When something horrific happens, often we need a silver lining, anything positive to grasp onto for comfort and to help make sense of the senseless.
The Hate Won’t Win movement provides some of that.
Born of an unthinkable crime – the murder of nine members of a Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina – the campaign was inspired by the heartfelt expressions of forgiveness voiced by family members of those who were gunned down.
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel L. Simmons, told accused killer Dylann Roof at a June 19 court appearannce: “Hate won’t win. … My grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate. Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies live in love.”
Roof has said that he hoped to trigger a race war by killing people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 17. But instead of fomenting racial divisiveness, he set in motion a movement to do just the opposite: to bring people together, to foster acceptance and celebration of our differences.
The Hate Won’t Win campaign – sort of an ALS ice-bucket challenge that doesn’t involve getting wet or giving money – asks people to to share their photos, videos or messages showing their love for someone different, using the hashtag #hatewontwin.
On Sunday, Tacoma became the first city to officially accept the challenge at an event that brought together a diverse cross-section from the area – black and white, gay and straight, Jews and Muslims, Loggers and Lutes.
That Tacoma was the first city to step up speaks well for it. But as City Councilwoman Victoria Woodards pointed out, the Hate Won’t Win concept is one that is familiar in Tacoma. “We live it every single day,” she said.
The real challenge is to recognize that addressing what divides us as Americans is going to take more than posting inspirational items on social media. Although racial barriers have lowered, they still exist in most facets of everyday life from where we live and go to school to where we work.
Overt racism is against the law, but it exists in more subtle forms. Studies have shown, for instance, that when two equal candidates apply for a job sight unseen, the one with a “black-sounding” name is much less likely to be asked in for an interview.
Some might argue there’s a difference between that kind of genteel discrimination and the hate that inspires a Dylann Roof to snuff out the lives of people who were reaching out to him.
Yes, there is. But it’s all on a continuum. Recognizing it, calling it out and insisting that hate won’t win are welcome steps.