A Reflection on Hate

It’s been a tough week. It has been globally terrible. There was the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando and one of our brilliant female politicians was murdered in the UK. It has been a week showcasing the power of hatred, how infectious it can be, spreading pain from person to person, a rippling impact.

These two events share one thing in common, the media has taken pains to emphasise that the perpetrator was mentally ill. Now, of course, mental illness can lead to people doing terrible things, but it’s not the be all and end all. Mental illness is not an excuse, and it is not the sole reason for a person’s actions. No one lives in a bubble. Both of these acts of violence are a product of the society that they occurred in. They are the result of a society that perpetuates the demonisation of certain groups of people – homosexuals, immigrants – a society in which hate speech is not only excusable but actively used within our politics. As my friend Cheryl Morgan said, hate speech is a gateway drug for hate crime. In the US there is Trump, in the UK there is Brexit – both are stirring up hatred, and both have blood on their hands.

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As someone who is both queer and has an active awareness of her mental health, this week has been very trying. My people are by turns victimised and demonised. But it’s also made me think about issues of intersectionality. The majority of the victims of the Pulse shooting were Latinx, something that the media seems to have skimmed over. Was it a coincidence that the shooter chose a Latinx night to attack? Subjugation has layers, we are not equal in our suffering. Any sexism I face as a white woman is nothing compared to the racism and sexism faced by women of colour, and again nothing compared to the racism, sexism and transphobia faced by trans women of colour, who face disproportionate levels of violence, even compared to other groups within the LGBTQI community.

The murder of Jo Cox, a British Labour politician who spent her career fighting for the underdog – the rights of women, the safety of refugees and migrants, the poor and disadvantaged – was an act of hatred by someone who named himself ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. This was an act of both sexism and racism. There are plenty of other politicians who shared Jo’s views, but it was her, one of the few female politicians we have, who was murdered. Wherever you stand in the EU argument, it is unquestionable that this was also an act influenced by racism, symptomatic of the political rhetoric that has invoked a fear and hatred of migrants – migrants, I might add, who are escaping a war-zone that we, the UK, helped to create. Imagine how you wish the Germans had treated the Jews, now apply that to the UK’s treatment of migrants. One far-right politician literally remade Nazi propaganda and used it to try and make his point. This is what some areas of British politics has become.

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It’s easy to get bogged down by all of this hatred, I certainly did for a number of days, but I think it’s also important to see the love and kindness. The number of people who rushed to help during the shooting; the people who stayed in the club when they could have escaped just so they could find their friends and give them the chance to escape too; the number of people who have donated blood to help the victims; the amount of money that has been raised for the Jo Cox Memorial Fund to support her favourite charities – those supporting volunteers, Syrian rescue workers and to combat hate within local communities. I heard somewhere that whenever you see terrible things happening or on the news, you should always look for the helpers – they are always there.

I haven’t worked on my PhD this week, I’ve been too sad or angry in turns. But it has emphasised to me how important it can be – education, visibility, representation – it all adds up to hopefully reduce the hate and fear that can be manipulated with terrible impact. Always remember who the real bad guys are, always look out for those with less power than yourself.

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2 thoughts on “A Reflection on Hate

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m prompted to leave a reply here because of how you connect the current Brexit nastiness to queer/LGBT+ issues. I’m Australian currently in the UK, and the events of the last week have led me to think a lot about the plebiscite on same-sex marriage that the current conservative government in Australia is proposing to run if it wins reelection on 2 July. What the events of the last week in the UK have made so shockingly clear to me is that running referenda/plebiscites on the rights of minorities is probably the worst possible way to run a democracy. The EU referendum is only indirectly a referendum on minority rights (because Leave have made it a poll on immigration); it won’t be possible to say the same thing about the Australian plebiscite. Malcolm Turnbull has recently expressed a ā€“ to be blunt ā€“ utterly complacent faith that the debate ahead of the plebiscite will be a ‘very civilised discussion’ carried on with ‘decency’. This seems to me to fly in the face of the inherent logic of the plebiscite. Others in Oz politics have opposed the plebiscite precisely because they can see how it will give a platform and legitimacy to hatred and bigotry, and possibly, as in the UK, to real violence ā€“ but the argument can seem a bit academic and abstract. In that awful moment late last week, when so many people in the UK suddenly stopped and asked “How did we get here? How is this what we’ve become?”, the principle of not holding polls on minority rights felt anything but abstract. It seems to me that there’s a lot to be learned from the toxic horror show that the EU referendum has descended into, not just for the UK but for democracies everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. Things spiral so quickly and people lose their sense of context. Human rights and human lives become political rhetoric. We’re living in a frightening time where it’s become clear that people really don’t learn from the mistakes of history. All we can do is remain steadfast and try to educate as many people as possible.
      Thanks for your comment, it raised some really important points. Always good to hear another perspective.

      Like

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