An Open Letter To People Who Hate

Dear People Who Hate:

This morning I read an article about Hispanic children in a Michigan school who were met with the chant, “Build that wall!” the day after Donald Trump won the election.

I was brought to tears. Children are known to be mean to each other; the phenomenon of bullying is as old as is the world. But for some reason, because I knew the hateful chants of these children were the direct result of the rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, my spirit sank.

White supremacy is the bane of not only America, but of the world. It has made a group of people believe they are superior to everyone and that they have the right to do pretty much whatever they want. It is a disease which has erased the capacity of far too many people to feel the pain of others or to care about the plight of others.

One of the most painful things that happened in our history was the situation involving little Ruby Bridges, who integrated the all-white William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. She was only six years old, and was excited about going to a new school. As she walked toward the school on the first day, accompanied by members of the National Guard and her parents, she was surprised at all of the shouting and pushing she saw from the people on the sidelines. She thought they were cheering, because they sounded like people she’d heard at Mardi Gras. Maybe it was Mardi Gras, she is recorded to have thought.

But it wasn’t Mardi Gras. What little Ruby Bridges heard was hatred being directed at her by white people. What bothered me most was that many in that crowd were mothers. White mothers, but mothers, and I believed that mothers were kind and nurturing. But these mothers were not. They were filled with hatred, and they didn’t care that they were being mean to a little, six-year old girl.

Hatred spawned from white supremacy has done so much damage to so many people. It has made little black children feel like they are “less than” their white counterparts. It has made little white children believe they are better than everyone else. It has kept qualified black and brown people out of neighborhoods, jobs, schools and even churches. It has touted white supremacy as the premiere value of American society, causing people like the late Gov. George Wallace of Alabama to say, in his inauguration speech as governor in 1963, to say, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” to the wild applause of those who listened.

The myth of white superiority has made black people feel as badly about themselves as do white people, has historically made black and brown and whoever wasn’t white try to be as white as possible. The white standard of beauty has made way too many non-white people despise who they are and what they look like.

White supremacy has made a group of people cocky, knowing that they have advantages that others do not, just because they are white. I was bothered earlier in the week as I watched a program done by Lisa Ling on CNN about drug addiction. Drug addiction has long been touted as a problem of non-whites, but the expanding opioid addiction is affected white people in alarming and increasing numbers. Now, politicians are springing into action, calling addiction an illness and not a crime, while many non-white people are in prisons for non-violent crimes, mostly drug-related. Society, our white supremacist society, does not want white people in jail for drug addiction and so now ways are being made to help those who are deep in this struggle. But on this program done by Lisa Ling, a young white girl, heavily addicted to heroin, said she was caught on the West Side of Chicago with drugs in her possession. A police officer stopped her and saw, she said, the drugs in her hand, but instead of arresting her, told her to “Get the hell out of the West Side of Chicago.” White people do not have the issues with law enforcement and the lack of justice that people of color have suffered and endured for generations.

You who are afflicted with this disease of white supremacy not only express hatred toward any and everyone who is not white, but you think it is right to think that way. The people who spewed hatred at little Ruby Bridges “did not see a person; they saw change,” said Prof. Skip Gates. The nice, neat segregated society was being changed by the ruling of the United States Supreme Court decision of 1954 which said that “separate was not equal,” and people didn’t like it. Those who loved segregation did not care about equal. They cared about their being white. If children of color didn’t have a good education, they convinced themselves, it was their own fault. The disease of white supremacy makes your hatred the norm, and hatred clouds the your capacity to see others as being as human as are you.

The real tragedy of your hatred is that it is killing you. Nobody who hates as deeply as you can be all right internally. Hatred is a corrosive emotion and it is eating away at your very souls... even as it continues to damage the targets of your words and actions. Any person who cannot care that a Hispanic child is brought to tears because of other children directing hate-filled language toward them... has a soul which is wanting.

In spite of your hatred, people of color have managed to keep on going, keep on getting up and facing the assaults. We wonder where God is sometimes. We wonder why God doesn’t just... make you see and hear what you are doing. So many groups of people have borne the brunt of your hatred – Jewish people, black and brown people, Native Americans – and now, immigrants, legal and illegal and Muslims will walk in fear, too.

Almost everyone in this country, maybe in the world, balks when the “r” word is used. Even as you hate, you deny it is because of racism and white supremacy. You feel like since you don’t wear a white sheet or say the “n” word that you do not hated, that you do not show the ugly marks of hatred in your speech and attitude toward others.

But your hatred is putrid, and strong and real. You rejoice that you have a president who has shared rhetoric that supports racism and misogyny. You dare anyone to call him or what he has said racist, but it was and it is. People are not sad because “the Right” won. People are sad and afraid because “the Right” seems unconcerned about how all that hateful rhetoric has made them feel. You talk about feeling unsafe; you are quite unaware of how white supremacy has compromised and prevented people of color from feeling safe for hundreds of years.

I do not pray anymore for your hatred to be abated. In order for that prayer to work, you would have to admit that your hatred is real. You will not do it. You will find a way to say I am making some kind of excuse, or that I am angry because Donald Trump won the election. But you are wrong. I am sad. I am burdened that your racism and hatred is so pungent and so stubborn, and is so strong that you cannot see even little children who happen not to be white as precious as your own children.

We who are afraid of what this administration means for us will keep on fighting. We have always had to fight for a place in this country, and we will fight with our eyes on a prize that seems ever so elusive – a beloved community, where white supremacy has finally died and all people can live dignified lives.

Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith