Walter Suza| Guest opinion contributor
Theres hate in Dubuque, Iowa.
The hate in Dubuque has manifested as cross burnings, denigrating graffiti and racial profiling of Black people. Ultimately, the question Why do we hate? was posted on billboards to try to get to the heart of hate.
The hate has left emotional scars in its victims.
My parents taught me to get an education and follow the rules and you can have whatever life has to offer. Then I came to Dubuque and was treated like garbage," lamentedJason Greer in the LA Times."What did we ever do to you?" he askedin the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
There are no simple answers.
Over the years, there has been an amalgam of attempts to hire more minorities, preach against racism in church and promote the value of multiculturalism in schools. In spite of these efforts, hate continues to thrive in Dubuque.
Hate cant be defeated by external forces alone.
We cant defeat hate by forcing people to live and work together. Our attempts to force integration can create resentment from the perception of favoring racial minoritiesover the white majority.
To defeat hate we need to know why people hate.
People hate what they fear. But we might argue that we arent afraid. We might argue that we dont fear because admitting fear can be seen as being wrong can be seen as being weak or less than.
But we all have fears.
Even though were born unafraid of other people, our fears can increase from our lifes experiences.
We were at a playground in Lexington, Kentucky. My daughter was eight years old. With the curiosity and grace of a child, she walked toward a white kid about her age. I guess, to find a way to play with the white kid.
Get away from her honey! yelled the white woman as she rushed forward and yanked her daughter away from my daughter.
My daughter looked puzzled.
I wondered, did the white woman fear or hate me and my daughter? Did the white womans action teach her daughter it was wrong to play with Black kids?
Hate is learned.
After enslaved Black people were freed, the negative labels placed on them stayed with them. From using skull circumference as an indicator of intelligence to depicting them in films as criminals, the black labels created a negative image of Black people. The black labels were created to justify the treatment of Black people as less than.
Racism also led to the birth of the ghetto where poverty and despair resulted in justification for excessive policing. These unfortunate outcomes of racial segregation became fodder for the medias portrayal of Black people as inherently dangerous, deserving increased law and order.
What we fear causes discomfort in us so we attempt to relieve the discomfort by actions to minimize the threat. But those actions have frequently been lethal for Black people.
To defeat hate we must use love. This is what Greg Howell did.
Howell had a rough childhood in the flats of the north side of Dubuque, which had a huge rate of poverty and also a larger population of Black people.
Howells parents divorced before he was 10 years old, but he grew up to find solace from skinheads. Ultimately, Howells body was decorated with tattoos symbolizing hate.
Howell was only able to find freedom from hate after the birth of his son. He left the hate group and became a tattoo artist who used his skill to cover racist and gang-related tattoos at no cost. Love is power.
But we will need to learn how to love.
Learning how to love is a journey and it starts with our admission that we have a role in perpetuating hate, followed by our action to use love to defeat hate.
Lets think of actions we can take to fight hate in America.
We start by owning the truth that we have a role in the suffering of Black people. We dont dismiss their resentment for the wrongs done to them. We avoid blaming or shaming them for speaking about their suffering. We strive to right the wrongs.
The ultimate remedy to defeat hate is finding forgiveness.
But the journey to forgiveness is also long and hard. Unrelenting inner work to find love in our hearts helps us arrive at a place where we can forgive each other. This is what Jason Greer did.
Seventeen years after departing Dubuque, Jason wrote letters of forgiveness to the city of Dubuque and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"I wish you well Dubuque and I hope that one day our family can return to a racially diverse/racially accepting Dubuque," wrote Jason.
"You are forgiven Klan. I hope that you can forgive me for my past hatred of you."
Walter Suza of Ames, Iowa writes frequently on the intersections of spirituality, anti-racism and social justice. He can be contacted email@example.com.
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