The phrase “we have met the enemy and they are us” is not only what Oliver Hazard Perry uttered after the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, used on a poster to promote Earth Day in 1970 and was portrayed in Walt Kelley’s ‘Pogo’ comic strip referring to the turmoil caused by the Vietnam War, it’s apropos today. Disparaging other people due to race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, marital status and disability is a prejudice of our ignorance.
Let’s be honest with one another. Who brought the first slave ship to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619? White Anglo-Americans, who also stole land from Native Americans while burning down their villages, raping their women and creating false treaty after false treaty. Remember Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee?
Fast forward. Latinos recently crossed a man–made boundary seeking a better life in America. How were they treated? We took their children out of the parents’ arms, incarcerated babies in caged fences and escorted mom and dad back to their country of origin.
Since 1619 we have encountered a Civil War, lynchings, bombings of churches and federal buildings, internments of Japanese-Americans, assassination of civil rights and political leaders, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow segregation laws, discrimination, an 8 minute and 46 second murder, voter suppression in 2020 and a political leader tout white supremacists as “very fine people.”
Sigmund Freud – founder of psychoanalysis – coined the term projection, which describes the things people hate about others are the same things they fear within themselves. We reject what we don’t like about ourselves.
Organized hate groups in America include 255 black separatist, 155 white nationalist, 84 anti-Muslim, 70 anti-LGBTQ, 59 Neo-Nazi, 48 racist skinhead, 47 Ku Klux Klan, 20 anti-immigrant, 11 Christian identity groups and 291 from 9 other groups (Statista Research, March 30, 2020).
In an Oxford Dictionary sponsored study of Americans favorite insults by political affiliation, the top six words – out of 39 — to describe conservatives include (in rank order): extremists, ideologue, nutjob, idiot, radical and lunatic. The top six words associated with liberals (in rank order) include hack, troll, idiot, extremists, elitist and moron. Ironically the words “idiot” and “extremists” are common to denigrate both political parties.
Hate speech is prevalent as witnessed by letters to the editor, social media blasts, radio show host proclamations, conspiracy theories, faux news programs and political speeches. A president seeking re-election recently violated Facebook Inc.’s “organized hate” policy and branded his campaign with the red-colored downward-pointing triangle Nazis used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.
Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group – one of the largest privately-held media companies in the world – said in the conservative Wall Street Journal, “America will never have true peace until we stop protecting, nurturing and fostering hate groups. America must deal with these hate groups appropriately, the same way it deals with foreign terrorism, because domestic terrorism is much worse” (June 15, 2020).
While we can proudly hold onto our unique heritage, cultural and personal identity, America must – not should – but must come together. The key to overcoming hate is education.
A course titled “Civil and Human Rights 101” must be created and made mandatory in every day care center, pre-school, private, public and home schooled K-12 system, post-secondary institution, vocational-technical-trade school, service organization, house of worship and adult education class for us to take over and over until we get it right and eliminate prejudice.
Nathan Rutstein’s statement in his book Healing racism in America: A prescription for the disease, is profound: “prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.” Eliminating hate starts with a competent President and our respective civil behavior. America’s survival depends on coming together NOW!
Steve is a non-paid freelance opinion editor & guest columnist contributor to 139 newspapers in six states who receives no remuneration, funding or endorsement from any for-profit business, not-for-profit organization, Political Action Committee or political party