; and post-9.11 hate crimes against hundreds of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and Sikhs are not "isolated incidents." They are eruptions of a nation's intolerance.
Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other differences. The 20th century saw major progress in outlawing discrimination, and most Americans today support integrated schools and neighborhoods. But stereotypes and unequal treatment persist, an atmosphere often exploited by hate groups.
When bias motivates an unlawful act, it is considered a hate crime. Race and religion inspire most hate crimes, but hate today wears many faces. Bias incidents (eruptions of hate where no crime is committed) also tear communities apart — and threaten to escalate into actual crimes.
According to FBI statistics, the greatest growth in hate crimes in recent years is against Asian Americans and the gay and lesbian community. Once considered a Southern phenomenon, today most hate crimes are reported in the North and West.
And these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement officials acknowledge that hate crimes — similar to rape and family violence crimes — go under-reported, with many victims reluctant to go to the police, and some police agencies not fully trained in recognizing or investigating hate crimes.
The good news is ...
All over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.
This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate, along with a collection of inspiring stories of people who worked to push hate out of their communities.
Whether you need a crash course to deal with an upcoming white-power rally, a primer on the media or a long-range plan to promote tolerance in your community, you will find practical advice, timely examples and helpful resources in this guide. The steps outlined here have been tested in scores of communities across the nation by a wide range of human rights, faith and civic organizations.
Our experience shows that one person, acting from conscience and love, is able to neutralize bigotry. Imagine, then, what an entire community, working together, might do.
Step 1 ...
Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don't, hate persists.
A hate group is coming to our town. What should we do?"
"I am very alarmed at hate crimes...What can I, as one person, do to help?"
"I find myself wanting to act, to show support for the victims, to demonstrate my anger and sorrow... But I don't know what to do or how to begin."
If you've opened this guide, you probably want to "do something" about hate. You are not alone. Questions like these arrive daily at the Southern Poverty Law Center. When a hate crime occurs or a hate group rallies, good people often feel helpless. We encourage you to act, for the following reasons:
Hate is an open attack on tolerance and decency. It must be countered with acts of goodness. Sitting home with your virtue does no good. In the face of hate, silence is deadly. Apathy will be interpreted as acceptance - by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. If left unchallenged, hate persists and grows.
Hate is an attack on a community's health. Hate tears society along racial, ethnic, gender and religious lines. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger larger community conflict, civil disturbances and even riots. For all their "patriotic" rhetoric, hate groups and their freelance imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic. True patriots fight hate.
Hate escalates. Take seriously the smallest hint of hate — even what appears to be simple name-calling. The Department of Justice again has a warning: Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats and threats to physical violence. Don't wait to fight hate.
One Phone Call
When a cross was burned in the yard of a single mother of Portuguese descent in Rushville, Mo., one person's actions set in motion a community uprising against hatred.
"I have been asked many times since that night why I got involved," Christine Iverson said. "The answer is simple. I was so upset after reading the article that I had to do something. So I got up and made a phone call. Everything else came from that moment of decision."
Iverson, a disaster response expert and minister for Lutheran Social Services, called a friend involved in the church's anti-racism program. Then she called the victim. Then she called a ministerial alliance and asked to be put on the agenda. She went to the meeting with four proposals: a letter to the editor, a prayer meeting, flier distribution and a candlelight vigil. The alliance recommended all four, and Iverson was put in charge.
The result was a gathering of 300 people, a speech by the mayor, news accounts of the rally, and the formation of a unity committee within the church alliance. More than 150 people marched for the first time in a Martin Luther King Day parade, and an essay contest was created on the theme "We Have a Dream."
"There is still a lot of work to be done," Iverson said, "but we are beginning to do the work together."
Call a friend or co-worker. Organize allies from churches, schools, clubs and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.
Others share your instinct for tolerance. There is power in numbers in the fight against hate. Asking for help and organizing a group reduces personal fear and vulnerability, spreads the workload and increases creativity and impact. Coalitions for tolerance can stand up to — and isolate — organized hate groups. You and your allies can help educate others as you work to eradicate hate.
A hate crime often creates an opportunity for a community's first dialogue on race, homophobia or prejudice. It can help bridge the gap between neighborhoods and law enforcement. More people than we imagine want to do something; they just need a little push. As the creator of Project Lemonade found, "There are plenty of people of good conscience out there."
