Stop Telling Me That Only Love Can Beat Hate, by Tafari Robertson
Preface: This piece was originally written when I worked as an opinions columnist for the University Star. I was on vacation with my family at the time in the hills of Colorado watching the now infamous violence in Charlottesville unfold. As the ongoing separation and detention of immigrant families at the border draw cries for civility from the vehemently conservative and neoliberal political camps alike, this piece seems relevant once more. For whatever reason it was never published but, reading it again before I decided to submit it here for Sybil, it may be one of my favorite, most honest pieces I've ever written. Though my love for culture and the diverse, complex experience of human existence informs all of my work, I also keep with me a powerful source of hatred for the neglectful forces that curb our human potential and informs my passion play my role towards its eradication. We all should hate and it's important to me that I'm not afraid of that. I hate these institutions. I love my people.
In the aftermath of a white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, VA and the resulting mess of presidential statements that came in the days following, many are rushing to align themselves on the right side of history. While some attend rallies in solidarity or rush the removal of the remaining Confederate monuments across the US, others have chosen to hide their relative inaction by claiming only ‘love’ can defeat ‘hate’ all across social media. Such feel-good rhetoric does double duty as it allows the user to feel assured in their spot on the hypothetical spectrum of history while relieving them of any responsibility to address the very real oppression, violence, and hatred in communities that surround them.
The naïve binary of love v. hate likely comes from deliberate over-condensing of the messages of mainstream activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. Disregarding the legions of organized people including union workers, anti-war activists, local educators, and many more that stood behind them and informed their concrete goals on human rights and policy, we’re instead taught that Dr. King’s successes came from his unmoving love and compassion. This fallacy, crafted by the same textbook revisionists who insisted enslaved Africans came as working immigrants to a dream-filled America, serves its purpose effectively as people trade in their organizing power for emptied messages of love and hope.
In times of heightened political stress, such populations can often be found not only preaching from empty soapboxes but going so far as to shut down rightfully distressed activists for any messaging they deem ‘too aggressive’. Frequently misaligning the words of organizers with the violence of white supremacy and the governing institutions that support it, these unfortunately misguided people condescendingly recant that ‘hate will never beat out hate.’ However, the innocence of this false equivalence unfolds upon the reality that hatred is not and has never been passionate social media dialogues, cursed words or weighted slurs. Arguably, hatred is not even Confederate flags, monuments, or the violent groups that claim it. These are but symptoms.
In reality, hatred is food deserts and poverty, hatred is the gutting of educational resources, hatred is the exploitation of labor in favor of free-market capitalism, hatred is mass incarceration and its systemic reinforcement, hatred is forced assimilation and whole peoples removed from their cultural identity, hatred is colonization and neo-imperialism, and hatred is environmental violence among other things.
All of these things deserve to be dismantled, replaced, and it’s totally okay to hate them because they don’t just hate you, they kill you. They are also reinforced by hundreds of years of politically revised history contextualizing our oppression, of which includes Confederate monuments, statues for racist legislators and Columbus Day celebrations.
When we hate, with organizing power and movements of people, the institutions that hate us, with violence and oppression and death, we fight with fervor for the disenfranchised masses of people regardless of race or class and for something better much than love: systemic justice and freedom.