Dee Culp

LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Combating hate groups with love is necessary, but is it enough?

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It can be extremely disheartening for those who preach love and acceptance to come to terms with the fact that there is so much hate in this world. I do believe that when love increases, hate must decrease, but as I have observed, it is merely human nature to fear and reject the things we don’t understand, allowing hate to grow even when it should not. This, in my limited scope, must be the explanation for why we have such a problem with hate, even as acceptance and awareness increases.

As NEPA Scene reported earlier in the week, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights law organization, released its annual report on hate group activity in the United States. Shockingly (or perhaps not), Pennsylvania ranks the fifth highest in the country, behind Texas, California, Florida, and Tennessee with 40 active groups in the state.

Is it possible that this report is simply inflating the actual numbers, or is this a frightening look into the psyche of average Pennsylvanians at their worst? And what number of Pennsylvanians are secretly harboring these feelings, unmotivated to join such a group but whose political beliefs and motivations, nonetheless, are still aligned with them? While Scranton wears the crown of “Unhappiest City in America” and the entire Northeast region suffers from a decades-long depression, it seems telling that the lack of education and opportunity has allowed a wound to fester and turn into a welcome home for hatred to breed.

View the full map of hate groups here.

There seems to be a strong fear among the white, cisgender male population that the passage of laws bringing about equality will, somehow, lessen their privilege, whereas, instead, all it is doing is giving minorities and marginalized groups a place at the table. In reaction to this false feeling of victimization, they rally in groups – literally – to harass and intimidate minorities and marginalized people into silence and submission. Meanwhile, these groups have grown to such numbers that they hope to seek political change, amending or even repealing anti-discrimination laws to further make life impossible for those they hope to eradicate from American life.

As Brynn Tannehill has pointed out, we are definitely under attack. “When the anti-transgender student bill in South Dakota passed, it was the first step in a plan to eradicate transgender people from American life. Last year, the Family Research Council laid out a five-point plan to legislate transgender people out of existence by making the legal, medical, and social climate too hostile for anyone to transition in.”

Meanwhile, it seems clear that there is also continued bolstering of hate groups from people of such celebrity as Donald Trump. Dr. David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has come out in support of Trump, even going so far as to declare that voting against Trump would be “treason” to one’s heritage. Intimidation, eradication, wanton violence, and unbridled hatred – is this really what would make America great again?

It definitely feels like we are surrounded. I won’t even begin to go into the damage done to people of color by law authorities, with mounting evidence being dismissed and no justice won. Certainly, even as those of us in the transgender community continue to be murdered, it seems that justice, and even basic respect, is nowhere in sight. Where will it stop? Where will it end? And who will be the next target?

Of course, I would be remiss to blame this phenomenon solely on white people. An interesting side note is how diverse hate groups can actually be. While groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and anti-Muslims are predominantly white, there are also black separatists, Islamic extremists, and other groups that are made up of people who are not white, which the Southern Poverty Law Center also names as hate groups. Beyond these are groups that do not pay any particular credence to any one color or race but still assemble and carry out plans for intimidation and political discrimination. Take, for example, the Family Research Council – a group associated with the Duggar family of “19 Kids and Counting” fame which was found to be making robocalls alleging that homosexuals and transgender individuals pose a hazard to women and children. It paints quite a disgusting picture for our quaint commonwealth to know that these groups are found in such abundance, right here, in our own backyard.

What, then, is there to be done?

Perhaps the best solution isn’t to merely preach peace, love, and acceptance, but to practice it – to take these concepts to heart and live them. As observed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Again, for those of us who try to follow these words, it’s extremely disheartening to see just how readily and capably hate is spreading and the damage it does. We’re living in dark times, and I worry about the future, especially if the Human Rights Commission is right in their prediction that 2016 may be the most dangerous year for transgender rights. At least there is still hope. I mean, it couldn’t possibly get any worse… could it?

Images by Southern Poverty Law Center

Living Your Truth is a weekly column about the empowerment that comes from being true to your authentic self. It focuses on the LGBT community in NEPA and the news and events that impact it.