Moving Past a Culture of Hate

Someone asked me, "Don't you teach on diversity and awareness/acceptance, what do YOU think of the Orlando tragedy?" And it's inspired me to share some thoughts to add another positive outlook to the mix of perspectives.

The event is absolutely terrible. I usually try to take in as much news and reports about an incident as possible, regardless of the piece's severity, so that it stays visceral to me, but some of these videos have been too painful for me to make it through. It goes without saying that it's devastating, not just for the act itself, but for what it says about our society... as some public figures and celebrities have pointed out (again), we're falling into a pattern with these events and that adds a whole other layer of sad mad frustration.

What do we do about it? I mean, what do you do about hate? Well let's go back to guns for a quick sec, just to say that my take is we don't need automatic weapons in society. However, I'm looking beyond just guns because even though I think it would be good to minimize the access to extreme killing tools, people are still going to do bad things, that's been the case forever.

We have a culture that is full and love and acceptance and progress, but also one that fosters hate, othering, exclusion and violence. We allow objects that represent hate to exist in every day society and we allow people that preach it to hold positions of power and influence. Why? That's more complicated than I can get my head around but I think it has something to do with masses of people that hold those same ideals and values. So progress, when you're talking about a cultural shift, is super hard, though I believe possible.

What do I think any of us can actually do? Well, for now, my answer to that is the same takeaway that I gathered when a group of us got together in my living room in the weeks following Ferguson to ask that exact question. The main theme was this: we all have our own circles, spheres, and methods where we CAN make a difference and jeeze do I think it is a waste of time to debate which ones is more important. For some people that is posting on facebook, for others it's getting out in the streets, and for some it's working in official systems and on policy. It also might even be sharing it with one stranger or even friend...or family, which might be the toughest at all.

I see the consistent and widespread practice of acceptance, inclusion, and compassion as the way to PROACTIVELY head off more of these events.

Who knows who might be affected for the better because of a smile or conversation they received. Or seeing someone stop some verbal abuse on the street, or shutdown some harassment online. The little stuff adds up, and we all have the ability to participate in that elusive cultural shift.

Levi Baer

Chicago, IL