Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Spark of Wisdom: Where does hate come from?

image This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

I've recently read the  New York Times article where the NYT has finally caught on to the Uganda kill-gays law and the involvement of several American religious hate mongers involved in this particularly toxic piece of hatred. And, as we've seen before with Rick Warren, the Family and others who are up to their evil eyes in this particular vileness, they are now all shocked, SHOCKED, that their hate filled words could have encouraged such an awful awful thing.

Even accepting their protests as sincere (and I really really don't, because it's beyond belief that someone can espouse such hatred and then be shocked at the result), even accepting that they never ever imagined this could happen - well, what did they expect? How can they be shocked that constantly attacking gays, accusing us of preying on children, of trying to destroy society, leads to persecution?

This is something I've discussed before in passing in many ways, but it's something I want to make clear.

Where does hate come from?

Where did the hate come from, that causes parents to turn their own flesh and blood from their homes when they learn their beloved children are gay?

Where did the hate come from, that causes gangs of youths to hunt down a gay man and put him in hospital with multiple head fractures?

Where did the hate come from, that caused the first person I ever came out to, a boy I had known since we were both babes in arm, to put his fist to my jaw and his boot to my ribs?

Where does the hate come from, that people will spend literally millions upon millions of pounds fighting against every single right we try to hold, even though the result couldn't possible affect them even slightly?

Where does the hate come from, that charities will withdraw their aid (or refuse the aid of homosexuals) where homosexuals are treated like equal people?

Where does the hate come from, that even the most basic public display of homosexuality or homosexual affection is a daring act that requires considerable courage?

Where does the hate come from, that complete strangers will attack me, condemn me, hurl abuse and missiles at me and even physically assault me?

Where does the hate come from that I, and many homosexuals, have our lives shaped by fear of that hate?

Where does it come from? Does it just appear? No. There is no random bigotry radiation zapping in from outer space, there are no hate waves emanating from the Earth's core, there's no random hate contaminants from our food or drink or mobile phone radiation.

No. Hatred does not spontaneously appear. Hatred does not occur in a vacuum. Hatred and prejudice happen because we have a society that says, yes, it's ok to treat these people as "other" as less, as subhuman, as less worthy of respect or regard.  Hatred and prejudice happen because we have a society that nurtures them.

We nurture it by having loud, virulent bigots spewing their hatred and polluting the air with hate speech. We nurture it by having large, powerful organisations and churches preaching hate and prejudice and providing "moral" justifications for bigotry. We nurture it by having preachers calling hatred laudable and good. We have even those essential organs of justice - courts, tribunals et al - utterly failing to protect or provide justice when people are oppressed or targeted. We have (and this is perhaps the most toxic) the government itself allowing hatred to be written into law, into the state's most fundamental legal foundations, denying rights and privileges due to all citizens. All of these together provide a powerful message of support for hatred - all of these together provide extremely fertile soil for bigotry.

Can you turn to someone and say "gay people have value, it's wrong to hurt them!" while at the same time you're saying that gay people are not deserving of equality? You cannot say "violence against gay people is wrong!" while at the same time saying we are depraved sinners, preying on children? You can't say "gay people are due respect" then turn round and call us diseased or disease carriers, broken, immoral, bent and corrupt. You cannot say "beating and killing gays is utterly unjustified!" when you have written anti-gay initiatives into your laws - into your very constitutions! When you have spent hours in the pulpit, before the microphone or political floor creating just those justifications.

And then there's the myriad little things. How many times a week - a day! - do we allow some devaluing comment or action pass our lips or pass our ears? Not just for gay people, but for any marginalised body.

Sometimes it's as simple as silence. We're silent, when our leader, religious group, spokesperson says or does something to nurture hatred - in doing so we add our consent, or at least the sense that it doesn't bother us, and in doing add yet more fertile soil for hatred.

And sometimes it's just the daily little grinds that we either tolerate in silence or, worse, actively contribute to. It's every pejorative word we say or allow to be said without protest. It's every sexist joke we tell. Every PoC stereotype we believe. Every  horrendous media portrayal we ignore or gleefully consume. It's every time we repeat stories or anecdotes of crimes committed by people of colour, or parenting/relationship disasters from homosexuals or even car accidents involving women when we'd never mention them if it was a white, straight man involved.

All of this is not just damaging for the oppressed groups to hear and endure (and believe me, it is definitely that) but it is destructive for us as a society - a society that is stained by thousands upon millions upon billions of minor (and major) acts of prejudice. A society that will continue to produce hatred and bigotry so long as we keep providing the foundation for it.

This is where the hatred comes from. This is where the violence comes from. Because every day, with every hate speech, with every prejudiced law, with every frothing bigot  - be they in the pulpit,  in parliament,  on television, on a  street corner or even ranting in our own living room - every day with every excuse we make, with every joke we laugh at, with every stereotype we indulge in - we say it's ok

In a thousand ways every day we act as cheerleaders for the hate. We provide the soil in which the violence grows. We provide the excuses, the motivation, the acceptability for all those broken lives.

THIS is why hate speech is important.

THIS is why prejudice jokes aren't funny.

THIS is why stereotypes are wrong.

THIS is why media portrayal is so damaging.

THIS is why speaking out and shouting down the haters is necessary

THIS is why every act of prejudice, no matter how minor, should not be tolerated.

THIS is why every right, whether we exercise it or not, matters

THIS is why a slur should NEVER pass our lips.

Hatred does not come from a vacuum. The violent do not appear out of thin air. There is no mystery behind those that attack and hurt and kill us.

It comes from us, our society, our leaders, our culture, our language and our very selves. We have value - but that will never be acknowledged - that will never be truly BELIEVED -  while there are so many voices that devalue us.

Hate will never stop until we stop saying, in a hundred ways, every day that hate is ok.

And so long as we keep saying hate is ok, we are responsible when that hatred leads to ruined lives.