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

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    As hackneyed as this may sound, I return to my faith. I do honestly believe that I am not the one in control of the world, and that if I stay faithful, I will be directed to my specific role in the proceedings.

    For anyone who isn’t a person of faith, I’m not sure I can explain it properly. I never question the presence of a higher power, though the message is often incomplete, incomprehensible, or otherwise mysterious. I never feel as though I know it with complete certainty. I feel what I feel, and I know if I don’t deviate from that feeling of Divine guidance, I will never be given more than I can handle.

    That’s what keeps me going. I’m sure others have their own ways as well.

  • http://feministing.com/members/thefword/ Morgan

    i remind myself how many amazing activists there are in my life and in the world (like all of the great people who write and read this blog). i think of all those people who fought for justice before us to make it possible for us to continue that fight. it’s hard to not feel defeated but in those inevitable moments, i read bell hooks/Audre Lorde/feministing/other blogs to reinspire myself.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sarahbee/ Sarah

    I think of all the wonderful people in my personal life who would denounce this kind of hatred in a heartbeat. The one’s with whom I can express my frustrations over hate and who remind me, by the countless things they do in their lives, that you don’t have to be an activist or consider yourself an activist to find these things despicable and want to do something about them.

    I also read posts like Nazza’s and realize that although I am not a person of faith I can still understand her sentiments and find them inspiring; a very powerful tool against hate. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    That is a total troll! For any non-nerds out here, a troll is someone that loves to piss off people to the point of explosion. People with a Conscience, Heart, and Brain: keep on doing what we always do!!!!! Love is on our side!

  • http://feministing.com/members/blueeyes90/ blueeyes90

    There are people who think the tsunami in Japan was payback for Pearl Harbor? Are you kidding me?

    That’s like saying Germany deserves to be struck by an earthquake because of the Holocaust. The nerve of some people.

  • http://feministing.com/members/quirks/ Emily

    After I saw this on Youtube (link from someone of Facebook) I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments and was sad, though by no means surprised, to find a slew of misogynist attacks against this girl of the “suck my Asian dick, you c*nt” variety. Hate begets hate, and so on.

  • http://feministing.com/members/ameliabrown/ Amelia

    As if Japan has not already “paid” for Pearl Harbor 100 times over. Did all the people referencing Pearl Harbor somehow miss the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the decades-long pain and suffering of civilians? Racist Americans need a history lesson.

    Anti-racist Americans, for that matter, need to stop making disparaging comments on this young woman’s appearance as if it has any bearing on the venom coming out of her mouth. Comparing her to Barbie and posting pictures of her modelling in underwear are attempts to use sexist shaming tactics to combat racism. Not effective, not helpful and not welcome.

    The internet really brings out the worst in a lot of people, whatever our politics and whatever our intentions.

  • http://feministing.com/members/wrenrennoc/ Caitlin

    I remind myself that hate speech comes out of a place of extreme ignorance and misunderstanding. I can only try to imagine what this girl is going through after posting this disgusting video on the internet, but perhaps this experience may teach her to be a bit more compassionate and open minded. Or perhaps the hateful responses she is getting will only cause her to further believe the comments that she has made. I pity her her limited perspective of the world, but we have to acknowledge at some level that her opinions are a product of a culture which has clearly never challenged her to think otherwise. The best we can do is educate ourselves and try to share information and experiences with others who are receptive to a broader outlook on life. Ignorance and insensitivity are culturally bred vices.

  • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    Haven’t been online in a few due to an illegal vacate order (This isn’t finished, Bloomers) so I missed this asshat stating that the mentally ill (and also the physically disabled, it says) should be shipped off to freeze and die in Siberia. How funny, my schizo-affective self discussed it with my disabled-through-birth-trauma husband, and we decided we feel the same way about him! Well, kind of. We can’t bring ourselves to wish him on anyone who may actually reside in Siberia.

    He also stated that nature has a way of eliminating stupid people, but if that’s true, how on Earth did HE make it to age 91?

  • http://feministing.com/members/eadske/ Katherine

    This girl obviously has issues. I wonder though why everyone can attack and punish her, but Rush Limbaugh says some pretty extraordinary racist remarks and doesn’t get the same response.

    And what keeps me going is coming to this site and similar ones, with people who share the same views. I also know that most people do not support the ignorance and that one day our voices will overwhelm theirs.

  • http://feministing.com/members/evester/ E

    I used to write a blog but time is scant so I use Facebook and twitter to send out links to things I read. I’ve had to institute a new rule that has worked out for me quite well these past two months: I no longer read comments left on any blog posts or news articles that are even remotely related to women. I’ll read the posts and comment on them myself, but I don’t read anything anyone else has posted in response. It’s a pretty harsh rule, but it has spared my sanity countless times. I both love it and hate it, because I used to be very active in that sort of thing and it makes for more positive communication if both genders are involved equally in the dialogue that is the internet. But I don’t miss being called a stupid slut, so I’m sticking to it.