(Article is Part 1 of a series) So here we are, and not in some far-flung foreign country either. We’re in America 2016, and hate is popping up across the nation. And as incidents of racist, sexist and Islamophobia harassment continue in the wake of the election, many are asking, ‘what should I do when (not “if”) acts of hate are directed at me or others?’
“God Bless You,” was her seemingly choreographed response to this question I asked my friend and her young black son “Mark”:
“Given the documented cases of hate crimes since the election, how would you respond if haters drove by you and yelled ‘Hey N—-r”, go back to Africa. We’re taking our country back!”
“Uh, uh! If that happens to me, I’m ready to rumble!” said “Mark,” at hearing mom’s response.
Let’s look at a few recent incidents that have happened over the last month and consider those responses:
“My neighbor in San Francisco had a bottle filled with vomit thrown through her front window. The window had anti-hate signs on it.”
“A woman got a text from a friend asking what she’d be wearing “to the slave auction in January.”
“My brother saw a pickup truck with the Confederate battle flag in L.A. A few days later a white lady screamed “N—-r!” at him — just that word, no other commentary — because she didn’t like his driving.”
“A black woman in a Walmart parking lot was called “n—-r b—h” and told to go “back to Africa” by a truck full of white men who yelled “Make America white again!” before throwing cups full of chewing tobacco saliva on her.”
And so it goes in the first month of the Trump era.
Now the core question is what’s the best response in those inevitable “moments of rage,” that brief danger period when one has an urge to return the epithet, or offer the middle finger salute, either one of which could wind up putting you or the hater(s) six feet under, or behind bars for years. Inarguably, how people respond to these acts of hate depends on the situation, where the act occurs and the target’s skills and comfort level in responding to them.
While deep in thought about all this, my phone rang and my good friend John, a Vietnam Vet and Purple Heart recipient, was on the other end. Right away I posed the how would he respond to “drive by” and individual acts of ignorance and outright hate.
“Expediency” was his answer based on the time he spent in the jungles of Vietnam and his steep knowledge of the non-violence training offered decades ago during the Civil Rights movement that swept through the South.
“In preparation for demonstrations and sit-ins, we were trained to keeping walking while under assault and avoid direct eye contact. The strategy was one of expediency.”
Thus the expediency strategy is just to ignore them if you’re not in physical danger and not give them what they want; knowledge that what they said hurt, or other reasons to inflict more harm.
The expediency response brought back memories for John and me of the famous picture of Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine, and how she walked in dignity down the street in front of Central High School while enduring hateful glares and venomous shouts from an angry white crowd.
Was she terrified? Absolutely. She told a small group of us that in a hotel conference room in Little Rock back in 2007. Her famous dark sunglasses hid her fear, she said, while shielding the spit from flowing into her eyes.
So, are we saying to remain non-violent in courageous stoicism in the face of hate? Is that the answer?
Whoa, not so fast, retorts ready-to-rumble “Mark” and others of the younger generation.
“That may have worked for members of your and John’s generation Terry but not necessarily for mine,” said “Raheem,” an African- American in his late thirties. Later that day he sent me a picture of a hot-selling tee shirt with these words emblazoned across the front:
I am not my grandparents!
Which takes us to basic question, how else do we respond? We’ll examine how to recognize the warning signs, responses that may escalate the situation, how allies can help and more in Part Two.
During the meantime, I urge you – strike that, I beg you – to share and discuss this narrative with close family and friends and, above all else, employ the expediency strategy… to get home safely!
- Voices of Asian American Women – by Terry Howard - March 25, 2021
- Bystanders and the Sergeant Schultz Syndrome – by Terry Howard - January 10, 2021
- Becoming a better (No Bullies) nation – by Terry Howard - December 6, 2020