Hate crimes have increased lately, and I’m wondering how much I have to do with them.
I’ve always thought that people who commit hate crimes have been driven to fanatic insanity by personal demons that don’t have anything to do with me. I’ve even felt compassion for self-pitying losers who blame all their problems on people of other races or religions. If I have blamed anybody for hate crimes, it has been purveyors of hatred on radio, TV, or, sadly, from the pulpit. But I’m not so sure of that anymore. In the wake of the latest hate killings, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about my own contribution to a climate of hatred.
Anybody who knows me or has read anything I’ve written knows that I deplore racism and bigotry in all its forms. I don’t socialize with racists or religious bigots, and I contribute to organizations that promote respect for all cultures, all religions. But I have kept quiet when people I’ve hired to do jobs in my home have made racist comments. I may not have hired them again, but I’ve let them finish their work without saying anything. I’ve told myself in those instances that it’s a free country and they have a right to their opinions.
I still believe that every person has the right to his or her own opinion. But I’m beginning to wonder if my tolerance of intolerance has made me an enabler of hatred. Maybe expressions of hatred are like pebbles tossed into a still pond that cause expanding ripples that grow in intensity. The fact that I avoid contact with racists and bigots doesn’t do anything to stop the expansion of the ripples of hatred. Those ripples eventually result in hate murders, and while I have never known the killers or had anything to do with them, my silence in the face of racist comments may have given strength to hatred in general.
And so as of today if anybody I’ve hired to do a job of any kind in my house makes a racist or bigoted comment, no matter how innocuous, they’re going to be shown the door. I don’t expect my action will stop all hate crimes, but it may weaken some of the hate ripples.