How to Confront Hate.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I recall one year when I was close to Yuba City, California, I journeyed to an event called, Nagar Kirtan. Imagine the most colorful carnival-like event in your life with the most delicious home-cooked Indian delicacies. Yes, free food!

I kept waiting for a cashier to pop up from nowhere with the lunch tab or security to hall me away to wash dishes for the next 12 years of my life.

Instead, I received hot chapathis, paneer, dahl, and other mouth-watering Indian sweets and delicacies. There were dozens of booths set up and each and every one of them were filled with joyous Sikhs distributing better food than most Indian restaurants I’ve eaten at.

“Am I still alive?” I asked myself. “Is this heaven?”

The fact the Sikhs have mastered the art of Bhangra dancing and the free food at their holy events made me want to convert to this religion on the spot.

Are you suggesting I’m a counterfeit for wanting to jump religions for music and food? How dare you!

Now, what the hell does this have to do with hate?

Nothing really.

It’s one reason that I LOVE this religion, its people and everything Sikh. Scrumptious food and dancing aside, Sikhs live their faith everyday of their lives, serve generously in every community they live in and are committed to the equality of all people.

Imagine now, being a Sikh man taking a leisurely walk in your Harlem neighborhood after dropping off your wife and 1 year old son at home. Imagine being surrounded by a group of rowdy and misguided youth attacking you for believing you were Muslim, Osama bin Ladin, or a terrorist, simply because you were wearing a turban and had a beard.

This is the violence that was perpetrated upon Columbia professor and physician, Prabhjot Singh, last week.

This case isn’t far from the norm. Sikhs in the United States continue to suffer the misplaced hatred aimed at Osama bin Laden.  Incidences like the one which impacted Dr. Prabhjot Singh are much too common all over the United States. Sikhs continue to be harassed, racially profiled, bullied and physically attacked all over the country.

For simply practicing their faith; not cutting their hair, wearing a turban, carrying the kirpan (a small ceremonial sword).

Each one of these incidents towards people practicing their faith disturbs me to the very core. While those who devoutly follow their path seek the highest ideals of their faith, worship God and embrace love, they are bullied and harmed for no reason other than ignorance.

How do we stop the violence and hate against people practicing their faith?

Here are 10 ways to reduce hate in the world.

1) We can continue to educate ourselves and the general public more about the principles of faith of other religions, including religious diversity training when talking about bullying in schools. Please take a few minutes to learn more about the Sikh faith in the video I share above. (A follow up video is here)

2) Continue to monitor, track and compile statistics of hate crimes so policy makers can make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities.

3) Love more. Much of the threats posed by racism stem from hatred and fear. We can each individually continue to live our own lives from a place of love, than fear.  You can give more of yourself to others in service. When you radiate love in the world, it is harder for hate to thrive.

4) Practice your own religious traditions more faithfully. It doesn’t matter what faith you are but practicing your faith more will help you practice more kindness, compassion and generosity towards all.  You can be the light that radiates acceptance and peace.

5) Gratitude. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, now a victim of a hate-crime, finds reasons to be thankful even under the horrific attack – thankful to bystanders who helped, thankful the injuries weren’t more severe and to his supportive Harlem community.

6) Confront and acknowledge your personal biases and prejudices towards other races, religions and faiths. Once you become more conscious of our hidden fears and prejudice, you’re better able to transform your thoughts of judgment to compassion.

7) Stand together with others when confronting hate. One way you can stand with Dr. Prabhjot Singh is to send a note of support or prayer to him and his family. Many supporters of Dr. Singh have rallied around him during this challenging time and have called for more tolerance and education so events like this don’t happen again.

8) Organize your community to stand up to injustices and hate. The best kind of education starts with you engaging your family, friends and neighbors about issues of racism, stereotypes and hate. What collective action are you willing to take to promote peace?

9) Chardhi Kala – The Sikh concept of staying positive, optimistic and joyful. Even when facing racism and hate crimes, the Sikh community inspires all of us to stay positive and constructive. How can you use tragedy and acts of hate and transform it into good?

