Published Sunday, March 20, 2019 in “The Tennessean” [Here]
No Room for Hate | Tennessean | Opinion
Patrick W. Ryan, Guest Columnist
Hatred and bigotry have no room in our society and here’s what we can do about it.
There is no shortage of heart wrenching natural and man-made disasters, conflicts and human suffering every day around the world. But the brutality of the mass murders carried out on March 15th by a self-described white supremacist at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand is nearly incomprehensible. Fifty Muslim faithful at prayer were ruthlessly killed in their houses of worship and fifty more were wounded. A community and country known for its peacefulness was left to recover from a tragedy as sudden and sweeping as the earthquake that rocked that city in 2011. Christchurch resident Eleanor Morgan told a reporter, “It should have been their haven, their safe place.”
Such a horrendous act rightly has shaken people beyond those in New Zealand and those in the Muslim community. While it is shocking, it is unfortunately not surprising. We live in a time when violence is too often delivered upon people simply because of their differences.
Hatred of the “other” is commonplace and those who would act on it are on the rise and given license by voices of bigotry.
Hatred of the “other” is a product of resentment and ignorance. We cannot be silent in its face. Silence is affirmation.
It is clear this is not simply a domestic issue or not simply an issue “over there.” Hate groups are growing – 36 in Tennessee in 2018 according to the SPLC – and their transnational nature is increasing. Hate speech and behavior on one side of the world can produce hate crimes on the other side.
Individual hate-fueled violent acts in the United States are on the rise. The FBI reported a 17 percent increase in 2017 over 2016, with 7,100 hate crimes noted. Responding is the responsibility of every level of society and we must reject leaders who are ambivalent to these threats.
A Nashville vigil was held March 17th to break the silence and to express condolences and solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosques attacks and those affected by the heinous crimes. Ossama Bahloul of Nashville’s Muslim community said, “We are in this together,” according to “The Tennessean.” Congressman Jim Cooper said, “There is no room for hate in Nashville, Tennessee.”
Bahloul added, “Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are all equally forms of hatred. They are branches of the same tree. You can cut or trim back any branch, but it will regrow unless the entire tree is chopped down. Destroying hatred does not require violence, instead it requires goodness.”
And it requires education.
Educate yourself, your children, your family and your friends. Reject rhetoric and behaviors that seek to isolate and vilify the “other.” Look for ways to connect members of your “tribe” to other “tribes.” Be a role model for tolerance.
You can learn more in “Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide,” published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLCenter.org). The Anti-Defamation League (ADL.org) is another source for actions you can take. Support organizations like these that fight hatred and bigotry. They depend on you.
For our part your World Affairs Council will redouble our work to build bridges and international understanding and, by extension, understanding of the “other,” whether around the world or in our neighborhood. We invite you to become part of these conversations.
We are not powerless. There is no room for hate.
Patrick W. Ryan is founder and President of the Tennessee World Affairs Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education organization that works to provide global literacy programs to the community. These are his views.