I’ve given a great deal of thought to how to respond to the horrors in Charlottesville over the weekend. Here it is:
I don’t want to hate anyone, not only because hate is bad for my health, but because hate is never the answer. I mean, it is literally never the answer. However, I’m human, and it’s hard not to hate the people that attended the Nazi rally in Charlottesville.
However, hating gives them more of what they want. Hate is what caused them to be who they are today. Hate is what fuels them. God only knows what factors in their lives taught them to hate that much; we don’t come into this world filled with this sort of frothing, gasping, violent hate in our hearts. Hate is taught. Hate is learned. This kind of hate often stems from deep fears and even deeper feelings of inadequacy. People like this rarely take responsibility for themselves, their actions, or their failings. They’ve likely been bullied or made to feel powerless at some point in their lives, so they’ve become the bully to try to feel more powerful.
It’s a pitiful, emasculated way of being built on a fake notion of masculinity and strength. I’d feel sorry for them if they weren’t so horrific.
Then, I thought about the fact that these people would wish me, my husband, and our beautiful Afro-Latina daughter dead. If they saw us, they would absolutely spout horrifying things; things I saw repeated over and over on Twitter during the election, as they crawled out from under their rocks, legitimized by hateful rhetoric. Things like “If you adopt black children or marry a black man, you are participating in white genocide,”or the lovely “If you are white and raising a black child, you are raising the devil.” Truthfully, I saw a lot worse than that, with images of black children hung or dead or memes celebrating the death of a black person.
And I started to be afraid. I was afraid for my daughter, because while we are doing everything we can to make sure she has a strong connection to her Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and African American roots, those same roots make her a target of this kind of terrorism. Just the color of her skin makes our sweet, innocent, giggly little girl a target of their hate and violence. Spurred by my raging motherly instincts to protect her at all costs, I began to feel that maybe we shouldn’t travel much right now, in case we encounter these kinds of people somewhere. I found myself walking by people and wondering: “Is this one of them?” and wanting to cover her up. Fearful, I started to have a deep desire to hide us all away in the safety of our home.
I realized this was crap. I won’t give them the satisfaction of fear. I won’t play into their desires by hiding away my family because of their twisted view of the world.
And then I thought about what my little family was doing while this disgusting rally was happening: We were getting first birthday pictures done for our precious little girl, all the while smiling, giggling, and showing our love as a family. Strangers were stopping and breaking into huge smiles as they saw her, all dressed up and giggling, and us, all dressed up and beaming with pride. More than one person stopped to tell us that seeing our little family made their day, and marveled at how gorgeous she is and how loving our family is together.
So, while a bunch of people were raging with hate, we were filled with love and joy and pride. We were inspiring other people by simply BEING the love we feel for each other.
In fact, we were doing what the majority of Americans were doing that day—going about our lives, living with love in our hearts and trying to make the world a little better. As I thought about that, I began to glance through my news feed to see what my friends were doing that day. There was a gay couple celebrating the fact that their child just learned to ride a bike. There was another gay couple dropping their gorgeous, accomplished adopted daughter off to college. There were many Muslim, Hindu, Italian, German, Irish, or a-little-bit-of-this-and-that families out and about together, laughing and teasing each other. There were couples of every race riding bikes, running, watching movies, or just hanging out together. Little kids of every shade under the sun were playing on swing sets and basketball courts and playgrounds. People of every color were born, were dying, were mourning losses, were finding the beauty in moments.
In short, the vast majority of us were being Americans—real Americans. Heck, we were simply being real human beings. We were socializing and texting and shopping and eating and hanging out. We were showing love and compassion for each other. We were families of every color, creed, and inclination simply being families and celebrating the fact that we live in a land built by immigrants and made better by a melting pot of perspectives and cultures.
That’s what America is. And because of that, this kind of hate will not make us afraid. It will not break us down. It will not win. It. Will. Not. Win.
And we won’t hate. We will love each other more. We will be more compassionate. We will work harder on being more inclusive. We will recognize the overlooked and do something about it. We will love harder, even when it’s harder to love.
And when we do that, we prevail. In "The American Crisis," written during the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls."
The soul of America is being tested yet again, and this test gives us the opportunity to, without fear or wavering, declare that love, diversity, and American ideals are of value to all of us; that we truly are better and stronger together. And that is what we will do—we will rise up, and we will stop this in its tracks. As our leadership falters, we are now, each of us, called to be leaders, and we will not falter.
We need to follow in the footsteps of the incredible Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His model of strong, centered, passive resistance worked for the Civil Rights Movement, and it will work again.
As he so correctly noted, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Lead with love. Love wins. Love always wins.