Hate is real and present in both my world and yours. We hear talk about its impact on the news each day. Unfortunately, there isn't much talk about how we can fix it. And no, sharing a link to your local echo chamber on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook does not count. There are real ways to eradicate hate from society. Unfortunately, none of them are quick or easy.
We can attack hate in two ways: curing the infected and vaccinating the uninfected against it. Vaccinating, while not quite perfect, is astonishingly effective and is administered in the privacy of the home .
I hope you're not surprised to discover that children are highly likely to share their parent's political, religious, and other beliefs . This is the foundation of human evolution and society. While there are nuances to account for , parents have an opportunity to pass on some of their experiences, knowledge, and traits to the rising generation. It is also the vehicle by which both hate and the vaccination against it are transmitted.
Take a moment to consider the implications of this: schools do not have the power to shape the mind or attitude in the same way. We cannot add an anti-hate class to our school's curriculum and expect success. It also means that the responsibility for eradicating hate rests most squarely on the shoulders of parents . If we want to end hate, we must work with parents to help them satisfy that responsibility.
How can we do this?
First, parents need to teach empathy. This can feel counter-intuitive in an environment in which people are obsessively focused on individuality and personal identity. They are not mutually-exclusive . People have an amazing capacity to use their highly-personalized, individual experiences, talents, and traits to put themselves in others' shoes in order to understand them better. Hate ends when we are able to see ourselves in the eyes of those we oppress .
Second, parents need to teach awareness. There is plenty of hate in the world and schools are a breeding ground. Children need to know what hate looks like in its simplist and most infantile forms .
Finally, parents need to help their children develop the skills needed to combat hate. People are not born knowing what to say when one of their friends uses a racial slur against another, even if they know it is wrong. Most adults do not know how to react to a man screaming insults at a woman on the subway. Role playing these scenarios at home, providing gentle but clear direction and instruction on how children can react, is one of the best ways to teach these skills .
Don't be fooled into absolving yourself of any responsibility regarding hate if you are not a parent: you can (and must) still make a difference. The tools you will use are the same: empathy, awareness, and skillful action. Teach empathy whenever you can. Raise awareness of the little ways that hate creeps into people's lives. When you witness hateful speech or acts, respond appropriately to protect, educate, and bring about a peaceful end.
Be cautious to avoid making two critical mistakes:
- Hating the hater
- Forcing change
As hard as it can be to avoid, hating the hater is a way in which the disease of hate is perpetuated . In this case (and many others), you cannot fight fire with fire: it will leave nothing but pain and destruction behind. People can change. Those raised with hate can learn empathy and leave hate behind. This does not mean that we enable their acts of hatred or facilitate their message: we do none of these things. As we protect their victims and deny haters the means of spreading their message, we must also invite them to see the world differently, to change.
That kind of change can only stem from a deeply personal and introverted choice. It can't be forced upon anyone. Yes, there is a perverted sense of justice in bullying racist Twitter users into silence but it resolves nothing . Play the long game: encourage empathy in those that have none. Don't validate their hate by returning it in kind. Show them that you recognize that they have worth and value as human beings too. Invite. Encourage. Give them a chance to make a change. It is the only lasting solution and the only way to a real cure.
- Navarro, J. (2013) The Psychology of Hatred, The Open Criminology Journal, 2013, 6, 10-17
- Jennings, M. K., Stoker, L., & Bowers, J. (2009) Politics across Generations: Family Transmission Reexamined
- Gallup (2005) Teens Stay True to Parent's Political Perspectives
- Vox (2016) Your politics aren't just passed down from your parents
- Guzzetta, Roberta A. (1976) Acquisition and transfer of empathy by the parents of early adolescents through structured learning training. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 23(5), Sep 1976, 449-453
- Schipper, M., Bartholdi, K., Schauber, M., & Petermann, F. Relations between Empathy, Trust, and Personality Traits differ between Collectivism and Individualism
- Sadler, P., Ethier, N., Gunn, G. R., Duong, D., & Woody, E. (2009). Are we on the same wavelength? Interpersonal complementarity as shared cyclical patterns during interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 1005-1020.
- Richardson, D. R., Hammock, G. S., Smith, S. M., Gardner, W. and Signo, M. (1994), Empathy as a cognitive inhibitor of interpersonal aggression. Aggr. Behav., 20: 275–289. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1994)20:4<275::AID-AB2480200402>3.0.CO;2-4
- Partners Against Hate
- Bhattacharjee, S (2014) Effectiveness of role-playing as a pedagogical approach in construction education. 50 th ASC Annual International Conference Proceedings
- Teaching Empathy through Read Aloud and Role-Play
- Bloom, P. (2015) The Dark Side of Empathy
- Wright, Michelle F., and Yan Li. The association between cyber victimization and subsequent cyber aggression: The moderating effect of peer rejection. Journal of youth and adolescence 42.5 (2013): 662-674.