What is wrong with people? Hate speech edition

*Trigger warning*

Some news days seriously make me question my faith in humanity. Last week Chloe posted about just such a day, and again today there are just too many stories about people being hateful and heartless.

First, there’s the inhuman responses from some to the devastating tsunami and now nuclear disaster in Japan. A meme exploded on Facebook and Twitter saying this was some sort of karmic/God-sent pay back for Pearl Harbor. A few celebrities, including Gilbert Gottfried, also decided it was a good idea to make light of the devastation on Twitter. And of course there’s the religious extremists and Glenn Beck-types who are quick to say any natural disaster is a message from God.

Then there’s this disgusting video that’s been making its way around the web, in which a white woman attending UCLA goes off on the school’s Asian students in a racist YouTube tirade:


Clearly, the internet has given a megaphone to everyone with something to say. While these ignorant views might have been expressed privately between friends a few years ago, now someone can upload their 2 cents to YouTube and suddenly we’re all being subjected to their ignorant ideas. Some people clearly need to learn that the internet is forever – although first they really need to learn to stop being racist assholes.

Recent hate speech in the news isn’t just confined to the internet masses – US politicians are continuing to spout vitriol. New Hampshire State Rep. Martin Harty told a constituent he supported eugenics to get rid of people with mental illness, saying, “I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population.” On Monday Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck said during a committee hearing about the state’s feral swine problem, “It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.” Yes, Peck is advocating shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters.

I am not one to pretend there’s ever been a “post-racial” US – I think these sorts of racist and ableist views are part of what this country was founded on and clearly they’ve persisted despite victories against slavery or government sanctioned eugenics. I will say, though, that it feels like the voices of hate are particularly emboldened to speak up publicly lately. And it makes sense in this current political context – when politicians run on anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-woman platforms and Fox News stirs up xenophobia on a daily basis I’m not surprised people feel comfortable, for example, shouting hate speech at a Muslim organization’s fundraiser.

It’s hard to look for the positive here. I will say that the response to all this hate speech has been swift and loud – I’m hearing many more voices condemn the Pearl Harbor comments than support them, for example, though this might have something to do with who I actually follow on Twitter. Gilbert Gottfried was quickly fired by Aflac. The “Asians in the Library” video has spread so quickly mostly because of how widely it is being condemned – I think people see this video and feel a need to speak out against it. There’s also a powerful statement from the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA circulating that offers suggestions for how to respond to the video in a productive way. Rep. Martin Harty resigned after his extremely ableist comments came to light. And the hate cannot drown out the love and support being sent Japan’s way, or stop people of conscience from supporting relief efforts. Ultimately, I have to believe the love of many is louder and more powerful than the hate of a few.

I agree with what Chloe said last week:

All of which leads us wondering: why did we even get out of bed this morning? Oh yeah, we got out of bed to fight this culture of violence and sexism and hatred, so that one day, headlines like these won’t happen.

But I have to be honest, sometimes the ease with which people express their -isms feels like just too much. So readers, I’m wondering, how do you keep the fight going, how do you stay inspired and hold faith in justice when the voices of ignorance overwhelm?

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation