" . . . I have a dream, that my four children
Excerpt from the speech "I Have A Dream"
". . . we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."
Excerpt from President Barack Hussein Obama’s inaugural address
Our ethnic and cultural diversity is probably this country's greatest strength. Much of the creativity and innovation that fuels our economic domination of the world can be attributed to the synergy that occurs when people with diverse points of view get together to create and invent. As a team, corporation, city, state or country, we Americans perform at our best when each of us is willing to validate and celebrate the ethnic and cultural heritage of our fellow citizens, recognize the strengths each unique individual brings to the team, and apply those strengths to further its goals.
We are far along the path toward the future world Martin Luther King envisioned over forty years ago in the speech quoted in-part above. But it would be a mistake to think that his dream is wholly realized today. While society as a whole has done much to eradicate the institutionalized discrimination that plagued many in the past, there are still individuals willing to let their personal biases and prejudices effect the way they treat their fellow citizens, regardless of the law. Even worse, individuals and organizations exist today who would, if given the opportunity, deny any citizen not meeting their mean, narrow, arbitrary standards the right to equal consideration and treatment. Their agenda, motivated by their distorted opinions about race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, is to fractionalize our society by ostracizing or subjugating the targets of their hate and intolerance. And they are actively engaged in recruiting others to their cause. Many of them even use this very media to spread their message of hate!
Note that this is not a call to limit the free speech of any American citizen! My concern for everyone's Freedom of Speech is equally strong! But as conscientious citizens we can and must speak out — be it on the Web, on TV, in print, or face to face — against this kind of hateful, divisive behavior, be it overt or subtle. The perpetrators need to understand that we as a society disagree with and will oppose those who would place barriers between us. And each of us should be willing to personally disassociate ourselves from those who insist on continuing to act divisively despite our best attempts to dissuade them. Finally, we need to constantly evaluate our own behavior, and ensure we are treating everyone fairly ourselves!
This is particularly relevant today: regardless of your opinion about the fighting our country is engaged in overseas, it's important that we not abandon the principles for which my Brothers and Sisters in Arms have fought to preserve throughout our history. Our very tolerance of all races, creeds and religions is one of the bedrocks of our society, enshrined in our Constitution. When we treat American citizens who practice the Muslim faith — or any other faith! — with anger and suspicion, or violate their civil rights without cause, we only serve to further our enemies' cause, and dishonor the memory of the many men and women of all origins and faiths who have sacrificed their bodies and lives over the centuries in defense of that freedom. Conversely, when we continue to uphold the rights and freedoms of all our citizens, even in the face of adversity, even when we may disagree with them, we thwart the desires of our enemies, for whom freedom and tolerance of other religions and ways of life is contrary to their goal of one world, one faith.
Amidst the grim news of Bush Administration misdeeds, unconstitutional acts at home, and ill-conceived war abroad, I was greatly heartened by the presidency of Barack Obama, and the way his campaign attracted Americans from all segments of our society to join together despite a history of mistrust, and brought into the open conversations about race and equality that were long overdue. President Obama's campaign speech "A More Perfect Union" about race relations in this country cuts to the very heart of the issue better than any speech I've heard on the subject, political or otherwise. I was tempted to quote parts of this impressive speech here, but it really needs to be taken as a whole, since it so succinctly defines the concerns that drive the mistrust and intolerance. So I urge you to please read the entire speech.
I was heartened by the presidency of Barack Obama, but the election of Donald Trump has emboldened the assortment of racists, bigots, misogynists, and one-percenters he was supported by, and increased the divisiveness of the country. Almost every day, Trump Tweets are filled with lies and aggressive talk that push people apart, rather than pull us together; and they embolden his followers to perform acts that carry forward his agenda of hate.
I have no desire to increase access to hate groups, so you'll not find any links to their sites here. But if the hatemongers are present on the Web then their detractors are equally visible on line, and I'll be more than happy to point you to them! If you would like to know more about the activities of organizations spreading hatred and intolerance, then visit the sites below, which are hosted by some of the organizations that are keeping an eye on them!
- The Southern Poverty Law Center, formed during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, is one of the oldest organizations tracking hate group activities. Their Klanwatch activity is particularly effective at taking these groups to court and holding them accountable for the illegal acts their members perform!
- HateWatch tracks the activities of hate groups
- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People covers a broad range of Civil Rights issues effecting Black Americans
- The Anti-Defamation League is primarily concerned with fighting anti-Semitism. However, since many of the groups who foster racial hatred include Jewish citizens in their long list of "enemies", ADL members often find themselves watching the same perpetrators as the groups noted above!
- The Community United Against Violence focuses on hate crimes perpetrated against Gays and Lesbians.
- The National Organization for Women focuses on combating sexism and crimes against women
- The People For the American Way fights to uphold our Freedom of Religion
Stop the Hate!