It is hard to believe that people sit at their computers and shoot African-Americans on a Web site featuring a cyberjungle where white hunters hunt black people. What do they feel when they hunt poor and weak people? Do they really feel like killing innocent people? Several African-American Web sites encourage visitors to fight white people, who they see as Satan. Forty percent of bias crimes target blacks and 13 percent are anti-white, but the greatest growth in hate crimes in recent years is against Asians(1)
The point of this article is not who hates who. Rather, we want to learn why people become angry with others who have different skin colors,
religions, or thoughts. This nightmare, known as racism, has been the source of great and frequent violence throughout history.
Who Was the First Racist?
The first racist was Satan, for he hated Adam. According to Qur'an 17:61: All angels prostrated [before Adam], except Iblis [Satan]. He asked: Shall I prostrate to one whom You made from clay? What was Satan's biggest mistake? Instead of accepting the reality of diversity in creation, he sought to justify his rejection of Adam. He assumed and asserted that he was nobler than Adam. He did not ponder who decides everyone's color, nation, and social environment, but justified his racist superiority: [God] asked: Why did you not prostrate when I commanded you? [Satan] replied: I am nobler than him. You created me from fire, but You created him from clay (7:12).
Since this early racist dialectic, all racist groups and their followers have used similar arguments to justify their beliefs and prove that they are the best. The result of such an effort has been a very bloody history.
We are living in a period of rapid change. Due to the global media, these changes affect everyone. Hate organizations use the media to expand their reach in totally new ways. Of course, this is not new: In Italy, in 1922, Benito Mussolini understood the power of the brand-new medium, radio, and he began to use it as soon as it was electronically possible in his country. Some years later he was quoted as saying, ˜If it weren't for radio, I wouldn't have the power over the Italian people that I have.(2)
In recent years, the Internet has become a major tool for extremist propaganda. Time columnist John Cloud makes a significant point:
He is absolutely right, for creating hate-filled Web sites is easier and cheaper than taking risks, such as public demonstrations and protests. Don Black, founder of a famous racist Web site, learned in jail how to use the Internet to spread his message. He started a Web site, which at last count had been visited by over 3 million people. It even has sections for women and children.
How Do Such Sites Affect People?
A recent race crime horrified the nation. On June 7, 1998, William King and his friends kidnapped James Byrd, an African-American, tied him to their truck, and dragged him to his death. How can a person become a racist murder? While covering the story, the American media found several reasons, among them that a hate group had agitated King while he was in jail. The Christian Science Monitor interviewed Clara Byrd-Taylor, Byrd's sister, to get insight into King's personality: After the dragging death of Texan James Byrd, his sister decided that he would not die in vain. She set out to discover what could have nurtured the hate that killed her brother. She found it on the Internet. ˜Prior to the death of my brother,' Clara Byrd-Taylor says, ˜I had very little knowledge about the hate sites and what was happening with the hate groups around the world. I had heard isolated incidents, but I had not put all those things together.'(4) There are now over 600 hate Web sites, most of them targeted specifically at young people. The Internet and rock music are two key attractions for youth. CD and Web sites have presented young people with music mixed with advocacy of violence and racial separation Resistance Records, in Detroit, identified as a neo-Nazi music label, sells about 50,000 albums a year through its Web site.(5) Why are youths chosen as targets? Nowadays, more people feel lonely even though they live and interact with people all the time, such as in the workplace. But sharing social and moral values with some communities, like family, has been forgotten. People are losing themselves and, as a result, seeking a new identity that might solve their individual and social crises. Many young people feel isolated by the social structure, and so face an identity crisis. They feel alone, insecure, and abandoned. Music about violence offers messages that highlight the importance of rebelling against social discipline and authority. Being a part of the group and against others is a way to obtain a new social identity for many young people, who see everything in black and white. This is a very complicated problem without a clear solution. Many academic researchers and human rights groups are trying to learn how to overcome hate propaganda on the media. For instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center declared 10 ways to fight racism. They are as follows(6):
Act. Apathy is interpreted as acceptance.
Unite. Join those who oppose hate and work to eliminate it.
Support the Victims. Let victims know that you care, and report any hate directed toward you or people you know.
Do Your Homework. Learn how to identify hate groups and spread this knowledge to others.
Create an Alternative. Find another outlet for anger and frustration, and capitalize on people's desire to do something
Speak Up. Expose and denounce hate wherever and whenever you can.
Lobby Leaders. Persuade political, business, and community leaders to take a stand against hate in the interest of their reputations and businesses.
Look Long Range.Create a bias response team and celebrate your community's diversity and harmony.
Teach Tolerance. Bias is learned early, usually at home. Sponsor an I have a dream contest. Target youths who may be tempted by skinheads or other hate groups.
Dig Deeper. Study divisive issues so that you can determine your own prejudices, and then work to eliminate social prejudice.
One of the most contentious media-related issues is defining censorship. Governments are responsible for protecting their citizens from racist groups and propaganda. For instance, Canada and Germany are trying to catch people who use the media, including personal Web sites, to spread hate. But there is still one vital question that must be answered: Who defines protecting the people, especially the young, and protecting the freedom of speech? Prohibiting such speech is not the answer, because governments have abused this authority throughout history. Besides, modern technology and its products almost have eliminated the importance of physical borders as tools for governmental control.
What You Can Do
If you are involved in education or business, work to get your employers to focus on cultural diversity as a valuable human resource. Schools are many children's first direct exposure to different cultures and peoples. The business sector often brings people who otherwise would not meet each other into close contact, thereby dispelling stereotypes. If handled correctly, deep biases can be destroyed in both children and adults. In addition, the importance of peace must be taught and reinforced in the home, school, workplace, and everywhere else. Create your own anti-hate Web site. Spread the information provided by such anti-hate organization Web sites as:
Subscribe to their publications, donate money or time, and participate in their activities whenever possible. Protest all radio programs and music that encourage this nightmare of modern times. Explain to your children why you oppose their listening to such programs or music. Sponsors and producers are not immune to public outcry and negative publicity. Remind the mainstream media that it has the vital responsibility of showing its audience how to live together without hate. If religious or racial discrimination are tolerated or even encouraged, the media only reinforces negative or distorted images and racism. Establish or join coalitions devoted to fighting hate messages. Explain to others that you do so in order to create a better future for everyone by trying to prevent the racist nightmare from destroying our good dreams for the future.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center, Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide. Online at: www.splcenter.org.
- Robert L. Hilliard and Michael C. Keith, Waves of Rancor: Turning in the Radical Right (M. E. Sharpe: 1999), 20.
- John Cloud, Trading White Sheets for Pinstripes, Time Magazine (8 March 1999).
- Gloria Goodale, HBO Exposes Hate Groups in Cyberspace, The Christian Science Monitor (20 October 2000), 20.
- Hilliard and Keith, Waves of Rancor, 55.
- The full text is available online at: www.splcenter.org/intelligenceproject/ip-index.html.