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Hating Hate is Not Enough

When I was young, my parents took me to see South Pacific. One of the songs in the popular musical was You Have to Be Carefully Taught. (Listen to James’s Taylor’s version here.)The premise of the song is that humans are born with the instinct to treat all peoples—no matter their race, ethnicity, religion or other distinguishing characteristic—fairly and justly. It was only if they are carefully taught to hate would they lose their instinctive sense of justice.

For a long time, I was convinced the song was right. People were instinctively unbiased and prejudice had to be taught.

Having recently traveled to Central Europe I am rethinking that premise. In all the cities we visited—Prague, Vienna, Budapest—their history was rife with conquest and continual attempts to eliminate the “other.” Unfortunately, that history, which started at the beginnings of civilisation, continues through modern times. “Barbarians” fought Romans. Christians wiped out heathens. After the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants vilified and tried to kill each other. Jews were continually, with some breaks, marginalised. Nazi Germany tried to exterminate not only Jews but many other people. Communists wiped out those protesting for more freedoms.

There was always an enemy and the enemy was dehumanized. Hence it was deemed justified to convert or eliminate these so called lesser beings.

Thinking on all this, it now seems obvious—and many studies confirm it—that humans are tribal. They can be extremely generous and kind within their own tribe and still be cruel to those outside their group. Humans can easily convince themselves that the “others” are less than human. This phenomenon is so ingrained and so prevalent in history that it finally dawned on me that humans don’t need to be taught to hate. Hate and prejudice come naturally enough. On the contrary, in order to have peace and justice, we need to actively teach not to vilify other “tribes” but to celebrate and learn about and from their differences. We need to teach how to love others, especially those who are different than we are.

This change in underlying assumptions changes the way we should approach diversity (or DEIJ) work. We cannot be satisfied with programs that just eliminate the outward signs of hate or bias. Instead we need to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism. We need to loudly proclaim the contributions and beauty of all peoples and cultures. We need to talk about the human proclivity to demonize others and explain why that approach is not only immoral, it is increasingly dangerous in a flat world with true weapons of mass destruction.

No longer is teaching not to hate enough; we need to teach to love.


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