According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), hate crimes against Muslims, LGBT individuals and blacks are on the rise in the United States after being on the lower side for the last 20 years. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tallied more than 200 accounts of racial- and bias-related incidents at K-12 schools since the presidential election.
In Danbury, police are investigating a half-dozen instances in which swastikas were spray-painted on private property during the past few weeks — most recently during the weekend after Election Day, when the Nazi symbol was left on a home and a parked car on Division Street.
In Wilton, on that same weekend, during a high school football game against Danbury, Wilton high school students chanted, “Build the Wall!”
And in Meriden, two men were arrested after they allegedly attacked a man who was waving an American flag and holding a Trump election sign. Police said the two male suspects stopped their car, got out of the vehicle and began punching and kicking the man, forcing the victim into the street.
I have seen firsthand, as a professional and as someone involved in Danbury’s community, that hate and ignorance are not exclusive to any faction of our society. Nor is love or compassion. Anyone who tries to make us believe that hate can be attributed to some general grouping of people is part of the problem.
There is no denying that the rhetoric of the presidential election has emboldened those who harbor hate towards an array of people. But hate is learned behavior, which can be generationally passed down by some, blind to the wall they build around themselves, keeping them out of the world.
The solution is to look at everyone from a place of understanding, letting go of our need to be right, making room for the other’s need to be heard. We need to listen to ALL people. We need to ask more questions and make fewer assumptions.
We need to be compassionate in its deepest definition: a form of love, aroused within us when we are confronted with those who suffer or are vulnerable. It is not up to us to define what qualifies as suffering, or deem who can claim vulnerability.
The color of one’s skin, the country they were born in, whom they love, how they worship or what political party they belong to is only one of the many facets of their humanity.
Sounds utopian? I can assure you it’s not. My story as an immigrant and the stories of thousands of other minorities would not have been possible if it wasn’t for those who were willing to listen, look at all our facets and see how we had more in common than difference.
The darkness we see today in our city, across our state and throughout our country is not brand new. Neither is our light and it is up to us to ensure each generation makes it shine brighter and stronger. We must speak out but also listen. We must use love to drive out the hate.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches