Hate Must Not Have the First, Last or Loudest Word

We cannot allow those who would profit off our pain to cause us to hate.

Hate Must Not Have the First, Last or Loudest Word

Vigils worldwide honored the victims of the worst mass shooting in US history in Orlando, Florida, on June 13. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

This post originally appeared at The Nation.

The Old Testament teaches: “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 26:24). The New Testament adds to the definition of hate: “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (John 2:11).

Tears are the order of the day. We mourn the loss of life, the death and destruction, the hurt and the pain of so many in Orlando.

While we cry, we must also gain our composure and not allow cynicism to have the first, the loudest or the last word.

Many of our brothers and sisters that were killed and wounded were members of the LGBTQ community. But, in a larger sense, in a better sense, we must say from our hearts, they were from our community. They are our brothers and sisters. They are members of our human family of love — in death, as they were in life, God’s creations.

But while we cry, we must also gain our composure and not allow cynicism to have the first, the loudest or the last word.

We cannot use the deceit of hate as the path through our pain into our tomorrow. Hate fuels hate — racial hate, anti-LGBTQ hate, religious hate, class hate and the rhetoric of hate. The culture of hate creates the actions of hate.

The forces of hate have watched people coming together against colonial oppression and exploitation. The forces of hate have seen people in America coming together and challenging the system of racism, the system of sexism and the oppression against LGBT people. The forces of hate have seen millions of white and straight and males coming together rejecting the sirens of extremism. We are coming together.

As late as June 10, on the great bend in the Ohio River where the Port of Louisville was built, hate was the only group not welcome as the Islamic service for the most beloved Muslim in today’s world was transitioned on songs and poems and laughter of love. People of all faiths and races, the full breadth of humanity came together to cover Muhammad Ali with clouds of love.

The forces of hate hated this outpouring for an Islamic messenger of love. Hate would rather see division and degradation among the people of the world than witness the beloved community.

The night of June 11, hate slouched into Orlando and tried to seize the moral low ground again. This is not the first time hate has reacted to the rise of love.

After the long dark night of slavery, 250 years for our ancestors, hate reacted to freedom’s call with lynchings and other forms of degrading murders. In 1898, in the largest city in North Carolina, where black and white leaders had been working together and had managed to use the vote to win political power in much of the Carolina Delta and Black Belt, hate went into a rage. With a Gatling gun mounted on a wagon, crazed by racist hatred against the white and black fusion leaders, scores of black people were shot down in cold blood. The fusion government was violently overthrown. Hate metastasized its Wilmington model across the South, adding terror to the new Jim Crow laws, with mass murders in many large Southern cities.

In 1908, hate reached up into Springfield, Illinois, and the forces of love and resistance were awakened, resulting in the formation of the NAACP the next year. Rebuilding the white-black fusion movement was slow going, as at the beginning only revolutionary Christians, Jews and other whites who read their Old and New Testaments carefully, understood the need to resist the forces of hate.

After World War I, in 1921, hate went into Oklahoma and shot and killed hundreds people. On June 1, 1921, hate reacted in the Tulsa race riots; 300 people were shot and killed, some say more.

On June 12, 1963, a day after President John Kennedy declared civil rights to be a moral issue, hate snuck around a corner at midnight and murdered Medgar Evers coming home from an NAACP meeting. After a worldwide show of love at the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told a quarter-million people in person, and millions more on television, about his dream of love and racial harmony, hate — crazed by the largest display of love ever in our nation — set off a bomb in a Birmingham, Alabama, church that blew up four girls just when they finished their Sunday school lesson about love.

We cannot fall into hate’s trap. We must not respond in hate — not in our politics, not in our actions, not in our gun policies. If we do, hate wins. Acts of hate should not be politicized.

When hundreds of students — black, white, Christian, Jew, gay and straight — decided to go to Mississippi to expose the violently enforced disenfranchisement of black voters in that state of hate, hate reacted with its racial-phobic rage and murdered a black Mississippi youth and his two friends from the North, a young white student and a young Jewish man. The next year, 1965, thousands chose to march and fight for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. Hate again reacted. It killed a Unitarian minister, a black veteran and a white union woman from Detroit.

Hate went into a rage a year ago this week. A young man, filled with racial-phobia, could not take the study of the scripture from Mark 4:16, which was the chosen passage for that night: “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.” The word of love is received with joy. When the young man witnessed the love among the Bible study circle, he pulled out his weapon and shot nine people.

Yes. Hate always reacts. But, hate is not the answer.

Down through the years, many who have experienced hate-caused suffering refused to respond with hate; they had faith that love was still greater.

Hate always reacts when love is taking hold, when it begins to conquer the fearful heart. Hate wants us to respond and react with hate. Hate wants an unending circle of hate.

But we cannot fall into hate’s trap. We must not respond in hate — not in our politics, not in our actions, not in our gun policies. If we do, hate wins. Acts of hate should not be politicized. The masses of people always lose in the politics of hate.

The cynical and the sinister will try to use this moment of pain to push and widen divisions among us. History has shown this to be true. There have always been those who have want to aggravate the divisions between blacks and poor whites, between immigrant and American-born citizens, between gay and straight. Now they will try to promote divisions between the LGBTQ community and all Muslims. We cannot allow our hearts in this moment of hurt — born of hate — to succumb to the sinister politics of cynicism. Even after all the pain and violence perpetrated against the African-American community, Dr. King at the March on Washington said:

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

Today, even as we abhor violence by anyone, hate by anyone, terror by anyone, we cannot allow those who would prostitute our pain to cause us to hate all Muslims.

This is not a mere political moment; this is a moral moment. Those who have pushed and promulgated the politics and language of hate need to shut up. Those who know the politics and power of love need to speak up!

We cannot allow those who have stirred hate to now offer themselves as the saviors from hate. This statement by Donald Trump is the wrong way and the wrong wisdom: “I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

In this statement, we hear “I” and not “we.” It is an attempt to play on the pain of people in order to promote his extremism and cover up his own hateful rhetoric and policies.

Those who have in their history the commonality of pain and suffering from hate, know that those who have ultimately won the day have been those who chose love in the face and the aftermath of hate. Who chose not to let hate determine their lives. Who rose up from the crucifixion of hate to the new life and resurrection power of love, truth and justice.

And now we must choose whether we will respond with hate’s methods or will we choose love and justice. Will we choose to come closer and live in love more boldly, or will we give in to fear, hate and division? Will we say more guns, more violence?

Let us choose to join those who lived before us, who in the face of hate chose community, who chose love, who chose nonviolence, who chose the way of justice.

Three weeks after Dr. King was murdered, Coretta Scott King, in the face of hate, spoke in New York and said these words:

My dear friends of peace and freedom:

I come to New York today with a strong feeling that my dearly beloved husband, who was snatched suddenly from our midst slightly more than three weeks ago now, would have wanted me to be present today.

Though my heart is heavy with grief from having suffered an irreparable personal loss, my faith in the redemptive will of God is stronger today than ever before.

This is the time for us to believe in the redemptive will of God, the Love of God even stronger than before. This is the time for us to stand for love even more; to believe even more; to hold, help and honor the humanity and imago dei in all of us even the more.

So as we cry today, let our tears be a fresh baptism and commitment to walk together children and refuse to get weary.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is co-author of The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics and The Rise of a New Justice Movement, published in January 2016 by Beacon Press. In January 2016 he also began filing regular dispatches from the southern movement for racial justice for The Nation, resuming a role Martin Luther King Jr. once filled for the magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @RevDrBarber.