How To Talk About Hate

“Hate” makes for hard conversations. Often times, it is a difficult concept to understand. It’s a hard word to define. A hard word to experience. The whole concept of hate is painful, confusing, and causes all different kinds of thoughts and emotions in all different people. We define the term in parts: H.urtful A.ctions T.hrough E.xperiences, our reason for doing so is to help break down attitudes that are shaped and learned not innate.  Since this behavior and the actions that follow are not something we are born with but learn we know the actions that follow are based on experiences. It is our hope that we are able to create positive experiences that allow people to learn from each other and as a result learn more ways we are the same than being afraid we are different. So, how do we, as adults, explain this term to children?

Unfortunately, this is a very important question given the many current events in our country. Various groups spouting bigotry-inspired hate have made headlines. People have died. Children see all of this, and have so very many questions. When I was a teacher – not of martial art, but academics – I worked with both elementary and middle school children with special educational needs. I remember black history month one year, when we had the heavy conversation about race. Our students came from all backgrounds, and were all different races, so to begin framing the lesson we asked the question “how are we all different?” The responses were wonderfully endearing; he likes baseball and I don’t, or we like pokemon but they like digimon, or he’s taller than me. When I pointed specifically at two students of different races, and asked them the same question, the response still had nothing to do with skin color or ethnicity. When we explained that a lot of people see the difference in skin color and hate one another for it, the students were shocked. When we further explained slavery, Jim Crow, Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, and the struggle that women and minorities have had and still have in the USA, the students didn’t understand why: why would people act that way to others, why would they be mean to each other, why would they hate someone else just because of how they looked?

Because we live in a world where jaded angry adults perpetuate useless, damaging hatred, one of the best ways to prepare children for the dark underbelly of our society is by being proactive. Teach children to appreciate diversity and practice empathy, both at home and at school. Don’t ignore “too adult” issues; although conversations about white supremacy or genocide should be reserved for older children, it’s important to address the issues at hand and be frank and honest in an age appropriate manner. Point things out and identify what’s going on in a way children will understand. Definitely answer any questions they may have, but don’t wait for them to have a question before engaging in conversation. Social Media is king, and the internet keeps no secrets – they will find out about what’s going on one way or another, so it’s best if it comes from a place that can frame the information specifically for their understanding. Discuss “active non-participation” – intentionally NOT joining in when a group of friends or others engages in an unjust activity, like bullying another child. Empower kids to speak up when they see an injustice being committed. Finally, spend some time to give them some love. Hate, violence, racism, bigotry, all of these ideas are very hard to deal with and can be emotionally upsetting for children, so make sure to spend some time doing something fun and relaxing after these difficult conversations.

Hate is a scary thing to talk about, but a necessary one. Knowledge is power, and educating our youth to develop a moral foundation is the first step in ending bigotry. We at The Welch Martial Art Experience firmly believe that the youth are our future, and ensuring a positive one is partly our responsibility as adults. Sometimes that means having those hard conversations.

Sincerely doing my best to wipe out H.A.T.E. – Mr. Garner