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
• Call the circle around you, including family, neighbors, co-workers, people in your church, synagogue or civic club. Meet informally at first.
• Call on groups that are likely to respond to a hate event, including faith alliances, labor unions, teachers, women's groups, university faculties, fair housing councils, the "Y" and youth groups. Make a special effort to involve businesses, schools, houses of worship, politicians, children and members of minority and targeted groups.
• Also call on local law enforcement officials. Work to create a healthy relationship with local police; working together, human rights groups and law enforcement officials can track early warning signs of hate brewing in a community, allowing for a rapid and unified response.
• Go door-to-door in the neighborhood targeted by a hate group, offering support and inviting participation in a rally, candlelight vigil or other public event. Put up ribbons or turn on porch lights as symbolic gestures. Declare a "Hate Free Zone" with a poster contest and a unity pledge. Set up a booth in a local mall to collect signatures on the pledge. Buy an ad to publicize the pledge and the contest winners.
• Fashion an appropriate, local response, but gather ideas from other towns that have faced hate events. A good starting point is a group viewing of the PBS video "Not in our Town." It tells the story of an inspiring fight against white supremacists in Billings, Mont.
SUPPORT THE VICTIMS
Hate-crime victims are especially vulnerable, fearful and alone. If you're a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate-crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
Victims of hate crimes feel terribly alone and afraid. They have been attacked simply for being who they are — their skin color, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation. Silence amplifies their isolation; it also tacitly condones the act of hate. Victims need a strong, quick message that they are valued. Small acts of kindness — a phone call, a letter - can help.
Often, hate attacks include vicious symbols: a burning cross, a noose, a swastika. Such symbols evoke a history of hatred. They also reverberate beyond individual victims, leaving entire communities vulnerable and afraid.
And because they may fear "the system," some victims may welcome the presence of others at the police station or courthouse. Local human rights organizations often provide such support, but individuals also may step forward.
With that in mind, consider some of the many ways individuals and communities have risen up to support victims of hate:
• As white supremacists marched in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a number of families invited black and Latino neighbors to dinner. "Just as a way of saying, 'You are welcome,'" said one host.
• In Montgomery, Ala., after hate mail and nails were thrown at black families in a formerly all-white neighborhood, a woman left a rose and a card, telling them, "You are not alone."
• When vandals spray-painted racial slurs, swastikas and references to the Ku Klux Klan on the driveway and home of a resident in a small Florida town near Tampa, neighbors showed up with a pressure-washer and paint to remove and cover up the hateful graffiti.
• After white supremacists harassed a Sacramento family, a labor union provided round-the-clock security.
• At Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., administrators moved final exams for harassed black students to a safer location.
• When a church in Manchester, N.H., was vandalized with racist and hateful graffiti, other houses of worship showed solidarity by leaving their lights on all night, all across town. "An attack against your church is an attack against all our congregations," Rabbi Arthur Starr explained.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.
Eruptions of hate generally produce one of two reactions: apathy ("It's just an isolated act of by some kooks") or fear ("The world is out of control"). Before reacting, communities need accurate information about those who are spouting hate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks more than 750 organized U.S. hate groups, virtually all white supremacists but including black separatist groups as well. Some are tiny — a handful of men — but armed with a computer, e-mail and a website, their reach can be immense, their message capable of entering a child's private bedroom.
In their literature and websites, hate groups rail at growing immigrant populations that will make whites a minority in this century. Like some of their brothers-in-arms in militia groups, they also spread fears of losing control of America to a "One World Government" dominated by Jewish bankers, multinational corporations and the United Nations. More often than not, members of hate groups blame scapegoats for their personal failures, low self-esteem, anger and frustration. They frequently act under the influence of alcohol or drugs, recruiting disaffected teens through music and other means.
Though their views may be couched in code words, members of hate groups typically share these extremist views:
They want to limit the rights of certain groups.
They want to divide society along racial, ethnic or religious lines.
They believe in conspiracies.
They try to silence any opposition.
They are antigovernment and fundamentalist.
And yet, most hate crimes are not committed by members of hate groups. The SPLC estimates that fewer than 5 percent of hate crimes can be linked to members of hate groups. The majority appear to be the work of "freelance" perpetrators, typically young males who are looking for thrills, defending turf or trying to blame someone else for their troubles. Rarely are they acting from deeply held ideology; instead, they attack targeted groups randomly, choosing whoever is convenient. While these young men act independently, it is hate groups — mixing stereotypes with a culture of violence — that often provide the dehumanizing rhetoric that may foster such attacks.
CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE
Hate has a First Amendment right. Courts have routinely upheld the constitutional right of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups to hold rallies and say what they want. Communities can restrict group movements to avoid conflicts with other citizens, but hate rallies will continue. Your efforts should focus on channeling people away from hate rallies and toward tolerance.
Do Not Attend a Hate Rally
As much as you'd like to physically show your opposition to hate, shout back or throw something, confrontations serve only the perpetrators. They also burden law enforcement with protecting hate-mongers against otherwise law-abiding citizens.
• In Memphis, Tenn., a riot broke out between Klansmen and counter-demonstrators on Martin Luther King's birthday. More than 100 police threw tear gas canisters and arrested 20 anti-Klan demonstrators while protecting the Klan's right to rally and speak.
• Ann Arbor, Mich., was stung by a rally in which 300 police failed to protect the Klan from a chanting crowd that threw rocks and sticks, hurting seven policemen and destroying property. The Klan members were able to stand on the First Amendment, surrounded by what one of their leaders called "animal behavior."
• A 25-minute march by the Aryan Nations through 15 blocks of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, cost the state, county and city more than $125,000 for public safety. Mayor Steve Judy described this as money spent to protect free speech. "But we could have taken the money and done a lot for human rights with it."
A World of Ideas
Every act of hatred should be met with an act of love and unity.
Many communities facing a hate-group rally have held alternative events at the same hour, some distance away, emphasizing strength in community and diversity. They have included picnics, parades and unity fairs featuring food, music, exhibits and entertainment. These events give people a safe outlet for the frustration and anger they want to vent. As a woman at a Spokane human rights rally put it, "Being passive is something I don't want to do. I need to make some kind of commitment to human rights."
• When the Klan announced plans to clean up shoulders and ditches along a stretch of road under the Adopt-a-Highway program in Palatine, Ill. — and officials realized they couldn't stop it — local teenagers flooded City Hall with so many applications that they claimed every inch of highway earmarked for the program and pushed the Klan onto a waiting list. "Truth and love and kindness and caring won out over hate," Mayor Rita Mullins said. "It restored my faith in humanity."
• Pulaski, Tenn., the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866, closed its doors to white supremacists attempting to rally there. Racists found the town closed for business, including McDonald's, the grocery store and Wal-Mart. "They couldn't find a place to get a hamburger or even go to the bathroom," the mayor said. In subsequent years, the Klan rally became a joke, and even the media got bored with it. "Last year no one came," the mayor said. "The year before that, the only TV was the Comedy Channel."
• When the Klan came to Indianapolis, local museums, the state capitol and other attractions opened their doors to citizens for free. Community leaders held a youth rally in a ballroom. A huge coalition, including the mayor and the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, placed a full-page ad in The Indianapolis Star deploring the Klan.
Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate-group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
Goodness has a First Amendment right, too. We urge you to denounce hate groups and hate crimes and to spread the truth about hate's threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and unified community is the best defense against hate.
You can spread tolerance through church bulletins, door-to-door fliers, websites, local cable TV bulletin boards, letters to the editor and print advertisements. Hate shrivels under strong light. Beneath their neo-Nazi exteriors, hate purveyors are cowards, surprisingly subject to public pressure and ostracism.
• When the 20-year-old "national leader" of the Aryan Nations in Canada was exposed by the Prince George Citizen, he resigned and closed his website. "I don't want to have this plastered all over the place," he said.
• Floyd Cochran, a former recruiter for the Aryan Nations, recalls the night he and founder Richard Butler traveled to tiny Sandpoint, Idaho, to intimidate a human relations meeting. When they found 300 people, they were intimidated themselves. "I didn't go back to Sandpoint because of the turnout," Cochran said.
A Tale of Two Towns
When the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Sharpsburg, Md., just nine Klan supporters showed up, "marching" two blocks, behind a police barrier, then leaving on the same rented Trailways bus they drove in on.
Meanwhile, many others — more than 30 times the number of Klansmen marching up Hall Street — spoke up in much louder and more effective ways.
About 40 area groups and businesses planned several alternative events in Sharpsburg and neighboring Keedysville — all this from a combined population of fewer than 1,400 people.
