For years, I have had the privilege of conducting human relations training. Critics consider “training” more of a chore than a privilege, but I’ve always opened myself to learning. I have almost learned as much about human nature as I have taught. Of the lessons I’ve learned, one of the best is: To modify the behaviors of those resistant to progressive change, the “better” messengers are those with whom the ‘resister’ can identify. It’s always easier to reject those who can be marginalized as “different” than to reject a “mirror image” that possesses perceived commonalities.
From the rather benign epithet “Redcoat” during the Revolutionary War, to “Kraut” or “Jap” of World War II, the “Gook” of Viet Nam, or the “Sand Nigger” of our recent Middle East wars, the exploitation of difference and fear (demonization) has been used to justify and solidify our hatred of the enemy. The exploitation of difference and fear (a similar demonization) is at the heart of our nation’s current “Culture Wars.” Rather than respect for diversity in thought and conduct, anyone daring to emerge from the rigid parameters of Conservatism-Trumpism becomes deserving of verbal disparagement and possible physical attack. Even when there is more in common than in difference, some will gladly promote lies to create a justification for hatred of the perceived enemy.
There are those who would divide our nation upon perceived differences or to pervert our historical and/or contemporary relationships to acquire or retain power. Instead of seeking the commonalities which define our collective humanity, there is an element in society that revels in misrepresenting the motives of others. Increasingly, we see this in the behavior of Republican leaders or fans of the twice-impeached ex-president. Following the “Orange Dotard” and his horde of virulent bigots, thousands have accepted hatred and discrimination against “The Others.”
It is no accident that women are summarily denied the right to make medical decisions for themselves. State governments are jumping in line to criminalize the reproductive rights of women. The demonstrated mindset of the U.S. Supreme Court foreshadows an impending decision overturning the legal precedence of Roe v. Wade. Women wishing to assert reproductive autonomy have become a part of The Others.
Members of the LGBTQ community are also objects of ill will and disparagement by the “right-thinkers.” Florida’s DeSantis has criminalized discussion of their lifestyle and has retaliated against the largest employer in the state for rejecting his institutionalization of discrimination.
From DeSantis in Florida to Youngkin in Virginia, if you are African American, you stand on the verge of historical extinction. Because it is labeled CRT, any account of your history which brings discomfort to the listener is banned. The accurate discussion of your history is threatened because you are one of The Others. Not surprisingly, Florida has banned 54 math books for “prohibited topics!”
Even if you are not one of The Others, like Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, liars can attempt to make you one. McMorrow was labeled as an LGBTQ “groomer” and a proponent of CRT by a Republican opponent. These labels were designed to discredit her by converting her into one of The Others.
She reacted with a spirited response rejecting the hatred intended by the dishonest labeling. While her political opponents were fundraising on their lies, she identified herself as white, straight, Christian and a mom. She asserts that more people need to speak out against the lies which create the divisions.
Profoundly, McMorrow says that hate cannot succeed unless we allow it to. She accurately states, “These are wars over power!”
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.