July 21, 2014

Familiar Images of Hate

Attempting to block integration at the Univers...
Attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama, Governor stands defiantly at the door while being confronted by Deputy U.S. Attorney General . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I can't say I've never hated anyone, but the few people I have hated all had something in common: they were people who were close to me and then betrayed my trust in a major way. The feelings of hate I experienced always came from this betrayal of trust. I've never been able to relate to hating someone I don't know fairly well, and the hatred of strangers has always baffled me. Why would I expend the energy required by hate on a stranger?

Immigration has been back in the news, featuring many vivid scenes of White people yelling at buses filled with immigrants in California. This is what hate looks like when it rises to the surface. And it never seems to be very far from the surface. Whether it is directed at immigrants, racial/ethnic minorities, LGBT persons, atheists, or those with a different political orientation matters little. It tends to look the same.

When I see these scenes on television or the Internet, I feel ashamed to be part of the same species as the protestors. I find myself thinking that this is a testimony to some of the worst of what the United States has to offer. Of course, I recognize that the hatred of immigrants and many other groups is not specific to the U.S. and that it is certainly nothing new. But none of this makes me feel any better about it.

The sort of hate captured in the many images and video clips from California is something with which I am all too familiar. I grew up around it, and I remember the intense hatred toward Hispanic immigrants I encountered while living on the West Coast. I remember how easily it seemed to generalize to anyone of Hispanic ethnicity, to anyone who spoke languages other than English, and then to anyone who had the courage to speak out against it. In those days, it was never about the fear of losing one's job to an immigrant; it was about the fear that the very presence of immigrants would degrade one's culture. It was about the conviction that "they" don't belong here and that the angry White people should not have to encounter "them."

When young people today want to see what their parents or grandparents saw during the Civil Rights era, they need only look at these recent videos. Granted, one would need to imagine them being much larger and having the support of law enforcement, but the hate is similar. Too similar.

In recent weekend contribution to Jonathan Turley's blog, Mike Appleton wrote:
In one of the videos of the Murietta protests, a woman can be seen shouting, “Not our children. Not our problem.” In Vassar, Michigan, two weeks later, demonstrators, two carrying semi-automatic rifles, assembled in front of a social services facility selected to provide temporary housing for some of the children. The organizer of the protest, Tamyra Murray, was quoted as saying, “We must save America and stand up against this invasion.” Collective fear at work, one rope short of a lynch mob.
 I have little doubt that many of the most vocal protestors we see in these clips from Murrieta are Christians. It is not that this sort of hate is somehow unique to Christians; it certainly isn't. Atheists are perfectly capable of tribalism and can have an extremely difficult time recognizing that people can be wrong without necessarily being bad people. But it always seemed to me that Christians were extremely skilled in concocting justifications for their hate that made them feel okay about it. Whether the targets are immigrants, LGBT persons, atheists, or liberals, some Christians are so effective at dehumanizing them that they no longer seem to recognize their own hate.

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