10) Forgiveness. The Sikh faith promotes forgiveness. “Where there is Forgiveness, God Himself is there,” states the Sikh Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Slok 155, p. 1372 Can forgiving hate-mongers sow the seeds of love in you and in them? Are you able to forgive those who commit acts of hate against others?

When confronted by hate, it’s easy to feel like fighting back with equal and greater hate. Our own anger can propel militancy and violence, or simply judgment and bitterness.

Have you confronted hate in your own life because of your race, gender, religion or your beliefs? How did you handle it? How can others? I look forward to seeing your comments below.

36 Comments

  1. Very timely, Vishnu. I have always admired Sikhism and the manner in which their faith is so practical – including all that fantastic langar food that they give so generously everyday to rich and poor alike!

    I have never experienced discrimination based on religion or beliefs, but I can imagine how hard it can be, especially in the face of such open hatred.

    Great interview, Vishnu.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Corinne. Food aside:), the more I learn about the Sikh faith, the more I learn to appreciate it.

      I think there is more discrimination towards the Sikh faith because the articles of faith and traditions are so visible and public. The courage which the community has handled this hate crime and other acts of bigotry is admirable.

  2. Sadly, I feel this country is more divided over racial/ethnic differences than ever. We can never mend unless we love as Christ loved and treat everyone we meet with respect as they are God’s children, too.
    And, the forgiveness? Absolutely necessary!
    Thank you for sharing this, Vishnu!

    1. Yes, Martha, we need more love , kindness and forgiveness in our lives to soften our differences and have more acceptance towards one another. Thank you.

  3. Good stuff Vishnu! Forgiveness is so huge. Jesus said if your enemy strikes your cheek turn the other one (i.e., forgive – don’t hold grudges). Thanks for sharing this video and post.

    1. Thanks Dave for sharing the message of Christ. We can only move forward after acts of violence hate and violence when we forgive others.

  4. Strong post and wise words, Vishnu. I remember seeing an exhibition by the ‘forgiveness project’ several years ago and being touched by seeing under what horrendous circumstances people are able to forgive. Yet, it is the only way as anger and resentment only serve to poison ourselves.

    I’d add to your points: meditate. When we meditate, we become more aware and conscious, making it less likely that we strike out against a person of a different faith, even if we don’t agree with it. We begin to see the truth that runs through all of the world’s religions: pure love.

    1. Yes, Tiziana – forgiveness is super important in moving forward. One book which reminded me of this is Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza who survived the Rwandan genocide. She too inspires us to forgive under the most horrific circumstances.

      Thanks for adding meditation and mindfulness so we can root out our inner biases and prejudices and love others more.

  5. Thank you for the information about a faith tradition that I am not familiar with. I now admire them very much, as you do, and I want to learn more. So tragic that we strike out at anyone in hate. Even if he had been Muslim, there is no justification for such violence. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    1. You’re right Galen – it doesn’t matter what faith the person was – hate is hate. We have to stand up for discrimination and hatred towards any faith or religion.

  6. Vishnu – I love this post. However, I disagree with the first point that simply educating people is enough.

    The attackers of this Sikh man would have attacked him even if they knew how peaceful the Sikh religion was. You say they attacked him because they thought he was Muslim – and they would have done so even if they were educated on the Muslim faith.

    It comes down to divides in society where prejudice is formed. For some, the immediate reaction to something they don’t understand is fear. And fear can manifest itself in different ways.

    In my home city, an experiment was conducted on whether people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds could co-habit. They were first placed in the same house for 2 weeks.

    They then went to live with each other and remain together during a ‘normal’ day. A Muslim girl went to work at a pub run by another participant, an agnostic man went to the mosque with his Muslim host.

    In the end? It wasn’t all peace and love. But by sharing a part of their lives, they created empathy more than simply reading about the religion or sitting in a classroom would ever do.

    Integration is key.

    1. Razwana – thanks for your insights and adding to the discussion. I agree – only educating people about different faiths and traditions isn’t enough. The more integrative approach of people living together, learning from each other and understanding each other’s backgrounds helps reduce the ignorance and foster better relationships.

