The phrase “we have met the enemy and they are us” is what Oliver Hazard Perry uttered after the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, a phrase used on a poster to promote Earth Day in 1970 and was portrayed in Walt Kelley’s “Pogo” comic strip referring to the turmoil caused by the Vietnam War. It’s also apropos today. Disparaging other people due to race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, marital status and disability is a prejudice of our ignorance.
Let’s be honest with one another. Who brought the first slave ship to Jamestown, Va., in 1619? White Anglo-Americans, who also stole land from Native Americans while burning down their villages, raping their women and creating false treaty after false treaty. Remember Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee?
Fast forward. Latinos recently crossed a man-made boundary seeking a better life in America. How were they treated? We took their children from parents, incarcerated babies in caged fences and escorted mom and dad back to their country of origin.
Since 1619, we have encountered a Civil War, lynchings, bombings, internments of Japanese-Americans, assassination of civil rights and political leaders, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow segregation, discrimination, an 8-minute-and-46-second murder, voter suppression in 2020 and a political leader touting white supremacists as “very fine people.”
Sigmund Freud — founder of psychoanalysis — coined the term projection, which describes the things people hate about others are the same things they fear within themselves.
According to Statista Research, organized hate groups in America include 255 Black separatist, 155 white nationalist, 84 anti-Muslim, 70 anti-LGBTQ, 59 neo-Nazi, 48 racist skinhead, 47 Ku Klux Klan, 20 anti-immigrant, 11 Christian identity groups and 291 from nine other groups.
In an Oxford Dictionary-sponsored study of Americans’ favorite insults by political affiliation, the top six words — out of 39 — to describe conservatives include extremists, ideologue, nutjob, idiot, radical and lunatic. The top six words associated with liberals include hack, troll, idiot, extremists, elitist and moron.
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Hate speech is prevalent as witnessed by letters to the editor, social media blasts, radio show host proclamations, conspiracy theories, faux news programs and political speeches. A president seeking reelection recently violated Facebook Inc.’s “organized hate” policy by branding his campaign with the symbol Nazis used to designate political prisoners.
Byron Allen, founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group, said in the Wall Street Journal, “America will never have true peace until we stop protecting, nurturing and fostering hate groups. America must deal with these hate groups appropriately, the same way it deals with foreign terrorism, because domestic terrorism is much worse.”
The key is education.
A course titled Civil and Human Rights 101 must be created and made mandatory in every day care center, preschool, private, public and home-schooled K-12 system, postsecondary institution, vocational-technical-trade school, service organization, house of worship and adult education class. America’s survival depends on coming together NOW!
Steve Corbin is a professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.