The limits of forgiveness as a way to end hatred

Ana López, News Editor

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“It should not be the job of only minorities to risk their well-being to demonstrate humanity.”

-Ana López (‘19)

As I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, I saw a BBC video titled “Why did a black man hug a neo-Nazi skinhead?” The video depicted a neo-Nazi walking into an anti-fascist rally at the University of Florida protesting the presence of the alt-right leader Richard Spencer on their campus.

Many people in the crowd punched the neo-Nazi as he walked through the crowd, shouted at him, and insulted him. The video focused on one black man who confronted the person and asked: “Why don’t you like me?”

He then said, “Give me a hug! Give me a hug!” Next, the two of them hugged. The video praised this man and hinted at how expressions of love and forgiveness can be healing and can get rid of hatred. Essentially, “hug a Nazi and end hatred.” Simple.

I do not condone violence in any form, but there is something deeply unsettling about this “hug a Nazi,” “befriend a member of the KKK,” “forgive the person that tried to kill you” kind of discourse: why is it that people of color and marginalized people have to do all of the forgiving? All the hugging? All the loving? All the educating?

If that is the case, then what is everyone else doing?

Surely, forgiveness, love, and friendship are things that can change a person’s life. They can have a significant impact in the life of people and I do believe that, in the right circumstances, they can eradicate hatred.

However, I do think that using this rhetoric in mass media and our communities can be dangerous. In doing this kind of work, minorities risk their safety and emotional well-being.

This kind of work is physically and emotionally draining. It is no easy task to confront someone who hates everything you are and forgive them, love them, and give them a hug.

The work of people like Daryl Davis, Matthew Boger, and the man who hugged a neo-Nazi at a rally is important work, but it is not work that should be expected from minorities. It should not be the job of only minorities to risk their well-being to demonstrate humanity.

I believe that praising this rhetoric puts unfair pressure on minorities to forgive and actively seek for understanding from people that are fundamentally against their existence. This rhetoric is problematic not only because it is difficult and draining, but, most importantly, because it delegates the responsibility to act to minorities alone.

If we see these stories of forgiveness as the only way to end hatred, I fear that there will be very little done in other areas.

As we move forward in our discussions dealing with hate on our own campus we must think about this. You should not expect your friend of color to give the “let me explain to you why what you said was racist” talk or to advocate for understanding and forgiveness.

I believe that ending hatred is something that requires the strength and power of all of our community.

It is our responsibility and we should keep in mind that this is work that we should all do.

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