Friday, August 28, 2009

Using Your Voice to Stop Hate

I often receive emails and posts with the question, "How can I help stop Hate," or "What creates Hatred."

In my opinon, most Hate simply comes from ignorance of the subject. Meaning, that it stems from people who don't try to open their minds to other people's feelings, thoughts, opinions, experiences and beliefs. They don't question differences or research them or wonder why? Instead they look down on different people as inferior. Some people have learned what to think from a young age by parents, older siblings and peers, or have already made up their minds, that, their way is the only way. The solution is quite simple, education.
However, it is very difficult to educate people about diversity if they refuse to at least try and put themselves in someone else's place and empathize. The great thing about the World, is, that we are all very different from each other, and those differences should be taught and celebrated, not belittled and discouraged.
I think the best way for you to help, is just to use your own voice. Stand up for those people who need help. Try to get the people you know, to stop using racial slurs, and hateful language to discourage or bring people down. Sayings like, "You're so gay," or "That's gay," "You're a fag," are all examples of hate speech, they may be used between groups of friends as 'jokes,' but are they jokes to the people who over hear those comments in the halls, on the street?
Those are the kind of things that need to stop. I have been approached several times by people in my life, saying that they never understood what those words did to people, even if they used them as jokes. They didn't understand that those words were created out of hatred to intimidate, stereotype and categorize an entire community of people. Those people have been able to cut such language out and have moved on to telling other people to cut it out of their daily vernacular. That's how it works, if you can get 1 person to stop, then they get 1 person to stop etc...
Help celebrate people's differences, can you imagine how boring this place would be if we were all the same. At the same time we also need to remind people, that gender, race, ethnicity, religion, gay or straight, are just a tiny portion of who people are, "the tip of the Iceberg." There is still 95% of that person you don't even know yet. There is more to a person than your first perception and you can only learn more about them by conversation and genuine interest in the people and the things that surround them.
Using your own voice and mind to stop hate is an enormous and invaluable tool. People shouldn't be afraid to come to school or live their own lives, those people who bully have no right to keep others down, under the U.S. Constitution, we are all created equal, no person is any better than the next. We are all different and our personal experiences with others will help shape who we become.
Like I have said before, the people in your life now at this moment will not always be there in the future. Your life will always be changing, adding and subtracting people, depending on your life's path. So those people who were bullied in school will grow up, those people who did the bullying, will grow up and sometimes their paths cross again. So you should always treat people with Respect, because later in life you may run into them again, and they could be your boss, or have the ability to help you out when you're down, but if you were rude and disrespectful to them in High School when you were 17, then it could come back to haunt you 10-20 years down the road.
Teach your children to be kind and to respect people early in life and they will be much more prepared for the world outside of your home and it will create a character later in life that people will want to meet and interact with and hire for that big job. If and when you have children, be conscious of the things you say, they are little sponges, and even if you don't mean what you say, the child could repeat it without even knowing what it means. What if it is your child who is on the receiving end of such learned language by peers who heard that 'stuff' from their parents, how would you react to that?

Friday, January 23, 2009

On January 20, 2009 I was fortunate enough to attend the Inauguration Ceremonies in Washington D.C. for our 44th and first African American President. I have never been to an Inauguration, nor did I think I ever would, but when the opportunity presented itself, there was no way I could turn it down, much like the thousands of people that showed up. In my lifetime, I have experienced events that shake you to your core, along with events that make life worth living. I have been lucky enough to touch people’s lives and I have been lucky enough to meet celebrities, I have even had a brief phone conversation with President Clinton and received a hand written letter, but I have never been speechless or completely in awe of someone like I was, when I was at the Parade trying to catch glimpses of Barrack Obama taking his first steps as the 44th President.

To say that it was emotionally overwhelming would be an understatement. It was an amazing event to be a part of and to witness. Seeing the hundreds of thousands and even millions of people gather and unite to witness an American History first, was a spectacular, breathtaking and an absolutely awe striking sight. Never has a President or a single Washington event received such attention.

There have been past events that will always be remembered as cornerstone speeches and gatherings, such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, or JFK’s Inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” Those speeches and history making events were mere paving stones and building blocks towards this momentous and culture-healing event.

People from every corner of the U.S. turned out in force. There were people who spent days driving, people who spent all of the money they had. People from every Ethnicity, Religion, and Sexual Orientation showed up in force, not only to be apart of history but to make the statement in one collective and powerful voice, that shouted “America is Changing!” America is ready to put differences aside and work together to rebuild and reaffirm our status as the single greatest and most powerful country in the world; Americans are ready to show our power, not with war but with building, by uniting rather than dividing. The American people are tired and weary of war. What good is it being the most powerful, if you only look to abuse that power and alienate this country from the rest of the world?

This was an event where being a part of it, you could almost feel and see the culture of America changing right before your eyes. It was a moment that shattered barriers and will change the U.S. forever. People all over the world witnessed this event, and immediately felt optimistic of the direction that America is headed. Never in my life have I been more proud to be an American and to be in the middle of it was incredible, every direction I looked, I could see tears of joy, people of all races hugging and cheering together, it was a sight and feeling that would give you chills and goose bumps. It was a moment of a nation healing, but it’s not over yet, there is still a long ways to go before our mistakes of the past can be corrected. I think the people of this country and around the world are ready to move past the turbulent last eight years and come together to fix and grow not as individual races but as one collective Human Race, with equality for all of its inhabitants.

To President Obama, and the legislation, I have faith that the “Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act”, will be passed this year to be an all-inclusive Bill that will protect all of America’s citizens. When it does, I look forward to meeting the people who made it possible and to those who dedicate their lives to serve and improve the lives of the American People.

So, in closing, to anyone out there who may be reading this, what I really have to say, is that the America of Old, is no longer. America is headed into a new and exciting direction that will break down racial, religious, gender and sexual orientation barriers to create a new “UNITED” States of America that includes and protects everyone of its citizens.