      We don’t have to hold hands and sing together but living together peacefully (in the same community or neighborhood) with each other is a good start 🙂

  7. It’s a damn shame that anyone with a turban is ostracized like that. Within the US, these are just tough parts of life right now. Just like how women and blacks struggled for countless years to get equal rights, now it’s shifting towards anyone with a turban or middle eastern descent. I’m sure our culture will evolve and eventually shift to acceptance, it will just take some time.

    Never heard of the Sikh religion until I read this, but I appreciate you sharing it. I’m not technically religious, but I do enjoy exploring religions and seeing what they are all about and if they have lessons I can adopt into my own life.

    Powerful post Vishnu.

    1. Glad you found this helpful Kevin. The Sikh community is in fact experiencing the brunt of discriminatory practices these past few years since 9/11. Acceptance is in the future but requires education, advocacy, integration as Razwana mentioned, and shared understanding of their faith.

      The Sikh faith is a tradition you should definitely check out if you’re open to learning about other faiths. The tradition is steeped in meditation on God, living honestly and serving others.

  8. Very nice article Vishnu. I totally agree with you that it is really important for the people to take time to understand what means what. Most of the time people react with half knowledge that is fed to their mind. History is filled with such incidences and if one identifies the root-cause; one finds out that half knowledge was communicated to them.

    Unfortunately, world is filled with people, who will give you half information and provoke you. In all such situations; it is really important for a person to practice to NOT REACT on every piece of information.

    1. Thanks Bharti for adding to the discussion. Ignorance is in fact the root of much hate and violence. Not immediately jumping to conclusions and researching information more are good tips to get more educated on issues.

  9. Hi Vishnu,
    The best form of overcoming the cycle of hatred is by consciously avoiding getting trapped in it’s viciousness.When we reciprocate in kind it is the grossest form of catching the cycle.When speak about our plan to reciprocate it is a subtler level ,and when we think and feel strongly about reciprocating it is yet another subtle level and it gives out strong karmic vibrations that catch up with us sooner or later.
    So hatred has a very limited play field,and we as humans should educate ourselves to avoid this zone totally,because since centuries mankind has been mindlessly getting snared in this foolish cycle of hate.It is ignorance that drags us down to animal instincts.
    thanks
    Mona

    1. Thanks Mona, I like that last line of how ignorance drags us down.

      Also you made a very insightful point about how we get trapped in hate. Even the thought of reciprocating or words of reciprocation are indeed continuing the cycle of hate. I may not physically or verbally react to an injury but my gut instinct is to sometimes get angry and concoct reciprocation (just in my mind). I can see how that may not be helpful. Being more mindful can help break the cycle, as you wisely point out.

  10. It is sad that people form opinions based on the wrongdoings or unwise actions of one person. A lot of times, we are judged based on the color of our skin, the culture that we come from or our religion; which have little to do with how we are truly like. I agree with what you said, if we can practice more love, then there will be less hatred.

    1. Hi Evelyn, thanks for dropping by and your comment. Yes, a little love practiced by us (at home and in our personal lives) can go a long way to more love seen in the world.

  11. Hi Vishnu,

    This was a really interesting post. I really enjoyed it – the video too, it’s a wonderful thing to be part of those seeking to educate and share resources which can transform the negativity in the world.

    Thank you for sharing the videos and the post. Hate is a disease of the mind, and can be transformed by compassion and love.

    SSS <3

  12. Vishnu! You had me thinking it was such a positive post until the bombshell about Dr Singh. It is very sad to hear. Our media and politicians has more than it’s far share of responsibility on dredging up differences and our intolerance for our ‘perceived’ differences.
    I grew up with Malay neighbours and Indian friends, and in my travels to the West, the Malaysia of my youth was always the ‘perfect’ melting pot of understanding, community and unity. So much intolerance that I see now, is a based on egotism (mine is better than yours) and judgement (i’m right you’re wrong).
    If only everyone knew that, we are all less than a hundredth of .1 percent different (biologically and chemically), then surely we would treat others as ourselves and conversely we would treat ourselves as we treat others.
    In the greater scheme of things, our differences are well and truly superficial and they are what make up our amazing colourful lives.
    Thank you for sharing Dr Singh’s story, and hopefully we will keep moving forward.

