In Part one of this two-part series, “What to do in those moments of rage,” we called out the increases in acts of hate after the recent election. We follow up here with some tips for getting home safely.
But here’s the reality that threatens that goal – “drive by hate” can spring up unexpectedly, anytime and anywhere. And it’s on the rise across the country. Such acts can puncture your comfort zone while crossing a parking lot, walking on campus, sitting in an athletic stand, in cyberspace – anywhere.
Whether the hateful language is a pejorative term relating to African-Americans, women, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, the disabled, the aim of the dagger is the same – to hurt, to strike fear.
Inarguably, what sets off these cowardly acts are the usual suspects – alcohol coupled with a need to be one of, or to impress, “the boys.” Groupthink is how we define the latter. Donning ethnic clothing, doing something annoying, just being different; any one or combination of these factors can instigate the hate.
Now to put this narrative into perspective, at last report the Southern Poverty Law Center, a tracker of hate crimes in the U.S., reports acts since the election nearing 1000. And what’s worrisome is that a reversal of this trend does not seem to be on the horizon.
So what do we do? I decided to sit down and interview myself in search for answers:
Q: What are some warning signs that you could be the target of a hate crime?
SELF: Unfortunately warning signs are hard to pin point since acts of hate are situational, can be activated in the heat of the moment or just driven by opportunity. Stereotypical attitudes about “others” fed in part by the media can result in people saying hateful things. In the end, the presence of alcohol and peer pressure, the existence of pent up frustrations for other reasons, all can lead to outbursts of hate.
Is it smart to avoid places that may be fertile grounds for hate-based physical or verbal abuse?
Self: Off the bat I’d say take caution if you go to places where they are roving bands of profanity-using knuckleheads, especially when you suspect that alcohol is involved? Rightly or wrongly, I’m immediately put on guard when I encounter confederate flags or “Make America Great Again” bumper stickers.
Other than skin color, are there other factors that may incite drive by hate?
SELF: One’s appearance can make one vulnerable. For example, donning a “Black Lives Matter” tee shirt or wearing “foreign looking” clothing and headwear could make one susceptible. Other than that, open displays of affection between same-sex couples, or uncivil behaviors by potential targets – cutting someone off while driving, for example – could set off a human ticking time bomb.
How best do you respond in the “heat of the moment,” when you’re the target of a hate?
Self: As I wrote in Part One, unless you’re under a physical threat, exercising expediency is by far the best approach, meaning simply ignoring what happened and walking or driving away. That’s tough to do, I admit that. Wisdom is knowing what to ignore. So again I urge one to resist responding in kind. And if you’re in your automobile when someone yells out hate, roll up your window and look straight ahead. You cannot be hurt by what you don’t hear, can you? I also advise that you keep a full tank of gasoline when you’re out since some drive by haters may not stop at hurling epithets at you and may even follow you for a physical confrontation. So the last thing you want is to run out of gas. Under these circumstances it is best to head to the nearest police station or busy, well-lighted parking lot which will likely result in the haters veering off in some other direction.
That strategy may work for folks in your generation Terry, but what about this new generation not willing to suffer in silence?
SELF: I completely understand. However I would ask them to ask themselves this before responding in kind: “If I strike back, do I have medical and burial insurance? Could I or one of them end up in jail if this gets out of hand?” If not, there’s a fat chance that their grieving parents will foot the bill for the burial or the bail. My point is that what starts as responding in kind to harassment can quickly escalate into some worse, something much worse. I’m personally knowledgeable of both those outcomes. Sure, we have a right to choose how we respond, but not the right to choose the consequences of our choices.
I repeat: the goal is to get home safely.
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