I was flipping through my newsfeed yesterday when I came across a post from a well-known blogger denouncing racism, bigotry, and hate in relation to, what I can only assume from her choice of descriptors, the recent Charlottesville attack. Denunciations like these on social media are something I come across often enough, nothing revolutionary IMHO, but on this particular occasion this blogger took it a little further. She vowed in no uncertain terms to ban anyone from her page who would defend ‘hate’ in any form and encouraged haters (in the most colourful of language) to take a hike.
A noble effort? Maybe.
Here’s the thing… Social media, love or hate it, is a powerful tool in today’s political climate. It can unite a cause, further a divide, or, be a powerful tool in activism, whatever the variety. My question to those, like this blogger, who speak out on these issues and then choose to end a conversation with a ‘hater’ or ‘ban’ someone with views that differ from their own is this… What is the goal of your activism? The word itself implies a commitment to being a force of change, and, if you are in the business of changing minds, what better way to do so than to engage in a dialogue with one very different than your own? Could your engagement, even under somewhat altered reality of social media, be an opportunity to ask some prying questions–questions that might challenge the offending opinions which are so often irrational or based on misinformation? When I say this, I am not advocating that an activist need put up with abuse to further the cause, but might not an awkward, even heated, conversation be in order in situations like these?
I am reminded of the inspirational story of Daryl Davis, an American musician, author, activist, and visibly black man who spent decades travelling around the US actively seeking out the companionship of KKK members. Since the early 80’s, Daryl has been the driving force behind 200 clan members abandoning the cause after making his acquaintance. He did this all simply by talking to people whose views differed from his own, and, though Daryl’s efforts may not be for the faint of heart, his story, for me, inspires these words of glorious defiance : Hate me to my face.
Those words are a challenge to any of us who find ourselves in situations, like this blogger did, where we are uncomfortable, offended, even insulted by the words of another. Why speak out against hate, whatever its form, when you can speak directly to it? Whether it’s a conversation at the office, an uncomfortable disagreement with a friend, or heated discourse on social media, surely these are opportunities for REAL activism–activism that will challenge beliefs, find common ground, and maybe even change a heart.
Unfortunately, especially in the world of social media, it seems we live in a world more keen on creating politically like-minded clubs than on having actual conversations with people we disagree with. This, my friends, is dangerous territory. Because before there is violence and war, there are angry people in rigid ideological camps, and before that, there are ordinary people who stop talking.
NOW, more than ever, please TALK to those you who disagree with you…