    1. Sorry to take you to a not so happy place, Li-ling. I’m saddened by the hate crime which occurred.

      Thanks for sharing your delightful Malaysian experiences where Malaysians embrace different religious practices and cultures. If we look past our differences and build bridges amongst the things that unite us, life will be in fact more colorful.

      Yes, now, we have to keep moving forward (very much like the resilient Sikh community.)

  13. Hi Vishnu
    There is another reason which causes us to constantly judge others,and judgement results in hatred later on.
    The urge to constantly seek approval,to seek applause for our selves is an omnipresent weakness.It is concealed deeply and subtly within the unseen folds of our intentions.We are always looking out for others to acknowledge us,our behaviour,our conduct ,our appearance,our mannerisms, our knowledge,our possessions.
    If we ourselves break this cycle then there is a huge scope for escaping hatred from others as well,because ultimately all creation is due to our vibration.And when we change our vibration much changes within and without for us as well.
    Thanks
    Mona

    1. Good follow up point, Mona. I can see how judgment ultimately relates to hatred. And how detrimental judgment and approval-seeking can be to our lives. Thanks again for adding to the discussion. And you’re absolutely right about changing things within ourselves, changing our vibration before expecting our surroundings to change.

  14. Loved the informative video! I really enjoy learning about different religions and paths to God. I think the more we learn the more understanding and love we have towards one another.

    1. There’s something to be learned from every religion Wendy – so much wisdom an inspiration in each one. Glad you enjoyed the video interview:)

  15. So happy you shared this. I am always amazed at how people react to hatred differently. I love the idea of gratitude as the only attitude to defend oneself. The moment I give up my power over my own emotions is the moment that hate wins.

    1. Thanks for visiting and adding your thoughts here Amita! Gratitude is definitely a powerful way to defend ourselves from hate. As is keeping up and being mindful of our emotions, as you mention.

  16. Hi Vishnu,
    I cant help add that we should cultivate the skill of overlooking others’ weaknesses,shortcomings,and flaws quickly.You can not always change others.But surely you can change how you view others and their traits..Everybody is entitled to their point of view,just as you are.Everybody has different ideas ,and they need to be respected even if you disagree with them.Do not resist them or try to change them forcibly.Simply wish them well with integrity.At the same time maintain a good intention for yourself as well as strong belief and confidence in yourself.
    Thanks for the encouragement for my contributions.
    Mona

  17. Hi Vishnu,

    This is a very moving post. Sadly, there are cases of members of the Sikh community in the UK also being targeted in race attacks, as those who are the most ignorant want to hurt people in revenge for terrorism.

    A commitment to one’s faith can be so powerful. A Muslim doctor recently lost his whole family who died in an arson attack. There was a radio interview with him and when asked whether he was angry, he remained calm and said he felt at peace because according to Islam his family were now in paradise. He said that his strong belief in God helped him and continues to help him.

    Thank you.

  18. That’s awful – I don’t like to hear things like this. I’d just like to talk to the people that did this and get them to stop what they’re doing and recognize their ignorance.

    I have a personal connection with your first point. As a teacher, I’ve had to consider school bullying. I’ve taken many multicultural classes and learned about other religions. Being bullied for those reasons does happen unfortunately. It’s my job to make sure it doesn’t happen.

    Unfortunately, there are going to be those people out there that judge you and persecute you for your religion/ethnicity or other reasons. Education is the key and will help make sure things like this don’t happen again.

  19. Hi Vishnu,

    There are unfortunately too many situations like this, where people target a certain group for irrational reasons. The hatred and fear is so sad and your post is a needed reminder that we should embrace everyone for their individual qualities. We need to reach out and love each other! Thanks!

  20. Great 10 points! I really liked #3 Love more! If each of us showed care and love toward other people our world would be a better and more peaceful place. Great video and post!

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