Letter to the Editor: Stop the Hate rallies do make a difference

To the editor:

I must speak out about those things that are important to me, even when I know that my thoughts will likely be misunderstood or challenged. I don’t mind, especially when the result is dialogue. I have been flooded with many emotions since participating in the Stop the Hate Unity Rally on Monday night. Having never attended the rally before, I was excited to take part in something that called for “people of good will to act nonviolently as agents of healing in their communities, to speak up for the victims of hatred and intimidation, and to raise a united voice against hate-inspired violence.”

I saw it as an opportunity to connect with like-minded folks. My seven-year-old daughter, Olivia, was particularly excited about the rally. As Dana, Olivia and I were preparing to go, Olivia asked if this was a march like Martin Luther King, Jr. led. I told her that it was, in that it was a group of people advocating for love and equal treatment for all. Olivia is aware that our family is often treated differently because it includes two moms and a variety of ethnicities. Olivia has always been concerned whether other kids will be where we are going. More recently, she has also begun to ask if the event is “gay-friendly.” Sometimes events like the rally leave me feeling conflicted. They often seem to be more about talk than action. I believe that is why many view them as not doing much to actually change the campus or community environment, a view that was expressed in last week’s editorial. But thanks to Olivia, I know that things do fundamentally change as a result of them. For one, they can change how a child views the world and those around her, and let us not underestimate the value of that.

When attending an event, Olivia has clearly communicated to Dana and me that it’s important for her to have other people that she can identify with there (kids) and that it is a safe environment for our family (“gay-friendly”). Initially, I didn’t think much about how frequently she asked about those two things. Then, I began to closely observe her behavior and our behavior as a family at various events. Olivia cares that events we attend are “gay-friendly” because that’s when we get to act like a real family and the people around us acknowledge us as one. She’s more likely to refer to Dana as “mom” when we are in an overtly “gay-friendly” environment. We are all more likely to hold hands, hug and show affection in general. Our family is different and Olivia is acutely aware that those differences make some people uncomfortable. Every event, no matter how small, that highlights diversity of any kind opens up our world as a family. Maybe the Stop the Hate Unity Rally won’t change the world. But I believe it and events like it change my family’s world. I believe that the 13 annual Stop the Hate Rallies that have taken place in Lewisburg have made this community a safer place for my family than it would have been without them.

I often think that it is difficult for folks to see the value of activities that don’t seem to have an immediate or direct impact on their lives. I can’t “stop the hate” in the world. And I’m really not interested in trying to; I’d prefer to focus on spreading the love. However, I don’t have a problem with using a “Stop the Hate” rally to do that. How many of you have really looked into the stated purpose of the rally that I quoted at the beginning of this letter? “Stop the Hate” can be more than just a rallying call. Most things are far more purposeful than the title alone might suggest. For critics to focus on an event’s ability to “stop hate” is myopic. When asked what she thought was the most important message of the night she stated, “It’s good to be different, not bad.” Olivia gets it.

The Stop the Hate Rally does nothing to promote hatred. Yes, it acknowledges that hatred and violence exist. But it focuses on our ability as individuals and as a collective to find ways to speak out against hate-inspired violence. Some people do not like me (or even hate me) just because I am black or because I am queer; I don’t let that hate infect me. I focus on love. Hate stops with me.

Lakeisha Meyer
Asst. Professor of Education

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