About 60 people attended a morning interfaith service. More than 100 turned out for an outdoor concert that afternoon, near Sharpsburg. More than 40 young people, ages 10 to 20, gathered at a local pizzeria. And more than 100 others attended a celebration of diversity in Keedysville.
"The Klan has a First Amendment right to free speech, but I also have the right to say that's not what I believe in, that's not what my community stands for," said Amanda Reed of Sharpsburg, who helped organize the alternative events.
Others also spoke out against the Klan. A local Waffle House used its letter-board sign to send a message: "Teach love not war." A red Ford Explorer carried another sign: "Hate is not welcome here." And everywhere people wore specially made T-shirts that said, "We believe in love, not hate in Washington County."
The gatherings earned local and regional press coverage that provided a balance to the hate message of the Klan.
While the single day was a success, many residents said long-term change — change that would never allow the Klan to feel welcome in either town again — is the ultimate goal.
As organizer Jerry Randell, explained: "If things keep happening after this day, that's how we'll know we're successful."
Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies in the fight against hate. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they're able to take a stand.
The fight against hate needs community leaders willing to take an active role. Mayors and police chiefs, college presidents and school principals, local clergy and corporate CEOs: Their support and leadership can help your community address the root causes of hate and help turn bias incidents into experiences from which your community can learn and heal.
When leaders step forward and act swiftly in the wake of a hate incident, victims feel supported, community members feel safe, and space for action and dialogue can grow.
Too often, the fear of negative publicity, a lack of partnerships with affected communities, and a failure to understand the root causes of hate and bias can prevent leaders from stepping up. Their silence creates a vacuum in which rumors spread, victims feel ignored and perpetrators find tacit acceptance.
Steps to Take
Here are steps for a healthy community:
• Form relationships with community leaders before a hate incident occurs. If your community group already has a relationship with the mayor, for example, you will be better positioned to ask her to make a public statement in the event of a hate crime.
• Educate community leaders about the causes and effects of hate. Sometimes, well-intentioned leaders don't understand that bias-motivated actions can have far-reaching effects across a community. Educate leaders about the impact of hate and the root causes of intolerance, so their response can match the incident.
• Demand a quick, serious police response. The vigorous investigation and prosecution of hate crimes attracts media attention to issues of tolerance and encourages the public to stand up against hate.
• Demand a strong public statement by political leaders. When elected officials issue proclamations against hate, it helps promote tolerance and can unify communities. Silence, on the other hand, can be interpreted as the acceptance of hate.
• Encourage leaders to name the problem. Local leaders sometimes try to minimize incidents fueled by hate or bias, not calling them hate crimes. As a result, victims and their communities can feel silenced, and national hate crimes statistics become inaccurate. "Only when we know the true level and nature of hate crime in the U.S. will we be able to allocate resources in an effective way to combat it," advises Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.
• Lobby for action. To heal in the wake of a bias incident — and to grow into a more resilient community — requires more than official statements. It also takes hard work. Ask your community leaders to walk the talk. Ask for their public support and involvement in rallies, community meetings and long-term solutions that address the root causes of intolerance.
LOOK LONG RANGE
Promote tolerance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your community's comfort zones so you can learn and live together.
Hate usually doesn't strike communities from some distant place. It often begins at home, brewing silently under the surface. Hate can grow out of divided communities, communities in which residents feel powerless or voiceless, communities in which differences are the cause of fear instead of celebration.
The best cure for hate is a tolerant, united community. As Chris Boucher of Yukon, Penn., put it after residents there opposed a local meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, "A united coalition is like Teflon. Hate can't stick there."
Hate exists "because the ground in the area is receptive for it," says Steven Johns Boehme, leader of the Michigan Ecumenical Forum. "If you drop the seeds of prejudice in soil that is not receptive, they won't take root."
Experts say the first step in changing hearts is to change behavior. Personal changes are important — the positive statements you make about others, unlearning assumptions about people who are different — but communitywide changes are instrumental, too.
Often, either after a bias incident or as a tool for preventing one, communities want to sponsor multicultural food festivals and other events to celebrate differences. These are important steps in helping community members feel acknowledged and appreciated. We encourage you to sponsor these — and we encourage you to go deeper.
Steps to Take
Not sure where to start? Consider the following:
• Hold candlelight vigils, religious services and other activities to bring people of different races, religions and ethnic groups together. In Boise, Idaho, Martin Luther King's birthday has become an 11-day Human Rights Celebration.
