Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Driving Out Darkness: Cincinnati Regional Summit on Antisemitism and Hate. It was an incredible day where each speaker was more amazing then the next.
Our first speaker was Eric Ward, an African American man who is a national expert on the relationship between hate violence and preserving democratic institutions, governance, and inclusive societies. Mr. Ward grew up in Los Angeles. He spoke about his childhood, namely how he and his friends would entertain themselves during the long days of summer. As the weeks went by they would come up with different games to pass the time.
One such game the kids would play is “If I were.” They would sit in a circle, and take turns saying what they would do if they were a certain thing, such as famous. One topic that came up was “If I were alive during the civil rights movement I would have done…”
The purpose of Mr. Ward sharing this particular story with us was to encourage participants to think about what they would have done, and to start doing it now with the same urgency. As he stated, “We are living in a time where I’m not asking you to panic; I’m asking you to be aware.”
Throughout my personal and professional life, I have had the opportunity to hear many stories about the Holocaust. I’ve often wondered what I would have done had I lived during that time. I don’t think any of us can truly know what we would do. However, I hope I would have been able to summon courage like the people who experienced it did.
We also heard from Jeff Silverstein, an advocate and activist from Cincinnati. Mr. Silverstein witnessed the events in Charlottesville first hand. I found his words particularly important as we in Dayton prepare to deal with the upcoming KKK rally on May 25th. The unfortunate incidents in Charlottesville reminded us that hate is still very much alive. As responsible citizens, we need to be very careful how we counteract such displays of intolerance.
A message that came across very clearly was that it is best to avoid the site of the rally. Reacting with counter protesting and hurling words of hate back only feed into what the rally participants want – which is to strike a chord and provoke emotionally fueled reactions within our community.
I think it is important for us to remember that the number of people who believe in tolerance and love outweigh those who believe in intolerance and hate. However, we need to be cognizant of their actions and better understand what is going to encourage them to continue to display their hatred. Events like yesterday’s summit help provide tools we desperately need right now to stifle their abhorrent behavior.
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