Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Opposite of Hate: Learning to Find Commonality in a Divisive World

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guild to Repairing our Humanity by Sally Kohn was a hard book to read, delving into the roots of hate, and yet I was given hope by stories of recovered haters and the offered toolkit of how to move beyond hate.

I was a freshman in high school in 1967 when my Civics teacher Mr. Warner taught us that there is no such thing as 'race', that we are all one 'race'--the human race. I was a sophomore in college when Dr. Sommers told my anthropology class the story of a community who believed they were God's Real People and across the hill lived sub-human others. Two stories that succinctly sum up social conflict: are we connected or are we disconnected?

In my late 20s, working in an all black office, I learned that, even raised in a home and school culture that did not teach hate towards perceived 'others', hate is so ingrained in our society that one cannot escape it. To rise above hate one must be on perpetual guard, thoughtful of our unvoiced thoughts and emotions as well as our spoken words and deeds. We all hate. It is a choice every day what we do with this knowledge.

Kohn reflects on her own childhood acts of bullying and her training as a community activist who found hate was a "useful tool in their civic-engagement tool belt." Catching herself in hateful hypocrisy made her reflect on hate--its universality, its manifestations from name calling to hate crimes, and how the dehumanization of  'others' creates a deadly climate.

Kohn sat down and talked to people who held beliefs that were diametrically her opposite, learning their story. We all know how hard this is to do. We cut off Facebook friends and even relatives, and avoid certain gatherings were we may run into people whose opinions we object to--even hate. Kohn shares a technique from Compelling People by Matt Kohut and John Neffinger. Instead of arguing or telling folk they are wrong, follow ABC. Affirm: find a mutual concern; Bridge with an 'and' statement and follow with Convince, in which you present your view. She calls it connection-speech, a friendly and respectful way of communicating.

Several times over the last year I have found myself fumed at something an acquaintance has said. I stated my case and apologized if they felt attacked, saying I feel passionate about the issue. Reading ABC makes me recall a professor, who when a student said something he did not agree with, calmly said, "that could be" or "that is interesting" and then stated his convincing argument. I have been forgetting to affirm.

Each chapter addresses aspects of hate:Why We Hate, How We Hate, Hating Is Belonging, Unconscious Hate, When Hate Becomes Pandemic, Systems of Hate, and The Journey Forward.

The opposite of hate, Kohn contends, is not love or even liking those we don't agree with. It is not giving up one's passionately held ideals. It is connection--treating others with respect as fellow human beings.

I appreciated Kohn's honest confession, how she drew lessons from the people she interviewed, and especially for a blueprint of how to overcome America's most dangerous threat.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity
by Sally Kohn
Algonquin Books
Pub Date 10 Apr 2018 
ISBN: 9781616207281
PRICE: $27.95 (USD)

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