• Honor history and mark anniversaries. In Selma, Ala., a multicultural street fair is held on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when voting-rights activists attempted to walk across a bridge to Montgomery and were beaten back by police. And in Denver, Cinco de Mayo has become a major celebration of Mexican culture.
• Break bread together. The Cornbread Club in Lubbock, Texas, brings together people of different ethnicities and income levels. The group has no agenda, no speakers and only one rule at its monthly dinners at a local cafeteria: Sit next to someone you don't know.
• Move from prayer to action. In California's San Fernando Valley, an interfaith council formed "home dialogues," with people from different faiths and cultures meeting together in their homes. In Covington, Ky., churchwomen conducted a letter-writing campaign to support hate crime legislation; they later promoted teacher training in race relations.
• Begin a community conversation on race. Discussion groups, book clubs, Internet chat rooms and library gatherings can bring people together. Effective community conversations allow individuals to tell their stories, their immigration history, their daily encounters with discrimination, their fear about revealing sexual orientation and so on.
• Consider building something the community needs, and use it as an organizing tool - from a teen center to a new playground. Make sure residents from different backgrounds are included in the process.
• Create a tolerance website or an online community discussion board. Coloradans United Against Hate — www.cuah.org — is an online "paperless organization" with a virtual billboard for posting stories and comments on local hate issues.
Bias is learned in childhood. By age 3, children can be aware of racial differences and may have the perception that "white" is desirable. By age 12, they can hold stereotypes about ethnic, racial and religious groups. Because stereotypes underlie hate, and because almost half of all hate crimes are committed by young men under 20, tolerance education is critical.
Schools are an ideal environment to counter bias, because they mix youth of different backgrounds, place them on equal footing and allow one-on-one interaction. Children also are naturally curious about people who are different.
In the Classroom
Here are some ideas:
• Acknowledge differences among students and celebrate the uniqueness of everyone. In Debra Goldsbury's first-grade class in Seattle, children paint self-portraits, mixing colors to match their skin tone. They then name their colors, which have included "gingerbread," "melon" and "terra cotta." They learn that everyone has a color, that no one is actually "white."
• Create an "I Have a Dream" contest, in which students envision and describe an ideal community. In North Berkshire, Mass., winning essays are reproduced and rolled onto highway billboards donated by the Callahan Outdoor Advertising Company.
• Promote inclusion and fairness, but allow discussions of all feelings, including bias learned at home and the street. Establish a "peace table" where children learn to "fight fair," perhaps with hand puppets in which conflict is acted out.
• Promote diversity by letting children tell stories about their families, however different they may be. Diversity embraces not just race, but age, religion, marital status and personal ability. Remember that charting "family trees" can be a challenge to some children, such as those who are adopted or living with single parents.
• Use art and theatre to help children understand the effects of discrimination and celebrate their differences. At Southeast Whitfield High School in Dalton, Ga., an ESOL class painted a mural on their classroom wall. The activity provided an outlet for immigrant students to share part of their culture and discuss the challenges of moving to a new country.
• Teach older children to look critically at stereotypes portrayed by the media. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine a lawyer, doctor, rap musician, gang member, bank president, hair stylist or criminal. What did they "see" and why? Confronted with their own stereotypes, children begin to question how they've been shaped by the media.
• Teach mediation skills to kids. At Mill Hill Elementary School in Fairfield, Conn., a group of fifth-graders, selected because of their reputations as bullies, respond anonymously to letters from younger students seeking advice on a range of school-related problems, like bullying and harassment. The program helps students develop empathy.
Look inside yourself for prejudices and stereotypes. Build your own cultural competency, then keep working to expose discrimination wherever it happens — in housing, employment, education and more.
Tolerance, fundamentally, is a personal decision. It comes from an attitude that is learnable and embraceable: a belief that every voice matters, that all people are valuable, that no one is "less than."
We all grow up with prejudices. Acknowledging them — and working through them — can be a scary and difficult process. It's also one of the most important steps toward breaking down the walls of silence that allow intolerance to grow. Luckily, we all possess the power to overcome our ignorance and fear, and to influence our children, peers and communities.
