Incidents of hate have plagued our campus and nation, creating emotional and psychological wounds in many. It will take time to heal the wounds and that requires more conversation to help bring healing to our hearts.
Thinking about hate in America brings to my mind a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Nelson Mandela recognized the power of Dr. King’s prophetic vision and he extended that vision through this statement: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
Mandela’s words shed spiritual light on a path to what lies beneath the breasts of each human — a beating heart. The heart was the first organ to form when we were inside our mothers’ wombs. This demonstrates the importance of hearts in supplying the living stream of life to each person. Mandela also teaches us that the heart’s contents are not static, and that all human hearts are predisposed to storing more love than hate. Dr. King challenges us to use the love we have learned to end hate in the world.
In spite of these important teachings, I have always wondered, how does a child born with a loving heart grow to become hateful and traverse the world inflicting pain on others? How do we find the strength to love such a hateful person? In addition, how can we love what we do not understand? If we had the opportunity to be in the same room with a white nationalist or white supremacist, would we have the courage to learn more about their path in life?
For me, if I had the opportunity, I would have many questions and a few things I would want to share, including the suffering of black people forced to migrate to America. My part of the conversation may sound something like this…
My dear brother or sister, I am glad for the chance to get to know you better. We come from different families and have had different experiences in life, yet we are both still humans. I wonder what life was like for you as a child. During those early stages of your childhood, did you imagine yourself growing up to be named white nationalist or supremacist? Did you imagine being involved in promoting hate speech and threats?
As a child, did you feel safe and protected by your parents? Did you feel that your parents loved you? Did you experience any physical or verbal abuse? Did you have friends who accepted you for who you are? Did you feel disrespected by your peers and teachers? Did you feel it was safe to voice your frustrations? Did you feel others acknowledged your frustrations? Do you feel that your sufferings are unique to you? If you were to become a child again, what would you wish for that childhood to look like? If you could, would you wish to redirect your life’s trajectory towards creating peace and harmony in the world?
In this moment, I know you still have hate, but I also know that within you lies a heart. Your heart and my heart would have beaten millions of times throughout our life. Your heart and mine keep us alive and provide a spiritual space for love or hate. That makes our hearts special but vulnerable to hurt. The shared physiological and spiritual functions of our hearts connect us as humans — in joy and pain.
The ideal world intended for both of us contains many opportunities to supply our hearts with feelings of love. In turn, our hearts will generate more love that you and I will pass on to others across the world. Unfortunately, the hurts from life can accumulate in our heart and choke the flow of love from us to others. In spite of these hurts, there is hope for us to find a way to learn how to love. That love is the map to help us find the ideal world intended for all of us.
In that world, we know we are a part of one human family. In that world, we feel loved and worthy of love. In that world, we feel respected and valued. In that world, we are visible. In that world, we are not bad or hateful people. In that world, we want to be in union and loving relationship with those different from us.
I know that the hate in you is not you. I know that you are capable of loving and bringing love into this world. I hope that you will find a way to look inside your heart to discover the love, which has always been available to you. To find the way back to love requires putting down your sword and offering a flower to the one you hate.