Compassion Goes Both Ways
Like many, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the events in Charlottesville over the weekend. But possibly even more disturbing than the physical acts of hate is the reality that in 2017 white supremacists feel empowered by the rhetoric of our president and the current social climate to act without shame and with impunity in their attempt to spread racist ideologies and messages of hate towards people of color. It is entirely disheartening to see so many young white people, who are generations removed from slavery and who did not live through the Jim Crow era, so willing to proscribe to the hateful rhetoric of white supremacist groups and so eager to bring those hateful ideals back into the mainstream of society. The escalating levels of hate and violence associated with racial conflict clearly show that our society is woefully impoverished on a social level and will remain so until racism is acknowledged, uprooted and eradicated completely. As long as the racial sickness that has infested our country since its inception is allowed to fester and continue to infect the minds of new generations of youth our society as a whole will continue to suffer.
We have long since reached the point where the cost to society as a whole, of inaction on behalf of white people in condemning the racist actions and behaviors of other white people, far exceeds the cost to self (i.e. conflicting with family/friends, receiving hateful messages on social media, etc.) that may result from taking a public stance against racism. Even at the most basic level all white people have the choice to publicly express empathy and compassion for the past and present plight of minorities in this country. Compassion is not necessarily about agreeing with another person. It’s not even necessarily about liking the person. Compassion is about making a choice to honor every person's basic humanity regardless of their skin color, ethnic background or religion.
The simple act of making the effort to share your concern about the continued existence of white supremacist ideals with family or friends is not going to solve racism, but it is a good place to start. There is a peaceful and constructive resolution to the racial strife that plagues our society but the path towards such a resolution is dependent on white people outwardly acknowledging racism and removing the stigma surrounding conversations about race. The only remaining question is, how many more incidents like Charlottesville need to happen before white people are ready to start talking.
That being said, in order to move towards a more loving and accepting society, compassion ultimately needs to go both ways. Despite the fact that any real progress will be dependent on the willingness of white people to take a leadership role, minorities can contribute to progress by refusing to stoop to the level of those who wish to denigrate and oppress them. By no means do minorities have an obligation to prove to white people that we are equal as human beings or that we are deserving of white people's respect, but as Martin Luther King Jr. prophetically stated over fifty years ago - “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
This is why, even in the face of centuries of hate and oppression, minorities (and white people, as well) must be careful in the condemnation of the actions of these white supremacists to not dehumanize these individuals in the process. Instead we must show compassion towards these hateful individuals who have not shown any compassion towards us. These hateful individuals did not come into this world with hate in their hearts and they are not destined to follow a path of hate for the rest of their lives, but it is up to the rest of us to divert them from that path.
Even in the shadow of hate we must maintain the belief that long-lasting change is possible and that the overwhelming power of love will win the day. That belief is what fuels Hybrid Nation's mission and inspires all of the work we do. That belief is why we use our platform as a clothing brand each and every day to initiate conversations about, and break down the stigma around, social issues such as race. We are doing our part to build a better world for this generation and the next, are you?