It Begins With Me
Human rights experts recommend starting with the language we use and the assumptions we make about others. Am I quick to label people as "rednecks" or "illegals"? Do I tell gay jokes? Do I look with disdain at families on welfare, or do I try to understand the socio-economic forces that prevent many families from climbing out of poverty?
Here are other questions you might ask yourself:
How wide is my circle of friends? How diverse is my holiday card list?
How integrated is my neighborhood? My child's school? My workplace? Why is that?
Do I take economic segregation and environmental racism for granted?
Do I have the courage to ask a friend not to tell a sexist or racist or homophobic joke in my presence?
Do I receive information about other cultures from members of those cultures, or from potentially biased, third-party sources?
Do I take the time to listen and learn from other people's experiences — especially people with whom I might initially disagree?
How often am I in the minority?
Many good books, films and workshops can help guide you in self-examination. Reading the histories of other cultures and of different social justice movements — the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano movement, the fight for gay rights — is a good start.
Fighting for Systemic Change
Sooner or later, your personal exploration will bump up against issues that take more than one person to solve. Investigating your own prejudices will reveal a country with deep, systemic and unresolved prejudice and discrimination.
These issues cry out for answers and people to take them on. Experts warn that if we fail to tackle the root causes of intolerance, the efforts described in this guidebook will end up looking "like small points of light in a sea of overwhelming darkness."
In any city and state there are dozens of problems to address: hunger, affordable housing, domestic violence, school dropout rates, police brutality — the list goes on. A caring group of people, having coalesced to deal with hate, could remain together to tackle any number of societal problems.
Luckily, most towns and cities have neighborhood or citywide organizations that bring together people of different backgrounds to work for change. If yours does not, there are plenty of resources available to help you start one.
Why not start today?
The most important step is the first one ...
Care of Tolerance.org
A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
maruditas, you left off one:
I've been running around the Web recently, and there's a lot of stupidity out there. Now, stupidity from the likes of Fred Phelps is one thing; apparently, that's par for the course. It's not good, but at least it's not surprising.
What's under my skin is the stupidity that comes from other gay men. How can any gay man rationalize the claim that bisexuals "are really closeted gays." True, a lot of gay men, on their way out of the closet, do use the term "bisexual" as a way of getting used to come out to others as *gay.* But that's no reason to invalidate the entire idea of actually having a bisexual orientation.
I've run into similar remarks about asexuals. ("How is asexuality a sexual orientation at all?" some seem to ask.) Okay, asexuality by definition is a lack of sexual attraction. Fine. But that doesn't mean that it's somehow invalid to use the phrase "sexual orientation" to describe it; it's just an orientation away from all sex, rather than an orientation towards some variety of sex. Big deal. We should still be able to make common cause with asexuals. Another objection is that asexuals don't face the kinds of discrimination that we do. Again: big deal. Asexuals themselves will tell you as much. Just because their goals are different (recognition as asexuals, rather than, say, celibates or closeted gays; and inclusion in education about, and research concerning, the various queer communities) doesn't mean that we can't help them, and they help us.
I know that this is a bit more of a rant than anything else, but is anyone else out there running into this kind of nonsense *within* the gay community?
Zerbie, thanks for speaking up.
And I'm with you 100% on the "you're only gay when..." comment.
And if I'm not sleeping with anybody
I don't even HAVE a lifestyle?
It's surprisingly similar to hear arguments from the Christian right that gay people are leading to the downfall of our nation, and from liberal friends of mine who believe that conservative Christians are doing the same. Of course, it is fine, even good and necessary, to have disagreements, but when people shut down to the other side and demonize we miss out on the good parts of both. I have been really bitter against the church for being homophobic and it has been really necessary for me to express my outrage about that. But I have also gotten even more out of expressing my appreciation for the church and the way that it can be a central part of a community that is focused on making sustainable decisions, caring for young and old, inspiring people to charitable works and giving, and engage in loving relationships.
I really like the way that it is put in the Soulforce commitment steps on this site, that it is not the people we are fighting, but ignorance. It can be really hard to not demonize and not be outraged at a group that has spread lies and used its power to keep rights out of your reach, and I am certainly guilty of it at times. But what can we work on together? How can we create forums for calm education to counter ignorance in conservative religious groups where we listen as much as we educate? I think that the criticism of the queer community from those groups stems from a disappointment on behalf of conservative groups that youth going forward will disregard and cast aspersions on traditions which, though certainly troubled, have been very positive and life-giving.
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