5 Ways Hate Speech Against One Group Hurts Everyone

by Stephanie Be
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Members of international governments mock our candidates. Internally, Americans joke about a Facebook “unfriend” for supporters of politicalized intolerance. The people of the US are as divided against each other as we would be for a football game.

When did it become “us” against “them?” When did bigotry become something we paint on our chest and pass the popcorn for? Excuse me, but I'm not buying tickets to that show.

Unapologetically, there's something about calling Mexicans rapists and murderers and threatening to register Muslims — much like the Nazi regime — that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Then, I realized this is nothing new. The global community has a long history of intolerance and discrimination.

So, why am I so surprised Trump isn't the only American with racist and sexist thoughts? He's just one of the first in power to vocalize it. It might also have something to do with why he's one of the lead contenders to become president of the United States. There's enough people full of hate to stand behind him and lift him up.

Either these people are prejudiced, or they don't think hate speech is that serious. Realistically, every person is imperfect, including presidential candidates. Maybe — just maybe — Trump supporters aren't fanatics full of hatred. Maybe they just don't understand what hate speech is and the effects it has on society.

There's free speech, right? But, insisting that we can say what we want to hurt others is just like saying that we can physically do what we want to hurt others.

Bullying phrases become attitudes, norms and laws that lead to real-life violence. What starts with words becomes cases of terrorism. Here are five reasons hate speech against one group hurts us all:

1. Hate speech creates false portraits of real people.

Do you know how many American people have never met someone different than themselves? It's natural for us to align with what's familiar, and entire communities are formed on fellowship.

If you haven't actually met a single person from another race, religion or affiliation, labels are often used to understand them. Who presents these labels to us? Family, friends, political leaders and the media.

Our understanding of what it means to be a Latino immigrant, a Muslim, a refugee, a disabled person, a woman in the military or even just simply a woman have been defined by media portraits and word of mouth. This applies to most things.

For example, your understanding of a business person might be limited to a guy on Wall Street and not the former Reno bartender who opened her own bar. I get it: Stereotypes exist for a reason. However, identities are complex. A sociological assumption can be mostly true, slightly true or utterly false for each individual affiliated with that group.

2. Hate speech demonizes innocent people.

Let's consider how this works when we negatively label people we don't know. Take my own experience as an example. Unlike most minorities, I am not often subjected to racism.

Because of factors like education or economic status, and maybe even the lighter color of my skin and eyes, my racial identity is often ignored. People will say things like, “You know Mexicans? Well, like, Mexican-Mexicans? You don't count.” So, being educated makes me less Mexican?

That's how it starts. People start to associate “poverty” with Latinos or “terrorist” with Muslims. People with ethnic-sounding names might be less likely to be hired. It snowballs from there. People are arrested and sometimes even shot because of an association to false identities.

3. Hate speech distracts people from the real issues at hand.

Particularly in politics, the use of hate speech scapegoats groups instead of addressing the real issues at hand. Do we need immigration reform? Absolutely.

We can't fit everyone in our country, but does calling Latinos “rapists and murders” fix that issue? If we are going to team up to address legislative changes, we should be focused on the real problems legislation creates, not on grouping people against an entire race.

4. Hate speech sets the tone that prejudice is OK.

I've always felt bad for people who are intolerant. Hatred is a learned behavior. So, when you use words like “fag,” “slut,” “n*gger,” “rape” or even “terrorist,” you're saying it's OK to associate a whole group of people with those terms. You're not only allowing hatred, but you're also endorsing it and teaching it

5. Hate speech creates more anger and violence.

Bullying starts with words that lead to violence. We've seen it in gun violence where a UCSB man killed seven women because he felt like he was being denied sex. We see it when innocent black lives are taken. We see it in the 14 anti-gay hate crimes in Dallas.

Hate speech leads to hate crime. We can't wait until it happens to us to care.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemoeller

Let travel eradicate your prejudice. When I started TravelBreak, I thought that I would share all the fun things we get to do when we travel. I continue to challenge the glorification of being busy, and quite frankly, I struggle with it myself.

However, travel can be so much more than a good time. Since traveling to 167 places, my passport has never been an issue. I was even able to live abroad in three other countries. People around the world have welcomed me with kindness.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so open-minded. Bigotry of one group hurts us all. When we allow hate speech against Latinos, Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community or any group, it divides us.

Regardless of your views on economic, political and social policies, I hope you'll join me in saying no to hate speech. We don't have to push each other down when we can pull each other up.